Los Angeles

John Bernhardt

Ceeje Gallery

The very real need to paint as well as assemble is apparent in the work of John Bernhart. He can shape colors, curve and bend the lines in a way impossible with the arbitrarily formed bits and pieces that make up the assemblages. Some of the paintings have a strange “inside-of-a-box, seen from above” quality, with what seems to be well defined bottoms and sides. Others are energetic, even violent. Life and Death in Indianapolis is an ambitious painting in sections; elements swirl in and out of focus, dominated by a skull in majesty. The tensions of orange and gray are here exploited, as in Heaven, Earth and Hell which descends from bright oranges at the top to grays and whites at the bottom. Earth is engulfed by a curious machine, part tank, part engine, part snow plow. The machine is what the assemblages are about, too—disenchantment with man’s toys, toys now laid at The Shrine as tokens to his manifest unwillingness to accept his humanity. The works are not without humor, as Machine Gun for a Wealthy Collector but the message seems stern: The Road Back is barred, full of  obstacles, impassable. It is in the paintings that we feel the full impact of Bernhardt’s energetic protest.

Joan Hugo