Friday, October 14, 2011

MOMA. 11 West 53rd street William deKooning: A Retrospective, through Jan 9th

William deKooning: A Retrospective, through Jan 9th

I've been kind of busy of late and haven't had time to put up any posts, but I had to write something about this. Let me say ahead of time whatever I say won't be enough. This is a big show (comprising nearly 200 paintings, drawings, and sculpture) covering the seven decade career of a hugely important artist. If you care at all about painting, or more generally art, or even more generally visually interesting experiences then I can not urge you enough to see this show. It's always a good sign when you leave the museum feeling like someone gave you a shot of adrenaline. That's how I felt when I walked out of the MoMA.

There's a quote at the beginning of the exhibition by deKooning that reads something like (I'm paraphrasing) "I'm not interested in making a good painting, but in seeing how far I can take it". This deceptively simple statement really sets the tone for the exhibit. He's considered one of the two or three major figures of the Abstract Expressionist movement, and along with Jackson Pollock, is known for an improvisational "action painting" technique and, all over or non-hierarchtical compositions. The other thing he's known for is reacting against the ideals of non-representation by reintroducing the figure into his work. If this retrospective proves anything it should prove that this second part of his reputation is complete bullshit. He never reintroduce representation, because he never abandoned it in the first place. DeKooning never bought into the pure abstractionist ideals of the time, as the critics then would have you believe. He simply saw nonrepresentational form as a newer exciting vehicle that alongside representational form could expand his vocabulary as an artist. He embraced the contradiction between these kinds of imagery, which is one of the things that made his paintings so good. He never cared about theory, or ideology. Just painting, and damn could he ever paint.

In the first gallery we see the mark made on him by artists like de Chirico, Miró, Picasso, Mattise, and Mondrian in the 1920's and 30's. While their influence stayed with him throughout his career, they too were just tools for his ever evolving artistic repertoire. What's most visible are his amazing gifts as colorist and draftsman in these paintings and drawings . In the next gallery we see him abandon both those talents to create the black and white abstractions of the '40's that earned him his first significant recognition. Then, over the years he slowly reintroduced color back into the work.

A lot is made of his "women" paintings of the early 1950's, where the figure dissolves into the background and then reconfigures. Maybe it's because these most directly utilize traditionally recognizable imagery. One of the things I find most interesting about these works is that he seems to use the figure to describe the paint more so than the other way around. Personally I prefer the more landscape inspired "full arm sweep" action paintings of the late 50"s and early 60's. The speed of the huge house painters brush creates more pictorial dynamism than just about any modernist artwork I can think of. Some of the brushstrokes are larger than the viewers standing in front of them. No one ever made paintings like these before deKooning, and the painters that did it after him didn't do it nearly as well. Nearly 50 years later they're still powerful and exhilarating to look at.

The next couple of galleries show his work from the mid '60's through 1980 where he incorporates the figure into a landscape space. He uses a really slippery wet on wet technique that he also finds a way to utilize in his bronze sculpture. In them, the clay looks like it was so wet and slippery you wonder how he managed to cast it. The nebulous painterliness of these 2 and 3 dimensional works show the influence of artists like Soutine, but I couldn't help thinking of Rubens. That would be if Rubens were a 20th century abstractionist maybe he would have painted like this. I don't know if anyone else will see that, but I did. I know, it's a stretch but... whatever.

Then in the last couple of galleries are the late stripped down work from the mid and late 80's which I''m not too crazy about. I think they were more a product of his declining physical and mental health than any artistic choice. But, I couldn't help but feel that if someone had never heard of deKooning's work, and was walking through this exhibit seeing it for the first time, they must be thinking "Wow! Now what does he do next?" I think this is the result of a kind of enthusiastic artistic openness. When I was in art school I remember a professor talking about open and closed paintings. She said that paintings should always start open, and then slowly start to close down as they develop. Some paintings never close down all the way, because once a painting's closed it's hard to open it up again. DeKoonings work always stayed open. I think that this was so that if he decided he hadn't taken them as far as he could, he had a way to go back in, and take them further. Always wide open, like his mind.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Three Interesting Opportunities - Joanne Mattera

This reposted from Joanne Mattera's fantastic Blog. I thought this might be right for some of the artists we know.

Three Interesting Opportunities by Joanne Mattera

This blog is not usually a clearinghouse for exhibitions and opportunities for artists, but in the past week three interesting situations have presented themselves. Two are in galleries; one is sponsored by a paint company. What unites them is the ingenuity of the sort that artists have always exhibited in getting their work out into the world and, in the case of the two galleries, finding ways to secure funding in a difficult economic time. I'm not endorsing these projects (well, except for the third one, which I'm involved with), but I like that they put the key in a door that might otherwise have been locked. Ceres Gallery in Chelsea . 
Ceres Gallery
Ceres Gallery, a women's co-op gallery on 27th Street in Chelsea, has organized Exposure 2011, which it bills as "10 simultaneous exhibitions each week for five weeks." Yes, there's a fee, but it's low: $250--light years away from the predatory vanity gallery--and the artist retains all the proceeds from sales. Artists will be more involved than in a conventional exhibition (delivering, installing, deinstalling, promotion) but no gallery sitting is required. There does not seem to be a restriction by gender. Read more here. 

Project Gallery Miami in Wynwood

Projects Gallery Miami in Wynwood . Projects Gallery in Philadelphia and Miami, has come up with the "Square Foot" show, a way to financially support its gallery while giving artists a way to get their 'foot' into Miami during fair week in December. There's a $60 fee. The work will be shown at the gallery's exhibition space in Wynwood. Wondering about the fee? "It’s not about living off the backs of artists," write the owners (Helen Meyrick and Frank Hyder) in the gallery blog. "There’s much more work involved in this type of exhibition than a solo or dual exhibition. It’s about working together, as artists often do, to think outside the box and to keep things going no matter how tough the going gets." Read more here

For the eighth incarnation of this biennial, the exhibition will be a book. 
Encaustic Works 2011 is a juried exhibition in book form. Open to artists who work in wax and encaustic, it is the eighth in a series of biennial exhibitions sponsored by R&F Handmade Paints, an artist-owned-and-run company, located in Kingston, New York. This is the first time the biennial will take the form of a bound volume. I'm the juror. Entry to the competition is--wait for it--free! Approximately 18 artists will be selected, each given two two-page spreads. Submission is by digital entry. Read more here; access the call for entries here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Gallerina Guide to the Fall Openings in Chelsea

This is a very cool and handy guide that Carolina Miranda at WNYC did for the gallery openings in Chelsea.  You can view it on a smart phone or download a PDF.  More information can be accessed at her Gallerina blog here.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mexican Revolution & Beyond Exhibition

Installation Photos of Mexican Revolution and Beyond
Mexican Revolution & Beyond
The Casasola Archive: 1900 - 1940

June 24 to July 23, 2011

Here are photos of a show that I curated at Taller Puertorriqueño.  The show closes on Saturday, July 23rd.  

Victor Agustin Casasola photographs chronicle the Mexican revolution from Porfirio Díaz to industrialization and modernism.   This is an amazing collection that should not be missed.  The show will be traveling next to Brownsville, Tx.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Deconstructing by the Deconstructed: Two videos from the hood

Thanks to for pointing me to these brilliant videos deconstructing art through speech and manners. I know the post is on the human figure in art but these two videos really got my attention. It is brilliant and worth watching. Art speak has been lampooned before, but never like this. Take a gander and let me know what you think.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gagosian Gallery 555 West 24th street. John Chamberlin, through July 8th

John Chamberlin is one of the major sculptors of the second half of the 20th century, and would be considered an art star by any measure. That star first began to rise early in the 1960's, and unlike a lot of his contemporaries, it didn't fizzle out. Today he's rightfully seen as one of the leading figures of the Post Minimalist movement. Actually his rise happened chronologically around the same time as the Minimalists, but he's considered a Post Minimalist. Now, if you're thinking "Matt, what the hell is a Post Minimalist you pretentious basterd", I'll be happy to tell you. After Minimalism became popular there were a number of artists who rebelled against the principals and conventions of the movement, while embracing some of the freedoms it made possible. These were the Post Minimalists. I suppose the same could be said about the Post Impressionists, or the Post anythings, I guess. Anyway, that's a different discussion.
The Minimalists made hard edge industrial materials, not only acceptable, but preferable for art making, and made inorganic unornamented symmetry the norm. What John Camberlain did was take the industrial, shiny metallic, materials the Minimalists made possible, with all the confrontational honesty that comes with them, and used them to rebel against Minimalism's clean, reductionist aesthetic. He took discarded automobiles, and twisted and crushed them into strange and organic shapes, thus replacing the Minimalist aesthetic with a felt, spontaneous asymmetry, that was even baroque in form. It could be said (and I believe has been) that his messy intuitive aesthetic owes more to Abstract Expressionist painting than to Minimalist sculpture. His forms are more painterly than most paintings I know. I've actually heard some people say that his sculpture looks like Willem deKooning's paintings in three dimensions. I wouldn't say that, but if you want to say it I won't try to stop you. Hey, it's a free country. See if I care.
When Chamberlin is at his best his violently smashed and twisted metal sculptures have a paradoxically playful quality, and an elegance and grace that contradict the materials size and weight. That's a pretty neat trick when he can pull it off, and he pulls it off more often than not. It's also a treat to see the way he merges high concept with technical virtuosity. His use of color is also very thoughtful, and interesting. And, like Abstract Expressionist painting, it looks random, but it isn't. There was a time when it was a real challenge to get past Chamberlin's "junkyard" materials to see the grace and beauty in these sculptures. Clearly that's not really the case any more, but they are still very powerful. I have to say that I think some of the work doesn't quite live up to its aspirations, and just looks large and heavy. Eh, you can't win them all.
This is all new work though, and the fact that the guy is 85 years old, and still turning out this level of sculpture is pretty impressive. I wonder if he has help.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Philadelphia Doll Museum

The Philadelphia Doll Museum
The Philadelphia Doll museum is a fascinating example of an institution born out of a unique dedication. The small museum was founded by Barbara Whiteman in 1988 and is devoted to both black and African dolls. In her museum she has black dolls that are over 100 years old and from various parts of the world. There are even black dolls made in Germany from the early 19th century. One may assume that these dolls have no purpose or tell no story, but take a tour with her and you will see how these dolls literally embody the views of their day. Being there also made me realize about how much our own toys may say about us. To see the black dolls in person is to take a journey through prejudice, personal growth and acknoweldement of beauty. You can see a people proclaiming their pride. It is a fascinating museum, in that through the dolls one too explores our changing attitudes. In a way, it talks about us all. I recommend going. Look for the dolls sitting on the wall. Once there, talk to Barbara, she is a lovely person who is full contagious energy and insights about her collection.
Big Boy
On Saturday, May 28th, from 10 AM to 5PM . The Philadelphia Doll Museum and Dark Images will present "Sophisticated Dolls" International Black Dolls Show and Sale. Admission is $7 and will be at Mitten Hall, Temple University. Contact the Doll museum for more information at 215-787-0220

Friday, April 15, 2011

Betty Cuningham Gallery 541 West 25st. John Lees, through May 14th

Jonn Lees at the Betty Cuningham Gallery

John Lees is an artist I'm very familiar with. I know not just his work, but him personally. He was my adviser in art school, and he was such a passionate and kind hearted person that I've made a point of seeing every show of his I hear about. One of the things he's most known for is the amount of time he spends painting and repainting an image. There are, in fact paintings in this show that were started in the 70's. Are they finished now? How can he tell? The paint is very thick and in some places almost sculptural. The pallet is that of Rembrandt, but the surface is more like Albert Pinkham Ryder. The canvas is very worn and beaten up. He's always worked very intuitively, and in certain cases canvases have been literally cut from their stretcher bars, and glued onto a larger canvases, so that Lees could transform them into a larger composition. This is just one of the qualities that make his work extremely uncommercial.
The subject matter is always both humble, and monolithic. There are several images of a bathtub in the show, as well as a road, a farm house, a man in a chair. These are great personal icons to Lees, but he doesn't seem to feel the need to explain them to his audience. There is very little narrative involved in these paintings. There is also very little detail, in spite of the constant reworking. In fact, a lot of the paint application seems to be more about developing the physical presents of the painting than rendering the image. Lees should probably be best thought of as a romantic modernist. He treats the physical object as a fossil. It's lived a life, and had a history. One that it's shared with him.
To tell you the truth, the thick paint and battered surfaces of the paintings that were painted in a year or two don't seem that different from the ones that took 40 years to finish. At least they don't seem noticeably different to me. They probably do to Lees though, who is privy to the amount and quality of information buried under their surfaces. From my experience Lees is not just a romantic. He's kind of a sentimentalist. I think his unwillingness to finish a painting is a reflection of this sentimentality. He spends many years struggling with his paintings, and he doesn't want to let them go. For him it's probably like ending a relationship, or watching your children leave home.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pace Gallery 510 West 25st. James Siena, through April 30th

James Siena a the Pace Gallery

James Siena is an artist that I've heard a great deal about over the years, and I'm sure I've seen some of his work before. In fact I've probably seen a show of his at some point, but he's someone I know more about from what I've heard than seen. He's know for his repetitive geometric abstract paintings that are done on a very small scale, and are painted with enamel on thick sheets of aluminum. The way he works is by creating some kind of pre-established rule or measured unit, and slowly builds out from that. He refers to it as a "visual algorithm", and each painting has its own original one. The result is a variety of different images. Some paintings are very hard edged and geometric, some are cartoon like and quasi figurative, and some have the character of a never ending doodle.
I've heard his work called intimate, and musical, and I guess those are both good adjectives. To me though the small scale just seems constrained, and stiflingly so. Also, the repetitive way the imagery is painted seems very mechanical, not to mention labored. This must be intentional, because the materials have such strong mechanical associations, but I don't understand what's gained by depersonalizing the work. There are a number of etchings in the show which seem even colder, and more mechanical. One out of every five or six images was kind of pretty, but for the most part these are not attractive paintings. I kept thinking that on some level this must be a parody of geometric abstraction, but none of the literature I've read on him seems to suggest so.
In the back room of the gallery, Siena has a group of more figurative paintings and prints. They're images of monster heads, and close up sexual organs. This caused me to look at the repetitive patterns of the first room differently. It gave the work a kind of pre adolescent therapeutic quality. I'm not sure if that makes it any more interesting though. Maybe I'm just missing something. I do that sometimes.

Pace Gallery 534 West 25st Elizabeth murray: painting in the 70's, through April 30th

Elisabeth Murray at Pace Gallery

This is at the other Pace, just down the block a little west of the other gallery on 25th street. It's a beautiful gallery, but because the work is from the collections of a few museums the guards wouldn't let me take any photos of the paintings. Fascists! Consequently the image I have here is not from the show, but from a book I have at home. It's also not a painting from the 70's.
That said,Elizabeth Murray, who died just a few years ago, is an artist who's gotten a lot of attention ever since the early 80's. In fact she received a retrospective a few years before she died at the MOMA. Personally I don't think that it's nearly as much attention as she should get, or will get in the future. She was a really great painter, and a very important late modernist whose artistic contributions have yet to be fully appreciated. Well, I appreciate them, but I mean everyone else. In her relationship to the cubists, and the abstract expressionists I see her as kind of a female Frank Stella. They were both a generation removed, and the way she literally shattered the rectangle of the picture plane was similar to the way he did, but she seems to have had more fun doing it. Her work is more playful and organic than his, and she seemed willing to allow her paintings to be pretty. That's not something you can say about most abstractionists, and there's something that seems distinctly feminine about it. Some people might think that's a sexist thing to say, but hey, if you have a problem with it, you know where I live.
This show focuses on the 70's. which is particularly interesting, because it's the time when Murray was just deciding to physically disrupt the surface and framework of her paintings. She was also just starting to recognize a relationship, and establish a dialogue between the internal and external space of her work. The show chronicles how she became more aware of the physical integrity of the paint and the surface of the painting. You can see then, how she morphed and fractured the surface of her work so that image and object became one. She ended up making distinct and original paintings that are both intelligent, and wildly imaginative. The show serves as a valuable record of one artists curiosity, and courage.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The New Museum, 235 Bowery. George Condo: Mental States, through May 8th

George Condo is an artist that's been around for as long as I can remember. Although surprisingly, he's not as old as you'd think. He first came to prominence in the early 80s, for painting what he called "fake old masters". He would reference a lot of art historical styles and imagery, and cross reference them with a lot of pop culture, and cartoon sources. These were the early stages of post modernism, so obviously he wasn't the only one at the time making these comments on high and low culture. What made him different though was (A) that he not only appropriated the imagery, but also the technique, and (B) the sheer variety of different source material he used. He contrasts Goya with Crazy Kat at one point, and Velazquez with Loony Toons at another. He takes these different styles, and exaggerates them, thus turning them into a clichés, which ultimately becomes his own distinctive style consisting of a language of clichés. The most obvious influence here is Philip Guston, the unsung (or at least less-sung) hero of the latter half of the 20th century. If it wasn't for Guston someone like Condo couldn't exist.
More than any other singular source, Condo makes a lot of references to Picasso. The way he distorts heads and faces in this hyper-cubist style is both silly and disturbing. It occurred to me at the show that he was combining Picassos early cubist experiments with his late Neoclassical period. So, the faces kind of looked like he had taken the big smooth, clunky late Picasso heads and put them through a coffee grinder, or some cubist slap chop (you know, from the infomercial), and come out with some kind of post modern cartoon mutants. To me it never comes off as parody though. He always seems very sincere in the way he handles the materials and subject matter. His knowledge of modernism's history of distorting the figure informs these faces. He seems to be channeling not just Picasso, but Bacon, DeKooning, Dubuffet, and Kokoschka. Maybe even Chagall. Eh, maybe not Chagall.
As retrospectives go, the show's pretty small. It starts on the 4th floor, where there's a large salon style wall covered with single figure compositions. They date from about 1984 to the present. I guess it's a recreation of an installation he did in 1985 at the Bruno Bischofberger gallery. Maybe it worked better then because it didn't cover such a huge span of time, but I think this was a horrible curatorial decision. Apparently they thought that because all of the paintings were of a single figure that was enough of a common thread to hang them in a cluster like this, but because it's work covering a 25 year stretch, the stylistic changes that take place made it look almost like a group show. I have to admit I'm not a big fan of salon style hangings anyway, but in this case I though it was particularly bad, and undermined the integrity of the individual images.
The third floor was better, but there were only three rooms. Two consisting of paintings of figures. Some heads, and some bodies. Sometimes single figures, and sometimes multiple. Some excellent. Some not so hot. The wall text was pretty pretentious, and I was about to blame the museum. Then I noticed there were a lot of quotes from the artist. Ouch! So, he paints better than he talks. I got to say the New Museum is a great building, but they have this habit of putting on retrospectives were the work is displayed out of chronological sequence, which I think is a bad Idea. They're doing the same thing with the Linda Benglis show downstairs, and I don't think it works there either. But, that's a different story. It kind of defeats the purpose of a retrospective if you're not going to follow the development of the artists oeuvre. I mean it's an interesting experiment, but I think the time has come to admit the experiment has failed. No?
The last room was of large multi-figure compositions dating from 1985 to the present. It is by far the most abstract, spontaneous, and I think best work in the show. The clearest references I could see were to Miro, and Arshile Gorky, with maybe a little Cy Twombly thrown in. These paintings are playful, and scary, and silly all at the same time. That's where Condo is at his best. It's his mix of sophistication and childishness that keeps the work fresh. He has the knowledge of a learned art historian, but maintains the playful enthusiasm of a 6 year old boy drawing with crayons. Personally, I'd like to see a better survey of his career than this.

Friday, February 25, 2011

MOMA, 11 West 53 street, Picasso:Guitars, 1912-1914. Through June 6th

In 1912, while in his late cubist phase, and still collaborating with George Braque, Pablo Picasso constructed a guitar out of cardboard, paper and string. Obviously it wasn't a functional guitar. Clearly it wasn't a painting (there was no paint involved). It didn't seem to be a sculpture, because of its frail materials, and because it hung on the wall in relatively low relief. It wasn't really a drawing or a collage either, because it didn't lay flat. Although, it clearly developed as an extension of collage. It obviously grew out of cubist sensibilities, but the materials were so cheap and junky looking, and it was thrown together in such a spontaneous, almost careless way that it doesn't at first look like a serious work of art. It certainly didn't look like it at the time. It takes a minute to get past the materials before you can appreciate how structurally imaginative and graceful it is.
What results over the next two years is a pretty sizable body of paintings, drawings, and collages based on the guitar form. Sometimes the subject is specifically a guitar. Sometimes it's some thing else that's clearly influenced by the structure of the guitar. He would break up, and reconfigure the different parts in the cubist manner he and Braque had invented. The one thing all the work in the show has in common is its fearless disregard for convention. When I say convention I'm not just talking about formal convention. Everyone knows what a rebel Picasso was in that department. I'm talking about materials and classifications of art forms. He would mix a charcoal drawing in with a painting. Sometimes he would combine newsprint, wallpaper and cardboard into a drawing, or mix grit (whatever that is) in with his paint. This makes it very difficult to distinguish one medium from another. The general perception is that this was groundbreaking because he was mixing real world elements in with the illusinistic space of the image. This flattened out the surface and drew attention to the picture plane, and subsequently the artifice of the image. The silhouette of a bottle in a still life or the shadow on a mans face is really a clipping from a newspaper. Another thing real world materials have though, is real world references. Contrasting cardboard with wall paper, or a newspaper article with sheet music turns an image into a dumping ground for cultural detritus. Did I mention that this was 1912, not 1985. Not Pop art, not post modernism, early modernism.
In 1914 Picasso reconstructed his first cardboard guitar with sheet metal to make a more archival version. That is also in the show. Personally I prefer the cardboard one. I also prefer the drawings to the paintings. They're more fragile, more spontaneous. They seem more about thinking through problems than making precious objects. Why is art that's made to last more valued than art that deteriorates with time. You'd think it would be the other way around. There's also something less serious looking about the drawings, which reveal a side of Picasso most people don't think of. The artist as playful intimatist. In one of the wall texts it mentions that André Breton was strongly influenced by these works. It's hard to think of Picasso as a surrealist, although his liberal use of the readymade and his blatant disregard for conventional aesthetics may indicate an influence on the dadaists. The single most pressing question I had leaving the exhibit with was why the guitar? Why not the clarinet?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jake Berthot: recent paintings, through Feb 19th @ Betty Cuningham Gallery, c

Betty Cuningham Gallery

Jake Berthot has always had a reputation as a painters painter. He's a veteran who's never been an art star, but if you mention his name to any serious painter the response will undoubtedly be wide eyed admiration. If not, then they're not as serious as they think they are. He made his reputation by creating intuitively felt, moderately sized, non-representational paintings, with very thick, multi layered surfaces. These paintings usually contained some visual anchor such as a lozenge or rectangle form somewhere near the middle of the image, and were painted in a commitedly non objective manner. I always felt like those paintings, because of their clear cut figure ground relationship had one foot (or at least a few toes) in representational image making. Then, sometime in the late 90's Berthot began painting landscapes. In hindsight this makes perfect sense, but it was also a pretty bold move for an established non -representational artist, and at that point, a commercially successful one now entering his late 50's.
There are 13 paintings in this show (not including the two behind the desk), and two drawings. All are landscapes except for one still life. The press release claims that there are two still life's, but the second one must have been hiding when I was there, cause I only saw the one. It's of a scull and a vase arranged on a table. This clearly Cezanne inspired image, while the most specific and clearly recognizable in the show, paradoxically is most reminiscent of his early non-representational work in the fixation on, and handling of the figure ground relationship. The landscapes are less specific. They seem to be more references to trees, and mountains, and of light permeating mist than actual depiction's of them. His colors are, as always beautiful and evocative. Rembrandtesque is the best word I can think of to describe his dark atmospheric pallet as well as his elegant handling of the medium. But, he's referencing a lot of older romantic landscape painters with this work. Rembrandt is just the first that comes to mind. But, the genre is so broad I suppose you could find references from Van Ruisdael, to J.M.W.Turner, to Albert Pinkham Ryder. More interestingly though is how the relationship between form and ground in these paintings moves from indefinite to virtually nonexistent. This is a characteristic organic to the medium of landscape painting, and may be what drew Berthot to it in the first place. It challenged his conventional way of working, and forced him to see things differently; to in some ways reinvent himself.
If you're at all familiar with his early work you will recognize some of the sensibilities and devices he's become known for. In some ways he's a loyal modernist, and is still very conscious of the physical integrity of the painting. All the paintings in the show seem to be physically heavy objects that insist on being recognized literally, even if the subject matter is figurative. One device that's carried over from his early work is the use of thin wooden frames applied to the sides of the canvas before (or possibly during) the painting process. The paint frequently travels from the image onto the frames indicating that they're not afterthoughts. This not only draws attention to the painting as a physical object, but seems to contain the image; locking the viewers, and possibly the artists eyes in. A lot of painters have used some internal framing device, but for different reasons. Giacometti did something similar, but with a painted line and not a literal frame. Another indication of formal abstraction is his use of an underlying grid. This is only clearly visible in one painting and the two drawings, but the suggestion is that it's buried under the pigment of most, if not all of the others. This delicate balancing act Berthot has been playing between modernism and romanticism has served over the years as the primary content of his work. With these recent paintings the artists emotional connection to the landscape, or maybe to the practice and history of landscape painting threaten to drown out his modernist sensibilities. I don't know if that's a good thing or not, but I guess that's just his path to walk.