JOHN BERNHARDT (1921 - 1963)
September 17 - October 28, 2000

7321 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 933-5523, fax (323) 933-7618
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John Bernhardt touches on the mystical, the whimsical and the eccentric in his carefully crafted and thoughtful assemblages. He creates with a "pragmatic respect for handy-man skills" while playfully invoking humor: Take Me to Your Leader (using dental molds, piano keys and a handmixer) or the mythological Mercury, (finding a new use for transformer parts and metal cages). Both resurrect industrial debris into objects of great presence.

Born in Indianapolis, Bernhardt studied commercial art in high school and started his own silkscreen business. In 1940 he spent three formative years in a sanitorium after contracting tuberculosis. Through his roommate, he was exposed to art and literature and began drawing and painting seriously. Abstract Expressionism is echoed in his paintings. In 1947, he studied woodblock printing at Columbia University in New York and exhibited regularly at the ACA and Weyhe galleries. He moved to Mexico with his family in 1956 for three years, while his painting and prints were being exhibited in the States. His woodcuts illustrate the influences of Orozco, whom he admired greatly. When he returned to the United States, he settled his family in Santa Barbara.

It was only in 1959 that Bernhardt discovered the excitement of 'junk' as an art medium. His sculptures function as social criticism, revealing us as a consumer culture through our discards. Bernardt felt his constructions were 'real', that they were a part of the spontaneous birth of the California Assemblage movement. It was the simple - but incredibly complex - fusion of the three-dimensional with the rhetoric of space and form.

In art historical publications, following his name, is found a weighty listing of prizes won and solo exhibitions. Only 42 when he died, John Bernhardt's short life's creativity is impressive.
It lives on.

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