D. Berman exhibits show aesthetic smarts
Austin gallery owner David Berman announced two weeks ago that after nearly 11 years among the fore of Austin's contemporary art galleries, he will shutter his Guadalupe Street venue in February and shift his operations to Wimberley, the Hill Country town 30 miles west of Austin where he and his wife, painter Ellen Berman, live.
Berman's gallery is one of the few in town whose roster of artists include the museum-collected and those receiving critical attention of the highest order: Beili Liu, Lance Letscher, Robert Dale Anderson, Randy Twaddle and Sydney Yeager, among others.
As coincidence would have it, D Berman Gallery currently has on exhibit "10th Anniversary Show," the kind of de rigeur group show galleries post during the holiday season and in summer.
And yet, while it's hard to celebrate as the gallery downsizes and moves out of downtown (Berman says he aims to open his smaller, Wimberely location in March), what is abundantly clear from the current show is the distinct aesthetic this gallery celebrates — an aesthetic that made itself loud and clear within the Austin visual arts scene.
That aesthetic rejoices in line, color, form, pattern, decoration, texture, tactility and materiality. And greatly guided by associate gallery director Anastasia Colombo, (she curated the 2003 group show "Summer Light," which netted an Austin Critics' Table Award), the D Berman Gallery proves to everyone that art that is pretty also can be cool.
Letscher's mesmerizing collages make for the cynosure of that aesthetic. Graphically evocative and playful, the colorful assemblages of old paper and books evoke a keen sense of abstraction and yet are undeniably beguiling in their beauty. Letscher — whose work is increasingly shown nationally and internationally — wrestles vintage greeting cards, album covers, advertising pamphlets and the like into precisely cut and combined motifs. Letscher images are certainly charming. But they're steeled by plenty of intelligence.
Ditto with Liu's work. Her stunning solo show — with its breaktakingly lovely sculptural installations made of string — garnered her an Austin Critics' Table Award last year. And though represented in the current show by smaller mixed media drawings, Liu's finesse radiates. Her simple squiggle of lines is elegant.
In fact, line never had quite the home as it does at D Berman Gallery. Yes, it's celebrated in the precise draftsmanship of artists like Malcolm Bucknall, Jana Swec and Joseph Phillips. But the fluid drama of line is also seen in Jared Theis' stained porcelain pieces, Beverly Penn's "Individual Botanical" series of tiny bronze twigs and flowers and especially in W. Tucker's faux childish miniature drawings.
After the current exhibit, the gallery will close out its Austin location with a joint exhibit featuring Penn and painter Sydney Yeager, whose color-filled organically inspired abstractions are full-on celebrations of the sumptuousness and fluidity of oil paint as much as anything more cerebral.
And that's typical of what has always been found at D Berman Gallery — art unabashedly playful and pretty that doesn't let go of its smarts.
'10th Anniversary Show'
When: through Jan. 22
Where:D Berman Gallery, 1701 Guadalupe St.