Bernstine’s interest in emergent structures, the appearance of patterns and complexity from a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions, guides the creation of his work. The artist begins his paintings and drawings with discrete motifs. As the works progress, aspects of the process will suggest variations, leading to new discoveries and allowing compositions to emerge organically and intuitively.
The current exhibition is dominated by three compositional types, each an exploration of all-over patterning. Bernstine describes one type as “adjacent territories,” free-wheeling compositions of regular and irregular geometries, some rendered flat, others dimensionally, along with motifs such as checkerboards, pinwheels, diamonds, branching structures, and an occasional word. In these works, forms give way to one another in compositions suggesting aerial views of dense urban topographies or abstracted irregular jigsaw puzzles. In another type, Bernstine creates boldly-patterned, nesting angular geometries rendered in vivid colored marker on paper. In the third, he disrupts the regularity of black-and-white checkerboards with twists and warps, creating richness and complexity along with unpredictable optical effects. The high-level attention to detail and overall density of the compositions does not, however, obscure the hand of the artist, which is always evident. He notes:
I see my work as developing along parallel “lanes,” related to each other, each part of the larger whole. Working small allows me time to cover more ground. I feel like the sense of scale of each piece is in some ways independent of its physical size. To use a musical analogy, I feel like I work on songs, trios and quartets, not big band or orchestral. Simple procedures help keep intuition from getting stale by surprising me in the compositional process… I have the rudiments of a pattern-making procedure, but where it leads me requires constant decisions which affect the outcome….it feels like my stream of consciousness and its accompanying affect infuse the shapes or strokes. The work is not only the “esthetic-thing” but is in some way a personal story with personal symbols… Sometimes the introduction of words or a more or less recognizable object zeroes in on this aspect. The feeling I want in the end, at least subjectively, is that I have made something which is an arresting “thought-emotion thing.”