New York

Betsy Berne

Rosa Esman Gallery

Betsy Berne’s paintings display an unerring sense of the medium’s divine power to trans-port the viewer into imaginative realms. Her recent paintings seem centered in the most primary of dimensions where the mysteries of existence reveal themselves. In a number of examples including The Deep, 1989, Red Sea, 1989, and Third Party, 1990, the enigmatic style of organic abstraction that has become Berne’s trademark proves well suited to suggesting universal themes of creation.

The Deep, with its glowing black ground and rich atmospheric qualities, conjures up a kind of primordial darkness. Built up with multiple glazes and washes, the dense layers of oil, far from seeming inert, appear to float within the space of the canvas. The vivid sensation of surface movement is echoed by the snakelike and protozoan “figures” that populate the compositions. The random patterns of their movements reinforce a pervasive sense of spontaneous organic growth.

In Red Sea the notion of water as force is embodied as much in the intense wine-colored surface as in the shell-like shapes in the picture’s lower section. In Third Party, another painting in Berne’s favored key of red, the feeling of dynamic flux—the chaos giving birth to structure—seems to pour forth from the work’s energetic composition.

Ronny Cohen