Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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184 CULTURED Katherine Bernhardt { Photographed in Brooklyn, New York, on September 29, 2015 } W alking south down Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn's Flatbush neighborhood on a Sunday morning, one passes a long strip of tire-stuffed auto shops and small thumping churches. "New York, Flatbush especially, inspires my work," explains painter Katherine Bernhardt, who has kept studios in the area for the past 13 years. "I've always been in the neighborhood, so the work is totally influenced by the Caribbean and African community here." The large scale "pattern paintings" that Bernhardt has been making, in her calculation, for the past three or four years, are populated by a mélange of urban detritus—cigarettes, chapstick tubes, basketballs, tube socks, Doritos—things that might stock the shelves and litter the streets of the neighborhood she calls home. Bernhardt also points to Flatbush's murals as influential, as well as the fabric shops, 99-cent stores, roti shops and botanicas on the blocks around her studio. Beyond Flatbush, Bernhardt's subject matter feels deeply informed by a certain kind of bodega-fueled city existence. Her paintings are single-plane display cases for cheap goods, following the messy logic of bodega shelves in their odd juxtapositions (french fries floating with basketballs; cigarettes next to popsicles). In her newest works, Bernhardt has started to integrate new objects—iPhones, high-top Reeboks, Keith Haring-inspired light bulbs, TVs and Duracell batteries. Despite her myriad inspirations, Bernhardt explains that the genesis for the pattern paintings was street art. "It started because I saw some graffiti near Union Square—an ice cream cone, a smiley face, a rainbow and fruit—and thought: I'm going to try to copy that and mix it in with the African fabric pattern idea." Bernhardt's juxtapositions are purposefully nonsensical. "There's definitely humor in it," she says. "They're kind of cartoonish." To her point, in a recent watercolor of hers, hammerhead sharks float with bacon. Following two solo shows this fall—at Venus Over Manhattan and London's Carl Freedman Gallery—she's now preparing for a "huge residency in Australia" at the Artspace Visual Arts Centre in Sydney. "There will be so much aboriginal art to look at; and there's Ayers Rock—and kangaroos. Wherever you go, your work is influenced by that place. You have no control over it." —Ashton Cooper P O R T R A I T B Y J E R E M Y L I E B M A N

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