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The RiNo's Horn
A Place to Trumpet Rino Artists by Rex Brown from the Pattern Shop Studio

Tuesday
Mar232010

Andy Berg at Lisa Kowalski's

Painting by Andy BergAndy Berg's sumptuous paintings, on view this winter at Ironton Studios, Ice Cube Gallery,  and currently hanging through March at the Lisa Kowalski Gallery, 2762 Walnut Street, suggest a number of possible influences, plus a distinct style that is all his own.  He has clearly absorbed the last 60 years of American abstract art.  You see hints of Willem deKooning, intimations of Phillip Guston and rhythmic layering reminiscent of Jackson Pollock. You see here and there a bow to primitivism, gestural painting, color field artists and lyrical abstraction. As he talks about his process, you're reminded of surrealist painters who strove to let their unconscious instincts guide their hands.  Despite these intimations of earlier traditions, Andy's paintings strike you as fresh contributions to contemporary painting, so much of which is merely derivative.  He has a unique voice, and a remarkable range of expression.

Some paintings, such as "Kabballah," "Instincus'" and "#4" clamor with vivid color noise; out of this cacophony,  mysterious shapes arise that suggest letters in an unknown language striving to link up across the canvas to spell out ancient secrets.  You don't have to know anything about the hermetic and Judaic traditions of Kabballah to see this; it leaps out at you.  But by so entitling this painting, Andy reveals that he knows something about mysticism, spiritualism and esoteric efforts to express the inexpressible.  Other painting titles further this suspicion: "Kundalini," suggesting an interest in unconscious energy; "Spiritus Sanctus," raising all kinds of mystical associations;  "Viridis," suggesting an encrypted universe longing for interpretation; or even "Leda and the Swan," which conjures up thoughts about the fusion of mortal and divine, finite and infinite.  I'm not saying he thinks of these things and sets out to paint them.  Not at all.  He doesn't know what his paintings will turn into when he starts to paint.  But when he sees what he has created, largely through a process of letting his unconscious have its way, these allusive titles occur to him.  He sees, as we see, that he is tapping into something far deeper than a tradition of anti-realism or paint handling. And that's what separates him from lesser painters with the technical skills to "do" abstract expressionist work, but without a feel for the deepest and most important roots of the tradition.

I don't want to intellectualize his work, however.  The most important reason to seek out Andy's work is to experience the joy that his paintings communicate.  It is his ardor, and his capacity to excite you in one painting and put you at peace in another that strikes me most powerfully, haunts me after I  leave, and makes me want to see what he will do next.  Check out his website (http://andyberg.squarespace.com/recent-works/) and look for his work at Ironton, The Lisa Kowalski Gallery and other venues in and outside of the Rino Arts District.

Rex Brown
Pattern Shop Studio

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