[“Stair Guitar” (2009), oil on canvas. “Mi Amigo Sound Machine” (2009), oil on canvas. “Harry Dean Stand-In” (2008), oil on canvas. “Gay Pride Moustache” (2008), oil on canvas.]
“Basement States” marks New York solo debut of Michael Berryhill. At Horton & Liu Gallery until October 10, 2009, this recent series invites viewers to engage in an open-ended dialogue of inventiveness and misinterpretation. Often deriving inspiration from a misapprehended concept or confusing phrase, Berryhill’s paintings capture self-deprecating moments occurring before meaning is realized. Like hearing song lyrics incorrectly (and assigning new meaning and verbiage to them), Berryhill employs historic symbols and imagery from modern painting styles like Cubism and Surrealism in setting forth a personalized matrix. Indeed, one finds Berryhill breaking up, analyzing, and reassembling his subjects as he allows us a greater context—and giving us a greater number of vantage points from which to see them. One finds in these paintings an intense study of his subjects, which Berryhill showers with dogged complexity.
Berryhill alternates between fast and slow, abstraction and representation, unreadable and readable, insecurity and confidence, color and monochrome, and painting and drawing. Surfaces—to the artist—function as a map of how works develop and ultimately bear results of looking, planning, and changing. In this way, the artist attempts to sync his experience of creation with viewers implicated as active participants in discovery.
In “Basement States, the viewer encounters a Cezanne-like still life (“Two For Table”), a contorted table set by a shrouded, suspect mealtime companion (“Gay Pride Mustache”), an entangled painterly mass resembling a cartoon brain (“Little Big Form”), and a musical instrument of perplexing function set against a brilliantly colored background, leaving the viewer only to speculate what unknown sounds it might produce (“Stair Guitar”). In distinct canvas corners, the viewer can discern the odd juxtaposition or non sequitur. What remains static is Berryhill’s culmination of various textures, surfaces, collage elements, and merged subject matter.
Michael Berryhill lives and works in New York City and Austin. His work has been exhibited in such venues as Angstrom Gallery (Los Angeles), Blütenweiss Gallery (Berlin), and Okay Mountain and Arthouse (Austin).
By Michael Berryhill
Through October 10, 2009
@ Horton & Liu
504 West 22nd Street, Parlor Level, NYC 10011www.hortonliu.com