Gerry Bergstein Dithering Machines
By: NAGA - Aug 31, 2023
67 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116
September 5 - 30, 2023
September opens with a bang--prepare to be transported into the frenetic universe that is Gerry Bergstein’s brain.
Gerry Bergstein: Dithering Machines runs from September 5 through 30. A reception for the artist and the public will be held at the gallery on Thursday, September 7 from 5 to 7 pm. A walk-through with the artist will take place on Saturday, September 23 at 2 pm. No RSVP required.
Bergstein’s work has often been characterized by manic activity--a profusion of images, sometimes autobiographical; narrative incidents involving cultural icons from Freud to Mr. Rogers; agitated paint handling. His work teeters between this activity and a tranquility beneath the surface. In these new paintings, Bergstein has thrown caution to the wind. [And not that he’s ever been really cautious.] No longer obligated to capture the world in a larger sense, but more as a self-reflection of the small world Bergstein inhabits.
The works in this show are absurdist twists on Breughel’s “Tower of Babel” and Piranesi’s destroyed architecture rotting into the landscape. They are also homages to art and artists I’ve loved from 1960 until now. To list a few- Leonardo’s late disaster drawings, Arshile Gorky’s erotic biomorphism, sci-fi illustrations of landscape as body, the poetic abysses of Lee Bontecou’s early sculpture, Saul Steinberg’s hilarious paradoxes, Jean Tinguely’s giant self-destroying machines, Nicole Eisenman’s virtuosic tragi-comic humanism cartoon graffiti, Wangechi Mutu’s extraordinary collages, and Thornton Dial’s great assemblages, and of course Philip Guston.
I want the works to appear to be fragments of partly destroyed ancient documents reassembled by incompetent restorers. Or perhaps they are documents of our time reassembled by future generations. I’m interested in the provisional, the contingent, the accidental as well as the planned. I’m an accident-prone control freak. I want to reflect my studio practice in which I often spend hours looking for things I’ve misplaced only to find them useless when I find them. The trial-and-error process often means the work takes a couple of years to complete. There is an awful lot of dithering going on here both in my life and the world. Why all this complication? What are the little men in a few of the pictures trying to do? Perhaps trying to save a world they’re destroying. Even though the world is full if dire emergencies, many people, including me, live our lives as though things are normal. But what is “normalcy” in an age of ecological disaster, extreme sexism and racism, plagues, and war? We dither along as best we can. It has always been thus. Human culture is a beautiful miracle, and a suicidal and homicidal disaster. But I am not a pessimist. To paraphrase Thomas Hardy’s poem “Hap,” my world is accidentally strewn pains and blisses. I hope the work shows not only bleakness but the love, delight, and humor I experience while making it.