Los Angeles

Anthony Berlant

David Stuart Gallery

“I want my work to be as intense, as vague, as beautiful, and as ugly as life itself.” So Berlant has written, and judging by his pictures and particularly from his tin constructions, he has achieved some of the simultaneous awareness he was after.

His three-dimensional pieces in the shapes of cubes and houses are covered by decorated tin from discarded commercial containers, toys, signs, and apple juice cans from which he never drinks. Sensations and references are so mixed as in “Black Tulip Block” in which a 7-Up bottle is crossed with ungainly flowers, that it says something of the conglomeration before us as we drive across town in the traffic. The geometric form on which the stray shapes are tacked gives the whole a fixed quality.

Berlant’s houses are like Sinclair Lewis houses which sequester life but do not disclose it. There are representations of life all over them, and yet they have no open doors or windows. The objects at first appear to be toys, as in “Saint Stallion’s Eve” with its roof of planets and gum wrappers, and horses on the side. And all the houses emit an unidentifiable noise, half gurgle half tinkle, when moved. But contemplation brings more serious meanings, and a map as roofing puts a seal on the state of things.

Painted tin combined to form a two-dimensional picture does the same things but less forcefully. Berlant also uses acrylic paint over sundry blouses, raincoats, and shirts in other pictures. Clothes on a canvas that stops short of the face feel like the tin on one of the houses, in being not a shell but an impenetrable surface. His “Self-Portrait” is a red raincoat and part of some overalls, and “Les Huit” is eight shirts, one or two of which belong to a girl. And like the basic geometric composition of the constructions, cords segment the pieces of clothing. Berlant’s work is caught between reality and art, and for this reason is most memorable, or, rather, haunting.

Molly Siple