Michael Berryhill at Kansas Gallery

What comes after stasis? Writing about Michael Berryhill’s work in 2010, Sharon Butler observed a trend of “contingency and ennui” in painting, predicting that “struggle and tenacity” would follow. That bend has arrived in Berryhill’s show at Kansas Gallery (which closed on June 23rd), a series of paintings which, in itself, blossoms.

The entryway is lined with what resemble birdshit-covered antique doorstops. In “Island,” for one, hilly paint gobs crust the cover of an old hardcover book, with a small nautical map peeking out of a vaginal opening. A small wooden pump draped with a canvas donkey skin, “Pump Jack Ass,” is equally dry. - Whitney Kimball, NYC Contributor

Michael Berryhill | Island, 2012, book and oil paint, 9 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 4 inches. Courtesy Kansas Gallery

Michael Berryhill | Schmevelations, 2012, oil on linen. 58 x 50 inches. Courtesy Kansas Gallery

Throughout the hallway and larger spaces, several thin, rug-like paintings on canvas slowly illuminate from flat, murky greys to richly-colored velvet. The crown jewel is “Schmevelations.” Two hands—one upturned and brown, the other melting and white—stand like ancient ruins against a feathery bonfire of browns and pinks and neon green. It’s so vibrant that it’s hard not to stare.

While Berryhill has done away with the academic backdrops of his earlier work, the past is still the focus of these paintings. When considering his sculptural ruins and fleshy folds, it’s hard not to think of melting clocks. Sparse paint coverage and parlour scenes recall Matisse. Textile surfaces and central figures take a cue from religious iconography. Ennui is replaced with fervent recycling; time and culture gel, as painting tends to do. It’s not a brand-new beginning, but Berryhill seems to reject that possibility, anyway.

Michael Berryhill | Sensitive Parlour Ghost, 2012, oil on linen. 30 x 24 inches. Courtesy Kansas Gallery


Michael Berryhill lives and works in New York, NY and Austin, TX. He received a MFA from Columbia University, New York, NY, a BFA in Painting from University of Texas at Austin, TX, and he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME. His work has been included in group exhibitions at Angstrom Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Blütenweiss Gallery, Berlin,Germany; and Okay Mountain and Arthouse, Austin, TX; among others. 

Whitney Kimball is a New York-based painter and art writer.

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