Sunday, December 11, 2011

Silke Otto-Knapp at Berkeley Art Museum

Last week, I stopped by the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM) briefly and was delighted to see the special exhibit "Silke Otto-Knapp: A light in the moon / MATRIX 239" (September 30, 2011 - January 15, 2012).

The website of Berkeley Art Museum stated that:
With layered washes of similarly hued watercolors, the canvases of London-based German artist Silke Otto-Knapp seem at first monochromatic, but slight changes in light or a viewer’s position reveal figures or landscapes. Conflating the mediums of painting and performance, Otto-Knapp draws from the vocabulary of abstraction to renew our engagement in the act of seeing.

Otto-Knapp's images were extremely haunting and had a delicate beauty, even the somewhat awkward postures of the human figures hypnotized me with their inevitability and "naturalness", like the chromatic music by Bellini or Wagner.  Understated yet with myriad layers of meanings.  Never melodramatic.

Stage, 2009, Silke Otto-Knapp, Berkeley Art Museum _ 8648

Silke Otto-Knapp, Berkeley Art Museum _ 8650

Silke Otto-Knapp, Berkeley Art Museum _ 8649

Silke Otto-Knapp, Berkeley Art Museum _ 8651

There was another special exhibit, 1991: The Oakland-Berkeley Fire Aftermath Photographs by Richard Misrach, resonated with more urgency with local residents who just witnessed a fire destroying a four-story 1916 building, including all the 39 apartments and two very popular restaurants, on the iconic but economically struggling Telegraph Avenue. 

The BAM website said this about the exhibit:
In October 1991, immediately following a catastrophic firestorm that struck the Oakland and Berkeley hills, renowned Bay Area photographer Richard Misrach ventured into the fire zone armed with his eight-by-ten-inch view camera. Working alone amidst the ruins, he roamed devastated neighborhoods, recording stark vistas and intimate details of destroyed homes. The resulting images are distinguished by Misrach’s masterful framing of his subjects: the compositions are dramatic without being sensational and incisively reveal a world transformed.

Indeed, the eerie and alien landscape showed the devastation without being unduly sensational and that was a very impressive achievement:

Berkeley Art Museum _ 8647

Berkeley Art Museum _ 8652

Again, I savored the industrial, muscular looking building as much as I could because due to seismic reason, this building would cease to serve as the museum in a not so distant future.

Berkeley Art Museum - 8653 - HDR 500

Berkeley Art Museum _ 8662

Berkeley Art Museum _ 8660

Berkeley Art Museum _ 8655

Berkeley Art Museum _ 8659

Berkeley Art Museum Interior _ 8658 HDR 500

Berkeley Art Museum _ 8663

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