Review: Hilary Berseth Exhibit

All images courtesy of Eleven Rivington Gallery

Hilary Berseth (SOA 2001) impressed with his first show at Eleven Rivington Gallery in 2008. He seamlessly blended nature with human agency; his honeycomb sculptures combined his own wood and wire armatures with wax and honey structures built by bee colonies. His manipulation of natural processes resulted in beautiful, subtle effects. The sculptures were cacti-like formations, with soft curvatures and elegant flowing lines; the poetic manifestation of mathematical formulas embedded in the natural world. Critic Karen Rosenberg, writing for The New York Times, described Berseth’s work as “a novel twist on process art.”

Berseth’s most recent show, at Eleven Rivington through February 5, 2012, is a slight departure. His graphite drawings feature some natural elements, such as plant life and clouds, but this time they are captured on a paper. The use of graphite lends the drawings an ethereal lightness, while the images, (juxtaposing a tree inside a room, or an eyeball with what look like vines or veins), masterfully blend the real and the surreal. Recurring themes are decay and impermanence; one particular drawing shows a room that could be a scene of either a demolition or a cataclysm. The floor is littered with wood pieces, and an entire wall has been ripped away, revealing a dark interior. The use of half-opened doors as an entrance into the composition suggests a psychoanalytic preoccupation, while the drawing of the eyeball references the technique of optical illusion.

Optical illusion is taken further in one of the paper sculptures, in which paper discs are conjoined to simulate a growing branch, and delicate buds are drawn onto the structure. The sculpture’s base features delicately drawn shadings, simulating shadows. The resulting effect evokes the play of light-and-shadow in a newly rigorous, artificial way. Other sculptures are pure geometric forms, more loosely referencing spirals and perforations, previously present in the honeycombs.

Berseth’s work was included in the 2011 Wax – Sensation in Contemporary Sculpture exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark, featuring Vanessa Beecroft and Maurizio Cattelan, among others. He lives and works in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

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