“Lifelines”, the new group show at GDCA, brings together an exciting mix of painting, mixed media, collage, photography and glass art. There are many new names and fresh voices to be discovered in this well-balanced ensemble. An element of note is that this exhibit introduces artists from out of state, in addition to the wide array of local talent on display. Their works are interpretations about what elements connect us emotionally and physically to our past, present and future, to ourselves, as well as to each other. The following art review captures an important period in the mixed media artist evolution of Clara Berta. This look back at Clara Berta’s use of recycled materials during her collage period demonstrates the dynamic evolution of an artist who’s abstract mixed media paintings are now selling worldwide.
THE DANCING HEART: Clara Berta in Downtown “Lifelines” Exhibit
by Alan Ruskin
Viewing abstract art is a bit like going on a blind date. Initial impression, appearance, counts first and foremost. If that engages you then you’re open to further considerations such as, in the case of an individual, personality, speech, culture, education, and eventually the myriad mannerisms and tendencies awaiting discovery. And so with abstract art, when components such as technique, materials, composition, balance, brush stroke, and intention may come into play once the aesthetic has succeeded in making a favorable impression.
With abstract painter Clara Berta there is much to delight the eye as well as stimulate the senses in a softly comforting way that invites deeper exploration. There is a healing feeling, which in fact emerged organically from Clara’s life as a way of dealing with sadness, the grief she felt upon the passing after a long illness of her beloved husband. As it so often does for the feeling artist, a wounded heart can open a world of tenderness and beauty that viewers can respond to a way that touches them personally.
Purely expressionistic in style, Clara will tell you that she has no idea what she’s going to paint when she begins a canvas. But a themed pattern does emerge from the shapes and colors she creates and the mixed media she uses, including wood and paper collages, coffee, and fish fossils, to name but a few.
From her whirling imagination emerge such works as “Dancing On Venus,” with its joyful, ethereal, cosmic choreography; “City Full of Rain,” her first large work (5’x 8’) and a signature piece with its shimmering carmines, golds, and blues – a charming video on her website records the genesis of this, one of her best works, which Clara says “taught me how to listen to my heart”; “Galactic Ocean,” is likewise very appealing with its brilliant blues and yellows and fanciful dots of red and blue merging to form a scene of oceanic depth and diversity. Interestingly, with some exceptions (such as the deeply ardent “The Door to Love”), Clara seems at her best with watery subjects, not surprising in view of her Piscean nature and the waves of compassion it emits.
Which brings us to the Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts Gallery in downtown Los Angeles, currently exhibiting two of Clara’s paintings, “Positano” and Coffee Love,” in the “Lifelines” group showing (until Feb. 28th). As gallery curator Petra Wright says, “Positano” reminds her of a “southern Italian oceanside landscape or perhaps an antique map.” The large mixed-media work includes the intriguing use of fossils, which Clara explains she found at a Culver City antique store. “They had these rocks that opened to reveal fish fossils, and I knew right away I wanted to include them in a painting,” which in this case also includes patches of seaweed amongst the glowing ochres and golds.
“Coffee Love,” with its monochromatic treatment,” is different from most of her work. Well it ought to be different – it’s created entirely from coffee grounds using a hand-rubbing, “frottage” technique, as Petra points out. “This is a departure from her usual bold and vibrant colors; this one is delicate, almost translucent, minimal, internal, and feminine.” Petra goes on to provides a vivid detail; “She takes the filter with the coffee grounds and just goes at it,” yet the result is subdued and subtle compared to Clara’s typical style, with some circular gridded designs that add an “old world feeling reminiscent of my native Hungarian culture,” says Clara, and help to immerse the viewer in a sensuous coffee world.
So if you love coffee, folks, or just enjoy uniquely appealing art, go have a look at Clara Berta, and while you’re at it enjoy several other artists in this exhibit, including Charles McCauley, Mike Lanni, and Michelle Chapman.
Clara Berta’s canvases are a study in motion. Her collage work is textured with organic and recycled materials, ranging from seaweed to actual fossils, masterfully incorporated into luscious, rich colors, which bring to mind the landscape and oceans of Southern Italy. Though highly abstracted, her paintings suggest the atmospheric feelings of a Turner. Then, displaying a new direction for the otherwise bold colorist, the artist offers us a delicate, almost translucent coffee monochrome. This internal and quiet work accents it’s surface textures like a graphite etching. It is also testament to artistic individuality. While Berta and Lanni share the medium of coffee, their two interpretations could not be more different…a nice punctuation to the exhibit.
“Lifelines” Opening: Thursday, Feb. 14th 4-10 p.m.; on display at Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts (GDCA) through February 28th.
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