The Clock Unlocked is the first exhibition to spanning over four decades in the life and work of New York painter Ellen Berkenblit, on now at Anton Kern. Running through a range of expressive and often enigmatic arrangements, the exhibition presents a roving and exploratory walk through Berkenblit’s practice, tracing evolutions and ongoing interests through any number of touchstones and points of entry. Arranged instinctually and without chronology, The Clock Unlocked is just that, a diary of paintings and drawings reveals the artist’s idiosyncratic ‘alphabet’— the core of her visual language presented in the same idiosyncratic attitude towards time and space.
Berkenblit’s pieces are a symphony of themes and images, all united by her free-wheeling sense of adventure and her ability for stylistic reinvention. Images appear and re-appear throughout the show, often uniting groups of paintings across decades, reference systems and techniques: a witch, a tiger, a shoe, a truck, all reveal themselves as a collection of curves, strokes, and slashes, often quickly moving back into the mass of gestures where they were once intimated. One can recognize a gesture, and in it a notion of how the physical sensations and muscular reactions of the arm, the hand and the wrist all drive Berkenblit’s mark-making, in turn bringing the viewer into an intimate relation to Berkenblit’s own repeated movements and ideas over the years, an ongoing dance between artist, material, and surface.
The show also features a new work by the artist, spanning an entire wall, titled Sunshine, and marking the artist’s largest canvas to date. Measuring over 16 feet in length, the composition features a leopard prowling alongside a traffic-jammed street, accenting by a series of repeated rhythmcs and patterns that mark. In its surfaces, worked and reworked, we see a collection of rhythms sketched out in a familiar hand. Loop-de-loops of exhaust fumes mimic the cursive ‘e-l-l-e’ in the artist’s name while dashed lines become lane markers. It’s a fascinating look at the artist’s own hand as it moves across the canvas, discovering new gestures and remembering old ones in an ongoing exchange of movements and responses. To view the work is to be caught up in this same repetitive dance of figures and lines, as if the totality of the work relies only on the balance of an endlessly iterative process.
Berkenblit’s work is on view through October 2oth.
— C. Reinhart
Ellen Berkenblit: The Clock Unlocked [Anton Kern Gallery]