Tom Butter and I recently took a little post-pedagogical field trip from Parsons to Tribeca to visit Bo Berkman’s studio.
It so happened that the building I was teaching in that day—just as I was wrapping up my class, and therefore just as I was getting ready to meet Tom—was being evacuated for some sort of emergency. It wasn’t a drill. Whatever was going on was localized to a single room, at least according to the static-dashed mumbles one could hear over the loudspeaker. No one seemed to know what was going on, yet no one was panicking at all. Students hung around outside just as usual. The security folks at the door ushered people hither and thither without any significant sense of urgency. Uncertainty reigned the scene, assisted by general indifference. Turning the corner, sirens blaring, a firetruck gradually dislodged traffic like an icebreaker clearing a path through an Arctic sheet. Riders perched precipitously atop rented bicycles made faces of annoyance while noodling between cars. All a kind of slow quotidian theater for standers-by and lookers-on.
I note all of that not merely because it took place, but because it turned out to provide an intriguing sort of immediate allegorical counterpoint to Berkman’s work, which lacks no certainty or conviction at all in his attention to surfaces, compositional treatments, considerations of objectness, and very keen sense of chromatic balance. While the three of us looked primarily at recent pieces from a few different bodies of work—executed mostly in acrylic on variably patterned moving blankets, with some pieces mounted to panels or stretched pieces of linen—we talked about stitched dimensionalities and suggestive substrates, narrative modalities and linear protagonists, gemstones and meditative looking glasses, and extant disorderliness disrupted by calm. This latter point of conversation, in fact, turned out to be indirectly relevant to what was going on at Parsons as Tom and I left.
We also chatted about camouflage, textile resistances, the loathsomeness of thoughts of moving, and the supreme and perhaps even cautiously hoped-for poppability of economic bubbles within bubbles atop bubbles.
Here are some photographs I took in Berkman’s studio. You can see more of his work in his Instagram feed, @bo_berkman.
Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.