Katherine Bernhardt (American, born 1975) is a contemporary artist who examines the powerful effects of popular culture, childhood, nostalgia and joy in her bright, gestural works. She uses iconic brands, objects and characters, including Nike sneakers, characters from ThePink Panther and ET, cigarettes and Apple computers, to bring to life her childhood in the 80s.
Bernhardt has exhibited her work in recent solo shows at the Mario Testino Museum (MATE), Lima, Peru; the highly visible Lever House commission on Park Avenue; and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Several of her paintings are held in influential collections, including the Brandt Foundation, Carnegie Museum, Rubell Collection, and Hirshhorn Museum.
GQ recently tried to nail down her elusive aesthetic: “A typical Bernhardt might measure up to 10 feet long, its surface swimming with spray-painted oddities: hammerhead sharks, hamburgers, Windex bottles, cigarettes, watermelons, Garfields, stormtroopers, bananas. ... The paintings are unabashedly fun and proudly illogical, fast and silly yet executed with thoughtful, painterly chops.”
Her fascination with objects can be traced back to growing up with a hoarding-inclined mother. Her messy object–riddled, seemingly senseless still lifes mimic the rooms of her childhood. To this day, Bernhardt returns to this home to draw inspiration from being surrounded by family, friends, and things.
Over the course of her career, Bernhardt influences have shifted and changed as she adopts new imagery. After getting out of school and working in Chelsea, Bernhardt exclusively painted gestural works of supermodels: Kate Moss and Gisele with oversized heads and spindly bodies. Shortly thereafter, Bernhardt was consumed with abstract textile patterns — now, the rugs have been thrown to the wayside and replaced by cultural objects of the 80s. Fellow artist Brian Bellot praised her devil-may-care approach in the GQ piece: “What's amazing about her is that she defies so many rules.”
Sneakers, Computers, Capri Sun falls squarely into the 80s category, with Nike sneakers, Apple computers, and Capri-Sun pouches scattered on a bright yellow background. The cultural artifacts are rendered in a graffiti style that perfectly capturesBernhardt’s work, at least for the time being.