For the past thirty plus years, Berkeley Art Museum has curated more than 220 MATRIX exhibitions to actively engage with living artists since the program's inception in 1978. In the Museum's new location, Matrix 261 (June 20 - October 16, 2016) showcases an amazing Swedish artist Cecilia Edefalk, whose personal and moving employment, reinterpretation, and reinventing of daily objects of growth and decay, manifested in her sculptures, paintings, drawings and photographs, were touchingly melancholic, achingly beautiful, and strangely comforting.
The most eye-catching objects were a 2008 group titled "Minne", birch branches in various shapes and shades, made of silver nitrate on bronze, whose sheen and rust emitted an otherworldly beauty.
A group of classical mask replicas, based on Roman marble mask of Marcus Aurelius, infused with twigs and leaves in various shapes and formations, formed the second large group of the exhibition. Those unusual "crowns" made these masks stranger looking, and we suddenly sensed something hidden beneath those perfect and immobile faces.
The balance of the exhibition included a single birch branch in a corner of the large hall - "Weeping Birch Stem", which invoked a palpable sense of loneliness.
She also gave us something whimsical such as a "Birch Shoe" and a three-dimensional frame made of birch "branches" below, though the "Birch Show" was also echoed in a poignant painting, titled "Weeping Birch Mother". Even laughter mixed with tears.
Birch Shoe, Bronze, gold leaf, 2010, & Weeping Birch Mother, Oil on linen, 2010
Some pieces on canvas generated perhaps less buzz, but they were just as valuable and more instructive as they demonstrated the breadth of her works and her methods behind those fascinating sculptures, with the insights "behind the scene" offered in this 2010 piece of tempera and charcoal of birch wood on linen, "Weeping Birch Shadow".
A 2002 series of 12 oil and acrylic on linen paintings, "To view the painting from within", illustrated how she approached those fantastic masks.
A series of a 2016 tempera on linen painting, " The Meadow," were also quite interesting.
Cecilia Edefalk didn't strive for faddish, self-conscious avant-garde status or shock value so often plagued contemporary art; she dived deep into her private world full of feelings and background stories, which she generously shared with us, and we responded in kind.
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