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Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009

Tory Folliard Gallery Showcases Charles Munch, Chris Berti

Art Review

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Tory Folliard Gallery has represented Charles Munch and Chris Berti for some 20 years, and the gallery recently opened two exhibits to showcase the prestigious careers of these respected artists. Each man uses a distinctly different medium, but both artists reflect on a subtle harmony between humanity and nature.

In the exhibit “Wildlife Watching,” Charles Munch displays his new oils on canvas. Since the 1980s, Munch has transformed his figurative realism into landscape paintings—compositions that incorporate shape and form, where man interacts exclusively with nature. Often man appears to be the master of this domain, though other images portray him as more subservient.

Painting with smooth, matte-finished colors, Munch delineates his stylized nudes, animals and landscapes using thick, bold lines. In his painting Three Friends I,an animal stands between two human figures as all three faces stare directly at the viewer with apprehension—statue-like visages questioning this natural order.

In another oil, Mother and Fawn, a woman calmly holds an infant deer in her lap. While these images infer poetic themes recalling dreams or ancient myths, they also cause viewers to wonder if man tends to nature, merely tolerates this relationship, intrudes with concern, or dominates the animals and environments with which he comes into contact.

In the exhibit “Chris Berti: New Sculpture,” Berti features fish, locusts, moths and birds carved from reclaimed brick, marble or wood. When fashioning his detailed artwork, Berti fuses the material’s intrinsic, organic nature with these realistic creatures. Expertly conceived in his sculpture titled School,10 life-size fish carved in walnut, hickory and olive wood appear to swim in synchronization while mounted on the gallery wall.

Berti’s miniature sculptures envision turtles, geese and mountain goats emerging from vintage rusty red brick. He allows the man-made materials to retain their individual integrity, true to their unique color and form, as the animals appear to visually materialize from inside these fragmented relics. This approach illustrates that the object or animal intimately carved by Berti embraces both the brokenness and the beauty inherent in the modern world and, ultimately, each individual. 

Though Munch’s paintings definitely intrigue the observer, Berti’s sculptures require further contemplation to uncover his ironic surprises—as is apparent in his eloquent piece Seek,in which a pair of opened hands carved from reused drainage tile transforms into a prophetic headstone when viewed from the opposite side. Each exhibit evokes a feeling of harmony, yet the ecological tension between man and nature unfolds as well.

Both exhibits continue at Tory Folliard Gallery through Oct. 10.

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