Henry Bermudez at Projects Gallery

Getting in touch with your inner animal

‘Resting Snake’: Is it someone we know?
‘Resting Snake’: Is it someone we know?

Paintings and drawings are not anachronisms to be relegated to the attic, despite the impressions currently floating around Chelsea galleries. They're still favored media, creating images that lurk in the memory. Once you've seen the ink and acrylic drawings on paper by Henry Bermudez at the Projects Gallery, these intricate, fine lines curling and weaving in stylized patterns will keep popping into your mind's eye.

Large drawings, some with additional cut-out drawings collaged onto the paper background, convey an impression of music in the hemisphere. Everything is in flux: Animals are evolving into human beings or the other way around.

On the Top has clearly defined female breasts, birds' heads with human hands and feet and male genitalia: all in the process of becoming. These invented creatures, seen in The Dancers and The Lovers, might have birds' beaks, but they also feature toes and fingers that we can recognize.

But is this really so odd? How often have you seen porcine features on a human torso (often Wall Street types, in my experience)? Once I knew an artist who had to decline a valuable commission for a portrait because the subject in question reminded him too much of a ferret. We are just not that far removed, and Bermudez sees that clearly.

High Wire is an imaginary bird in flight that captures all the power and thrust of movement in space. With his thin, curving ink markings, Bermudez makes you feel the thrust of air pushing the bird on and up. Two Times is a drawing on the paper underneath a drawing with hand-cut bird patterns.

Henry Bermudez, an internationally recognized artist with Venezuelan roots, deserves wider attention in the U.S. He represented Venezuela in the 1986 Venice Biennale; his work has been exhibited alongside Picasso's. Markings on paper transcend the obsessive/compulsive character. They reclaim the music of the hemisphere for us— a natural element that we can easily miss.

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