Lisa Bergh: Sojourn

Review by Sara Nichol

Rochester Art Center
Oct 12–Feb 11, 2018

Lisa Bergh’s exhibition “Sojourn” in the emerging artist gallery at the Rochester Art Center demonstrates the artist’s keen ability to manipulate color and paper into new forms that transcend medium-specificity. Yet, the show feels trepidatious, as though the artist is still experimenting with commanding the medium into a greater context. Paired with its title, this show appears to be a temporary stopover for the medium in new forms—as much about the medium as the content.

At the gallery entrance is a series of small sculptural works on paper titled Reveries. Brightly color-blocked paper forms curl and twist off the flat surface of the paper-cum-canvas mounted to the wall. These 3-D shapes cast intricate, beautiful shadows from overhead lights enabling a compact exploration of painting, sculpture and light, yet they feel more like test pieces than concrete statements.

Inside, two works are imbued with a confidence missing in Reveries. Nomadic Place, the clearest connection to the exhibition’s title, hangs from the ceiling by bright pink nylon cord. Curved by the application of gold leaf on one side of three large paper sheets, the piece recalls a Richard Serra-esque maze of materiality, but lifted and weightless, susceptible to motion in the room. In this work is a realization of transitoriness. A brick-like grid created by sheets of gold leaf is intentionally imperfect, exposing cracks in the luminous surface.

“Glimmering like lame glimmers / In the window of a shop / Called Beautiful / Things Never Last Forever.”1

Fetish is an abrupt confrontation but subtle in its achievement. Lines of flashepainted and gold leafed paper hang in loops from nails like used belts. Cracks in the leaf are more apparent in this series— bright pink and green underneath. A potentially violent past has uncovered a layered history below, questioning the rigidity of the lines of material themselves. It is this subtlety that is lacking in Tapestry, the largest, most painterly piece in the show. A thoughtful line of cobalt blue that emerges from the color field and swoops back onto an adjacent sheet of green, revealing gold on the backside of the paper, is ultimately overshadowed by an abrupt keyhole cutout at the top of the work.

Lisa Bergh’s exhibition is strong and worth traveling to see despite a sense of progress to be fully realized. Rochester Art Center successfully creates a space where artists in transformation and on the verge of something great are allowed an intermediary platform, making it ideal ground for critics and artists alike.