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On a recent visit to Tony Berlant’s studio, two very

reads like a carefully choreographed path of styles

ist eyes,” a singular way of viewing the world. These

poignant remarks stand out from our conversation

and logic. And Berlant, when he gets over the initial

same eyes tell him to cover certain parts of the inkjet

that took place wandering through his studio sur-

anxiety of taking 50 years of work and compress-

printed surface with these pieces of tin, as if he has

rounded by the body of work that is being exhibited

ing it into 20 minutes of art historical references and

shaman like knowledge of the erogenous zones of

at Nyehaus, Extended Ecstasy, and a series of very

subtle stylistic descriptions, speaks as fluidly and

the picture. He has turned subjectivity in to objectiv-

early works called The Girls that will be shown si-

intuitively as does his work.

ity. His only hesitation, he explains, is his reticence

multaneously at his gallery, LA Louver, in Los Ange-

Berlant now works on gesso treated plywood. He

to draw the covers over his goddess, obscuring her

les. First, when I mentioned the word jigsaw puzzle,

mostly uses photographs that he has taken, blowing

seductive powers. This ambivalent space that Ber-

there was a charming moment of embarrassment

them up and inkjet printing them on to the prepared

lant has between an almost romantic attachment

as he confessed he had never thought about nor did

plywood. Berlant then with surgeon-like precision

to subject / image and his rigorous formal side, (he

he have the temperament for jigsaw puzzles at any

takes pieces of tin painted by the artist and tin that

for instance, goes to elaborate lengths to wrap the

point in his career; and then the ludicrousness of the

has been printed with advertising imagery; with a

inkjet image around the edge of the canvas, hav-

remark sank in. He certainly had the temperament,

ing to hand paint the photographic continuation to

his work is painstakingly labor intensive. But as we

make the subtle point that these works are “objects”

talked more, however, I understood his aversion to

as well as paintings) is where the real mystery and

the use of the word puzzle; he is so specific about

power of the works come from. I will leave an inter-

the “erasing” and enhancing specific details of the

pretation of the artist’s weaving the covers for the

image with shape. Puzzle makers cuts have no re-

goddess from her own image alone.

lationship to the image. Once I digested his intent, I

This romantic attachment to subject, is more clear-

no longer could see these “marks” as puzzle pieces.

ly, at least for the viewer, expressed in the second

The second poignant moment happened when I

series of work that draws from photographic im-

asked him to compress his career into a symmet-

ages Berlant took sitting at night in the tree-choked

ric history and discuss the transitions / connection

ravine of Chris Burden and Nancy Rubins’ property.

between bodies of work that he began in 1960.

Berlant took 45-minute exposures of the moon and

The consternation on his face revealed that I had

starlight poking through the loosely knit blanket of

put him on the spot. To me, the viewer, that had the

signature means of attaching the pieces with nails,

trees. Berlant was left alone in the twilight, reflecting

privilege of objectivity, the path from the Girls, es-

the small head of the nails left visible as they trace

on whether the neighborhood mountain lion might

tablishing his language of bold, pop imagery and its

the edge of the pieces. He does this much in the

come down for a visit. The resulting images loaded

paradoxical ability to embrace minimalism, to aquar-

way Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dots became his sig-

with the detail of a 45-minute exposure, prompts

ium dioramas filled with mysterious surreal scenes

nature artifact. In this body of work, Berlant has

the nervous eye to look for movements or recogni-

of found objects hinting at a narrative, the houses

become obsessed with an image of a goddess,

tion of life in the shadows. Even the viewer’s au-

some of which barred the viewer from entry, other

extracted from Rorkshachinterpretation of an im-

dial sense feels on alert for the sound of a broken

inviting them in to humorous scenes of women in

age gleaned from spending day after day staring at

branch. Berlant, again, struggles with the restraint

cages or a lone shell, the monolithic object’s exterior

the plywood floor of his studio. Berlant presents the

to obscure and enhance the seduction of the im-

covered in advertising images fractured into biomor-

clarity of this image as if he is showing me the narra-

age with overlaying images, but it is this tension that

phic forms and adhered to the surface by the nails

tive clarity of Botticelli’s Venus. Berlant is not crazy,

keeps the picture’s surface undulating, breathing

present themselves in his recent body of work and

quite the contrary; supremely lucid. He just has “art-

like a mountain lion.


Aztec 2011 Found and fabricated printed thin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 32 x 24 in.


Long Shot 2010 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 42 x 37 in.


Beside Myself 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on plywood with steel brads. 24 x 32 in.


Break Out 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 28 x 43.5 in.


Rag Tag 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 22 x 22 in.


Is What It Is 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 24 x 50.5 in.


Tilt in Time 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 25 x 25 in.


Fast Forward 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on plywood with steel brads. 75.5 x 32 in.


Tigertail 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 113 x 48 in.


Touchstone 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 84 x 36 in.


Goddess 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on plywood with steel brads. 95 x 40.5 in.


Happenstance 2010 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 66 x 29 in.


Ruled From Above 2009 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 60 x 28 in.


Jump In 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 84 x 35 in.


Flame 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 84 x 35 in.


Bird Song 2011 Found and fabricated printed tin collaged on laser ink jet printed plywood panel with steel brads. 84 x 36 in.


NYEHAUS.COM | P: 212 366 4493 F: 212 366 4498 | GALLERY@NYEHAUS.COM COVER: TONY BERLANT, IS WHAT IT IS (DETAIL), 2011, MIXED MEDIA, 24 x 50.5 IN


Profile for NYEHAUS

Tony Berlant: Extended Ecstasy  

New work from Tony Berlant opening at Nyehaus on September 15th through October 31st.

Tony Berlant: Extended Ecstasy  

New work from Tony Berlant opening at Nyehaus on September 15th through October 31st.

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