July 2012, Kelly Berg, Frank Pictures Gallery

Kelly Berg, Manifesto, 2012
60 x 120 inches acrylic and ink on canvas


Kelly Berg: Amazonia
Frank Pictures Gallery
Santa Monica
April 28 through May 28, 2012


A painting by Kelly Berg is as formidable as a hand-drawn map of a continent, as crisp as an English maze, and as rife with tributaries, thick undergrowth, spasms of life as a rain forest like the one referenced in the show title. Although the eye is given little in the way of comfortable pause, the immense outpourings of dense detail -- here and there punctuated by a self-portrait or two -- seem to have appeared on the pictorial surface fully formed, all at once, so balanced and tight are her structures. Although largely abstract and heavily concerned with patterns, symbols, and pure shapes, the flirtations with pictorial chaos are always resolved in the nick of time, before anything goes wrong or gets broken. The resoluteness of her dark lines like soldering lead speaks of a confidence in draftsmanship far beyond her relatively young age.

Yet it is precisely because of the generation to which she belongs that her threshold for tolerating hyper-saturated visual input is so elevated -- not to mention corralling it into meaningful compositions whose very complexities, though abstractionist, approach narrative in themselves. Her use of self-portraiture deployed at various scales across the different works is an effective strategy at this point in her work. It provides unmistakable permission for the viewer to read the works on the psychological level they seem to hint at. Without her face to indicate the presence of a buried story, the rumor of emotional or at least experiential content, even autobiographical meaning, the viewer might be left to wonder whether it were they themselves projecting aspects of personal consciousness into the fray. But no, you are right, keep digging -- her eyes are clues, affirmations, and challenges that set you upon the journey through the maze.

Still, it is a hard balance to strike; one worries that the self-portraits might eventually become disruptive, distracting, or even outright barriers to more individual interactions with the rest of the paintings once she’s worked out her private equations with this body of work. Berg might become more comfortable with ambiguity, and feel less compelled to help the viewer along, in which case the paintings have a chance to go beyond  their current power (where the oomph lies in the surprise appearance of narrative content from the intricate pattern jungle) to a loftier place where a lasting dynamism of slowly revealed potential meanings are constructed over a longer time without enclosed directions for assembly. Or, Berg could take the immense promise of her huge talent in a direction that surprises everyone. She’s done it before, as this exhibition already marked a change from previous work that dealt much more explicitly with the elements of natural world. Whatever the way, she’s one to keep an eye on.

 

Kelly Berg, Amazonia, 2012
48 x 60 inches acrylic and ink on canvas


Kelly Berg, Neo-noir, 2012
48 x 60 inches acrylic and ink on canvas

Kelly Berg, Nexus, 2011
 24x 30 inches acrylic and ink on canvas

Kelly Berg, Techtonic, 2012
48 x 60 inches acrylic and ink on canvas

Kelly Berg, Xylotopia, 2012
48 x 60inches acrylic and ink on canvas
 


Whitehot’s LA Editor Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author whose writing has appeared in regional, national, international, and online publications including the LA Weekly, Flaunt, Art Ltd, VS. Magazine, KCET/Artbound, LA CANVAS, Flavorpill, Artkrush, Modern Painters, Art Review, Artweek, Art Ltd, ARTnews, The Believer, tema celeste, Angeleno, Art Asia Pacific, Coagula, and Juxtapoz. A full account of her activities is periodically updated at sndx.net.

view all articles from this author

Reader Comments (0)


Your comments. . .


Your First Name (not shown):
Your Last Name (not shown):
Your Email Address (not shown):
Your Username:
 
 
 
 
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief
  
Noah Becker Art Noah Becker's Whitehot Magazine Of Contemporary Art