A Dazzling New Exhibition Showcases a Seminal Figure in the West Coast Pop Art Movement
Los Angeles’s Kohn Gallery has collected the mesmerizing works of Tony Berlant, surveying the artist’s signature collage technique
By Mayer Rus
For anyone interested in the long arc of art history, the contemporary art world’s obsession with youth, novelty, and spectacle can be exhausting. A welcome tonic has arrived in the form of a dazzling new show at Los Angeles’s Kohn Gallery that is dedicated to recent work by Tony Berlant, one of the seminal figures in establishing the sensibility of the West Coast Pop Art Movement. Since the 1960s, Berlant has employed a signature collage technique using images printed on metal, cut into small pieces, and meticulously nailed to flat surfaces with steel brads (or thin nails). Bridging the worlds of painting and sculpture, Berlant’s artworks take the form of flat canvases, cubes, houses, and classical temples. They are mesmerizing.
The artist’s recent output remains true to form. The pieces explore the intersection of Pop Art and abstraction, the personal and the universal, sculpture and painting. Many are constructed over photographs taken by the artist, printed on metal, and studded with thousands of brads. Several incorporate photographic self-portraits overlaid with collaged images of trees, flowers, and leaves. Three-dimensional rectangular boxes are covered with cutout text fragments in a variety of typefaces, colors, and styles.
Running concurrently with Berlant’s show at Kohn Gallery is a fascinating exhibition, cocurated by the artist, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which offers insight into Berlant’s decades-long passion for the exquisite hand-painted pottery of the Native American Mimbres culture. “Decoding Mimbres Paintings: Ancient Ceramics of the American Southwest” runs through December 2018, while the Kohn presentation is open for delectation through November 22.