Michael Berryhill at Marta Cervera

Artist: Michael Berryhill

Exhibition title: primitive.is.him

Venue: Marta Cervera, Madrid, Spain

Date: June 8 – July 29, 2017

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Marta Cervera, Madrid

I’ve never had a conversation with Michael Berryhill that wasn’t at once serious and funny. Sometimes when I try and picture his face (we don’t live in the same city) I instead see one of his paintings, fraying and electric.

These new works, like the others I’ve seen, are inventive with how they use paint: rough, drawing-like, optical. Like others, their vertical compositions are unstable, with lines that never seem to touch, and positive and negative space leading one another on. Unlike some others, their forms are more amorphous. (I remember, in paintings from the past, a fleshed-out horses head, heavy drapes, a single fist.) These new works flirt more deliberately with misrecognition. Certain signs do appear: a keyboard and its palimpsestic player, a fruit basket, the artists’ own palate. But the identifying clues, which Michael uses as devices to both hook and confuse a viewer, are limited, like skin without a body. With fewer narrative drives, I am left to focus on sight and feeling. Is this what one sees when they stare directly into the sun? Or take a winding hallucinogenic trip? Or look at 10,000 Piero della Francesca paintings until they all bleed together into a single, undone frame?

Michael has always had his own logic. Who else could have invented this show title, so cunning, silly, and on-the-nose? He will say: I ruined this painting with too many attempts, or, I just saved this painting, it’s finished and it’s perfect. I never know how he arrives where he is going, only that each painting is a necessary pilgrimage, a journey that finds meaning in its tirelessly sought after resolution. In the finished compositions, I try to follow his movements, his decisions, the passage of his layers, but I can’t. That is the best part: ecstatic and mysterious, they are too far removed from my own.

-Carmen Winant

Michael Berryhill was born in 1972 at El Paso, Texas. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, primitive.is.him, 2017, exhibition view, Marta Cervera, Madrid

Michael Berryhill, midnight bounty, 2017,  Oil on linen, 195.6 x 152.4 cm, 77 x 60 in

Michael Berryhill, tempest, 2017, Oil on linen, 195.6 x 165.1 cm, 77 x 65 in

Michael Berryhill, nature royale, 2016, Oil on linen, 243.9 x 193 cm, 96 x 76 in

Michael Berryhill, night studio, 2017, Oil on linen, 128.3 x 104.8 cm, 50,5 x 41,25 in

Michael Berryhill, si shore small, 2017, Oil on linen, 96.5 x 76.2 cm, 38 x 30 in

Michael Berryhill, hot sesh, 2017, Oil on linen, 195.5 x 165.1 cm, 77 x 65 in

Michael Berryhill, parkour games, 2017, Oil on linen, 152.5 x 137.2 cm, 60 x 54 in

Michael Berryhill, dust bunny, 2017, Oil on linen, 96.5 x 76.2 cm, 38 x 30 in

Michael Berryhill, thicket, 2017, Oil on linen, 96.5 x 76.2 cm, 38 x 30 in

Michael Berryhill, arch entry small, 2017, Oil on linen, 96.5 x 76.2 cm, 38 x 30 in

Michael Berryhill, Purple Ruin, 2016, Oil on linen, 147.3 x 127 cm, 58 x 50 in

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