Review by Jud Yalkut, Dayton City Paper

Dayton City Paper, weekly news & culture

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
— Mark Twain

Visuals: Ethereal Text and Jewelled Realities
Posted by: Admin on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 – 04:22 PM

Yvonne van Eijden and Martin Bernstein in Cincinnati

by Jud Yalkut

The elements of dark and light, and the depths of mystic dedication or the ecstatic fragmentation of reality are profound elements explored in two concurrent exhibitions at the Weston Art Gallery in Cincinnati.

Yvonne van Eijden, a Dutch artist recently transplanted to Cincinnati, produces oils that presently explore the ruddy earth tones found within the layers of Rembrandt, but with an ethereal effulgence in which figural elements and landscapes coincide. Martin Bernstein, a Cincinnati native who has emigrated around the United States and is now centered in Chicago, has produced “A Personal Odyssey,” a choreographed installation created especially for Cincinnati and filled with works that seem to be rescued from earthen excavations.

Running through March 26, these exhibitions are luminous examples of some of the talent both attracted to and emanating from the Queen City. Van Eijden has titled her selection of recent oils and works on paper, “In the Spaces We Talk.” A graduate of the Vrije Academy in The Hague, van Eijden has intended her beautiful and sometimes enigmatic works to address questions of human communication in which “it becomes important to speak and listen in the spaces between” where “the spaces between the words are a universal language.”

With her husband now working at Children’s Hospital Medical Center, van Eijden has established her studio here, with works featuring text integrated with emanations of the human form in abstracted nature. She claims the handwritten texts and the image strokes are of equal importance, and says that, “sometimes I make a shape and sometimes I need a word” and “for the first time, words and paint have become equally visible.”

She also says her work has moved slowly through a personal color spectrum, with some of her earliest work centered within tones of yellow. For the 2004 “Art in the Grass” exhibition, which she curated, she wrote: “The universe like a dream/A dream like the universe/No boundaries no where/ How can we talk in words/Words are limited.”

Figural forms emerge in grasping or praying stances, becoming one with the arcs of hills and dissolving valleys in works such as “Future Became the Past,” the “Words Are Limited” series, her “Pulsating Moments,” and the almost forbidding “Repression of Language.” She gets into her own space while working and sometimes “there is a need for silence.” Other times, she listens to one thing over and over, such as something by Bach. “My neighbor felt so sorry for me,” she recalls, “that she brought me a new CD.”
“I go back and forth,” she continued. “And sometimes the figures come before the dreams and become more landscapes, and suddenly go back but (they) are always there. They come from my imagination, and the writing on the paintings comes before anything else.”

Martin Bernstein studied art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, initially making geometric and three-dimensional canvases and later becoming one of the founding members of the Cincinnati Artists Group Effort, or C.A.G.E. He discovered how paint oozing under taped boundaries softened hard lines, and how the limitations of edges and boundaries grew in his work into sculptural objects and paintings. This led to work on unstretched canvases, and eventually the environment around him became his canvas, with dots and splashes “shape-shifted into three-dimensional objects” in what he calls “the accumulation of a process that leads up to and is exclusive of the finished product.”

Entering a Bernstein exhibition is like suddenly inhabiting an internal world completely externalized with a viscerality of objects from one’s imagination turned into a new and engulfing environment. Another facet of his recent work is the jewelry and jeweled objects, adornments that “exalt the feelings and emotions” and are composed of both precious and non-precious substances, sometimes appearing “broken, tangled or forgotten.” It is this veil of forgetfulness that heightens the sense of discovery in every particle of Bernstein’s bejeweled universe.

The interior side of the entry wall into his environment has two golden and textured giant curtains that establish the boundaries of our new world. Chandeliers and furniture are encrusted with fabulous confluences of sparkling and radiant details, and works on paper with distressed and scarred surfaces and edges are curatorially framed under glass in the manner of “an artifact like the Dead Sea Scrolls,” where the content delivers the meaning and becomes a conscious or unconscious artifact of his time and travels.

In the midst of this show, Bernstein was off to New York to do work for Saks Fifth Avenue, and his highly distinctive earrings and belts have been featured on models on the cover of Rolling Stone, and his one-of-a-kind necklaces have appeared in Vogue. “I didn’t want to be an artist making jewelry to make a living,” he reflects. “But it was an element that fit into what I was working on.” He has attained a self-imposed sense of structure that counters his early spontaneous nature, and his work is a dance with reality in an organic sheen.

“Everything is precious,” Bernstein states. “And it’s how you appreciate things, and are able to keep going on a nice, frictionless course as opposed to banging up against the wall. So I appreciate and incorporate perhaps something of my dad’s or my mother’s, or something someone gave me, and glean something new.”

There are pieces here with mirrors “so we can see ourselves reflected in the work, or the possibilities of our reflections.” There are also illuminated pieces that “shine out and leave trails on the walls, like paint going into shadows and light.” His life’s work is, for him, really one immense piece, and “there’s a lyrical narrative going on… It’s really a kind of personal journey around the room.”

The Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery is located in the Aronoff Center for the Arts at 650 Walnut Street in Cincinnati. Gallery hours are 10 am-5:30 pm Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 pm Sunday, and open late on Procter & Gamble Hall performance nights. For more information, call (513) 977-4165, or visit the web at www.CincinnatiArts.org/Weston.

Reach DCP art critic Jud Yalkut
at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com.
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