"I work exclusively on paper which, like skin, is fragile and permeable. It yields readily to the touch, calling to mind the imperfections that accumulate with time and experience on the body and the psyche…My work is small, spare, and reticent, a conscious choice. In a world where so much seems big, loud, and competing for attention, I value what is otherwise and regret that it is often overlooked. I am interested in how little one can say and still convey meaning.”
- Rita Bernstein
"My works on paper reflect fragments of thought, feeling, or sensation. They are provisional and ephemeral, the realization of a moment or the residue of the day. Reflecting the stream of my consciousness, some are analogous to a single word or utterance, and others -- often diptychs or triptychs -- resemble excerpts from a longer narrative."
- Rita Bernstein
Quiet and mysterious, Bernstein’s work is a catalog of tactile experiences. The artist combines her distinctive mark-making with manipulation of the paper itself through pokes, probes, strokes, squeezes, and tickles. Some pieces suggest the pages of a book or journal with scratches and diagrams that appear almost, but not quite, decipherable. Others resemble scientific or medical procedures – a smear of vaguely biological material or a tenderly sutured laceration.
Touched presents a short survey of Bernstein’s current studio practice that includes individual framed works, diptychs and triptychs, an installation of calendar pages, and a book of stains. Each component provides a space for contemplation and empathy. Tactile sensation is, perhaps, our most primal sense, and Bernstein’s compassionate handling connects to a deeply felt shared experience of benevolence and care, the most basic definition of humanity.
Rita Bernstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, and following a career as a civil rights attorney, she began her art career in photography and works on paper. She has an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a B.A. in English, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Barnard College of Columbia University; and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her work is in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; the University of Michigan Museum of Art; and the Woodmere Art Museum. Her work has been widely exhibited, including at the Griffin Museum; the Noyes Museum of Art; Fleisher Art Memorial; the University of Pennsylvania; Moore College of Art and Design; and the University of the Arts. Bernstein was selected for the prestigious Fleisher Art Memorial Challenge Exhibition and has also been the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; the Independence Foundation; the Leeway Foundation; and the Ruttenberg Arts Foundation. Her works have been reviewed in many publications, including the New York Times; the Photo Review; the Boston Globe; the Philadelphia Inquirer; Black and White Magazine; and Lenswork, among others.
Touched is Rita Bernstein’s first solo exhibition with Gross McCleaf Gallery. Bernstein lives and works in Philadelphia and New York.