New York, NY 10002
Bernstine has been making paintings, drawings, and sculpture since 1980, while living in the East Village of New York. Self-taught as an artist, he moved downtown after completing a master’s degree in International Affairs at Columbia University. In the East Village he was part of the music, art and literary scene and published the underground magazine Newave. Bernstine left New York for Los Angeles in 1984, then on to Paris in 1988. Since then, he has been based in France, also spending time in London, Marrakesh, and Berlin. While continuing to make art, he worked a variety of day jobs, finally devoting himself full-time to art-making in 2007.
Bernstine’s small-scaled abstract paintings and drawings explore his interest in the concept of emergence, the appearance of patterns and complexity from a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. He creates his work intuitively, beginning with discreet motifs and allowing the composition to emerge organically. As he notes: “While working I focus on the different parts of the whole and try to not get directly involved in the process of composing. I try to set up a situation where a composition will emerge, making itself known after at least 75% of the work is done…. It has to do with generating something that is unpredictable. I am happy when the finished work is alive and many-faceted, but without loose ends… The hope is to find unexpected results and complexity emerging from simplicity.”
The artist repeatedly explores a variety of visual motifs: gossamer webs and grids of fine lines with undulant movement; concentric geometric patterns; accumulations of discreet grid zones and rectangular shapes; accretions of tiny rectangles resembling tile work or aerial views of imaginary topographies; and energetic and colorful bursts and vortices. In black-and-white checkerboards, Bernstine twists and torques the patterns and fills in the background with parallel stripes. This lends the work a distinctive optical vibrancy as well as visual richness within a limited palette. In other examples, a central checkerboard is executed in two colors and set against a striped ground creating a distinctive spatial push and pull. One large-scale work on paper is included in the exhibition, a diaristic creation combining a variety of motifs in a single work. Because of space constraints in his home/studio, it was created piecemeal without a clear overview, allowing chance to dominate the decision making.
In all of the work, the evidence of the hand is primary, despite the overall density and attention to detail. Surfaces are taut but the flat plane never dominates. Rhythms of music as well as patterns and pulsations of the urban environment can be felt throughout. Bernstine notes that, “I would like my thoughts (ideas, ruminations, memories, observations, imaginary internal debates and dialogues, analyses and other stream-of-consciousness raw synaptic chatter) to find their way into the work. I trust that they do, though in a way that is mostly indirect.”