Katherine Bernhardt

“When I started, I wanted to paint things that had nothing to do with each other, that made no sense. … That was the goal: nothingness. And what were the brightest, craziest color combinations I could come up with, that would clash?”

With quick brush strokes and a colorful palette, contemporary American artist Katherine Berhardt makes gestural paintings that combine elements of abstract expressionism with pop culture kitsch.

In the 2000s, she first became known for thickly-painted portraits of celebrities and models inspired by magazine advertisements.

Today, her work includes textiles and sculpture, usually layered with symbols of consumerist advertising and fluorescent tropical animals in a graffiti motif.



Solo Shows
Xavier Hufkens, Brussels; MATE, Lima; Loyal, Malmo
Group Shows
Salon 94, New York; Mitchell, Innes, & Nash, New York
Reviewed In
frieze, Artforum
Biennials
Manifesta

Ever since making her debut on the global art stage with thickly-painted portraits of celebs and models inspired by magazine advertisements in the 2000s, Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Katherine Bernhardt has largely become known for creating eccentric gestural paintings that combine elements of abstract expressionism with pop culture kitsch. Bernhardt expresses her fascination with the eclectic world around her—everything from fast food to sneakers, tropical fruit to Windex bottles—by using this iconography to create graffiti patterns in paintings such as the literally named Watermelons + Toucans + Papaya + Vines + Cigarette (2017), Sneakers, Computers, Capri Sun (2014), or Doritos and Cigarettes (2014).

Bernhardt explores symbols from the media and American pop culture; Kate Moss is almost as popular a subject for Bernhardt to paint as the Pink Panther or Garfield the cat. Her works are simultaneously visceral and child-like in their seeming simplicity, loose brushwork, and vivid color palette. The results are often proudly playful and illogical; in 2015, Bernhardt covered the Venus Over Los Angeles gallery in Los Angeles with Fruit Salad, a blue and purple public mural of free-floating sharks, toilet paper, toucans, cigarettes, and slices of papaya, watermelon, and cantaloupe to help the downtown neighborhood visually cool off amidst the summer heat wave. In 2017, she converted the ground floor gallery of Midtown Manhattan’s Lever House into a virtual terrarium with Concrete Jungle Jungle Love, a sprawling installation composed of garish paintings, primordial soft sculptures and gigantic gummy worms intended as a playful mirror to the modernist architecture of the space and a corporatized Park Avenue outside.

This summer, Bernhardt collaborated with the Sloomoo Institute to create slimy new works of art, with 100% of profits benefiting three mental health charities: Love is Louder, NAMI, and Sad Girls Club. In early August, she debuted MayoKetchup, a new exhibition at Embajada Gallery in Puerto Rico, and will present works from September to October with Puerto Rican artist José Luis Vargas and art collective Poncili Creación at Carl Freedman Gallery in Kent.

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