Artist Gerry Bergstein uses his studio floor as “an archaeological site in which to explore my own mind.” For over a decade, he has added paint and collage to an ever-evolving studio installation that serves as a figurative and literal starting point for his artwork. The pieces in Bergstein’s upcoming show at the Chandler Gallery combine photographs of his studio collage with additional visual elements, intentionally blurring the lines between photography, painting and collage. Bergstein also uses chunks of paint that he has cut from his 35-year-old palette.
“Construction, destruction and reconstruction of images and compositions are the crux of my process and a metaphor for my view of human culture,” says Bergstein. “Carrying Babel” uses a photograph of the studio floor and the wall as a setting for the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The narrative provides context for the splatters, the falling figures, and the cracked bands of paint that stretch away from an epicenter of calamity. In the midst of the rubble, two figures carry a Tower of Babel. Is this a fragment left after God destroyed the tower? Or does this pair, engaged as they are in cooperation, represent the moment when the people began to build the tower, superimposed upon the aftermath of its destruction?
This kind of ambiguity is characteristic of Bergstein’s vision: “My work is deliberately inclusive of the high, the low, the horrific and the hilarious, the true and the false,” says Bergstein. “Handbook” begins with the same studio setting as “Carrying Babel,” but the title creates a new context. The piece is in the shape of an open book with a hand reaching around the edge of each page, and it incorporates numerous permutations of mixed categories; photographs of paintings share space with cut-outs of paper drawings and a large glob of white paint. The subject matter includes Bergstein’s characteristic contrasts: classical nudes, a hand pointing a gun, a dog, and a yellow rope. Perhaps “Handbook” can be read as an instruction manual for understanding Bergstein’s work.
“Excavation” is on display at the Chandler Gallery from February 13 through March 10, 2017. The opening reception will be held on February 23 from 6-8pm. Maud Morgan Arts is a program under the umbrella of the Agassiz Baldwin Community, a private, non-profit organization with a forty-year history of quality programs and services in the Cambridge community. Maud Morgan Arts comprises a full arts program of classes and workshops for all ages, the Chandler Gallery, and a collection of original art by noted artist and community resident Maud Morgan (1903-1999). The agency works to reflect the diversity of talents of the community, bringing people together to make art, share art, and support visual arts education.