Tony Berlant Tilt in Time
December 14, 2018 - January 14, 2019
Tony Berlant Tilt in Time
December 14, 2018 - January 14, 2019
Tilt in Time Introduction essay by David Pagel
Wall Mounted Collages
Dartura Flower Collages
Biography and Selected Collections
Everything Changes I love crossing paths with a piece by Tony Berlant because I love looking at things that make me see that there is more to reality than immediately meets the eye. Tony’s works do that more regularly and effectively than just about anything else out there. Without missing a beat, or making a big deal about their quietly mind-blowing accomplishments, his multilayered arrangements of line, shape, space, and color lead me along a path of discovery that leaves me face-to-face with some of the best stuff life has to offer: what lies just beyond the horizon of what we can see on our own. That’s where the imagination enters the picture, along with all of those inklings, intuitions, and impossible-to-pin-down notions that come to us from somewhere else than our rational minds, and the logical processes they follow. Before I take even a few steps, metaphorically, in the direction pointed by one of Tony’s splintered pictures of many different things—some recognizable and others just beyond the grasp of consciousness—the path, which he has suggested by repeating certain elements or colors or symbols in his composition, comes to a fork. This compels me to decide which way to go—whether I should keep scanning the composition for more of the elements I had been finding or leave that growing path in the dust and start to follow a different set of elements. “You can’t experience everything all at once,” Tony’s swirling constellation of familiar and unfamiliar images seems to say, “Pick one path and get on with it. Life is filled with many decisions, why should art be any different?” Opportunity cost is built into the art. So is the cleareyed pragmatism and no-nonsense realism of knowing that you can’t have everything, and that decisions—even seemingly little ones—have consequences. Pie-in-the-sky idealism, so often a part of the popular tendency to romanticize art—and sugarcoat our experience of it—gets tossed by the wayside in Tony’s rigorously unsentimental—yet profoundly optimistic—pieces of participatory composition building. So, for all sorts of reasons, I take what I think will be the scenic route, following the path I imagine will take me past the most eye-opening vistas: curious gems for my eyes to delight in, wondrous textures for my senses to get lost in, and unexpected shifts in scale for my body to experience physically, not to mention changes in temperature, mood, and atmosphere—none of which 1
I had foreseen when I started, and all of which allow me to dive deeper into a world that is as resplendent and stimulating as the real one—and a whole lot more beautiful, its contrasts sharper, its palette more saturated, and its variations more wide-ranging, nuanced, and subtle. I give my eyes free rein, put purposefulness in the backseat, and let the new set of elements I am following form whatever path they may form, leading my eyes across and around the picture-plane in a way that makes me see more than before, embedded details popping forward and off-the-beaten path highlights leaping to me. Then, real quick, I come to another fork in the road. Tony’s piece seems to shout, gleefully and generously, “Gotchya! Again. Just when you started to sense a rhythm, to find a sensible pattern in the optical high jinx of my overlapping and intersecting and crisscrossing compositions, you have to decide which way to go: whether you’re going to ride along the path you’ve been following, or, whether you’re going to abandon that path and take off in a different direction, following a different set of visual cues and, perhaps, discovering something else—or getting lost. Whether it turns out to be better or worse, a gain or a loss, is the chance you have to take.” What is certain, in Tony’s art, is that you can’t do both. At least not right now. Patience and immediate gratification bump up against each other. If you’ve ever been of two minds about something, you know what this predicament, which Tony has so carefully engineered, feels like. You also know that it’s not the end of the road.
Intrigued by what has happened so far—and being, when it comes to aesthetics, a gambler—I jump tracks and follow the new path, committing what I have just experienced to memory and holding onto the possibility that I can backtrack and pick up my journey where I left off. As I forge ahead, following a new set of elements with all the excitement of not knowing where it might lead, I find myself more willing to trust what Tony has done because of the satisfactions his labyrinthine composition has delivered so far. My tentativeness diminishes. So does my cautiousness. The same goes for my tendency to cling to every little nugget I discovered or to hold, very tightly, every connection I sensed between and among various elements. The sense of loss that haunted previous forks in the road also falls further into the background. While it doesn’t disappear completely, it’s more than compensated for by what I now hear the art saying: “There’s more where that came from. Lots more. Loosen up. Let it rip. The ride is just beginning. And it’s a wild one.” That’s when I start coming to forks in the road so swiftly that they seem to be arriving simultaneously. Every time I see or sense elements that are repeated with enough consistency to suggest a path or a way of making my way through the jam-packed composition, another path opens up in another direction. This complicates matters exponentially. There’s no time for anything to get familiar. Or for expectations to take shape, much less get met. The comfort provided by the repeated rhythms of regular patterns is nowhere to be found because Tony’s compositions are much more interested in pulling the rug out from under your feet. Not to make you fall on your face so that they might make fun of your misfortune, but to give you the opportunity to be light on your feet—to dance to keep up with the visual dynamics of the composition’s ever-shifting setups. And the more you do that, the more fun you have. A piece by Tony has so many points of entry, so many paths through it, and so many points of departure that it’s flat out impossible to see it the same way twice. It never gets old. Every time you return to it there’s some new detail to see, some new rhythm to sense, some new route to follow, some new space to explore. It’s a granular, nooks-and-crannies way of being in the world: appreciating details by moving past them and not hanging onto them as if they were collectible objects. The
light-handedness of that un-possessing effort matches the lightheartedness the experience generates. In a sense, every time feels like the first time—but even better, because you know that it’s not, that you’ve been here before, and that that experience, which you value, is different from your new one, which you also value. In Tony’s case, art does not elevate us above anything at all. It roots us to the nitty gritty details of life by setting us free to experience their everyday, down-to-earth beauty. To envision, more vividly, and to understand, more fully, the magic that plays out every time you enter one of Tony’s initially dizzying compositions, picture the trip I described above not as a linear, step-by-step progression along a path that continually branches out, but as a simultaneous, multi-directional movement across and around the picture plane—a fluid movement that goes in every direction all at once, your eyes scanning the visually resplendent surface and seeing various visual clues repeated so that they form not a thread, upon which single experiences or insights might be strung, like a necklace, but a fabric—a dense and malleable swathe of cloth into which a wider range and greater number of experiences and insights are woven. In Tony’s hands, it’s a multicolored coat, its overlapping, intersecting, criss-crossing patterns forming a kaleidoscopic extravaganza that neither sits still nor lets you rest with what you think you know. And with all things Tony, there’s more. Much more. Once you’ve wrapped your head around the idea that the paths through his compositions are both linear and planar, translate that image into three dimensions. His works, after all, include great spatial depth. This comes in the form of the illusionistic spaces created by the representational imagery he includes. It’s also conveyed by the contrasts between bright and dark colors, as well as by the stark contrasts between light and shadow. Both types of contrast are intensified by the cut-and-nailed collage of sheared metal that is Tony’s stock and trade. All of these components give palpable form to the volumes occupied by objects in the real world and how close to—or far from—each of us they are. In these deliciously complex combinations of abstraction and representation, paths appear (and vanish), positive and negative space shift positions, fragments coalesce, patterns form (and disintegrate), and surfaces become spaces (and vice versa). Nothing stays the same. Everything changes. Including you.
- David Pagel 2
How it began “They were tearing down advertising signs, several layers with new ones on top and old rusted ones beneath... Demonstrating different levels of erosion and degradation over time. I finally started cutting up those tin signs and rearranging them. I started nailing for the immediacy. Nails are like brush strokes or pencil marks, a record of the history of the action and the energy. That’s my story.” - Tony Berlant
One of One, 2018 photo printed metal featuring Polaroid imagery by Andy Warhol, found tin & steel brads on wood 60” x 45”
Within and Without, 2017 photo printed metal featuring Polaroid imagery by Andy Warhol, found tin & steel brads on wood 80â€? x 24â€?
“When you get your fingers all over the object and manipulate it, it becomes a genuine manifestation of self.” - Tony Berlant
Tilt in Time, 2011 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 25” x 25”
Rag Tag, 2011 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 22â€? x 22â€?
Little Topanga, 2018 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 70â€? x 53â€?
Luck of the Draw, 2011 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 30” x 30”
Behind the Curtain, 2012 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 45â€? x 40â€?
“It looks gestural but it all happens in slow motion.” - Tony Berlant
Neck of the Woods, 2013 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 60” x 28”
There and Back, 2010 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 70â€? x 53â€?
Here and Now, 2010 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 41â€? x 36â€?
Vanishing Point, 2010 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 24â€? x 30â€?
Departure, 2018 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 33â€? x 22â€?
“It feels liquid, like you’re in water. Really smooth flowing and confident.” - David Pagel
Ready to Roll, 2013 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 13” x 12”
Rolling Right, 2013 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 13â€? x 12â€?
Both Sides, 2013 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 24â€? x 18â€?
“With the houses, you couldn’t see all the planes at once. You need to move around them, bridging the line between sculpture and painting.”
- Tony Berlant
Teepee, 2017 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 16.5” x 12” x 4”
Homerun, 2018 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 10.5” x 10.5” x 8”
Lucy, 2018 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 7.25” x 7.5” x 5.25”
Royale, 2018 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 8” x 8” x 7”
Key (side a), 2017 photo printed metal, found tin & steel brads on wood 20.5” x 48.25” x 6.75”
Key (side b), 2017
Biography Tony Berlant
Born 1941 New York, New York 1960â€™s Established studio in Santa Monica, California 1961 Bachelor of Arts, University of California, Los Angeles 1962 Master of Arts, Painting, University of California, Los Angeles 1963 Master of Fine Arts, Sculpture, University of California, Los Angeles 1965-69 Taught at University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Art
Selected Public Collections Art Institute of Chicago, IL Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA Minneapolis Institute of Fine Art, Minneapolis, MN Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, CA Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NB Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Stanford Museum of Art, Palo Alto, CA The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS
W W W .T E L L U R I D E G A L L E R Y. C O M
Tony Berlant's exhibition catalog