amy bernstein


Nationale is pleased to now carry Disjecta's The Portland2016 Reader and Catalog, a beautiful publication which is presented in an etched case and features gallery artist Amy Bernstein (in conversation with Emily Bernstein and Julia Calabrese).
Established in 2010, the Portland Biennial is a major survey of Oregon artists who are defining and advancing the state’s contemporary arts landscape. Building upon the success of its predecessors, the Portland2016 Biennial was a two-month celebration of the here and now that showcased 34 artists at 25 partner venues in 13 communities across the state – the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Oregon art ever. It was curated by Michelle Grabner
Artists included: Avantika Bawa, Carla Bengtson, David Bithell, Pat Boas, Mike Bray, Bruce Burris, Julia Calabrese & Emily Bernstein, Cherry & Lucic, David Eckard, Tannaz Farsi, Jack Featherly, Howard Fonda, Julie Green, Midori Hirose, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Colin Kippen, Anya Kivarkis, Michael Lazarus, Charlene Liu, Giles Lyon, Ellen Mcfadden, Whitney Minthorn, Donald Morgan, Brenna Murphy, Julia Oldham, Rebecca Peel, Lisa Radon, Jon Raymond, Jack Ryan & Chi Wang, Heidi Schwegler, Rick Silva, Storm Tharp, Weird Fiction, and Ryan Woodring.

Also available on our WEBSHOP!


Carson Ellis' donation to the ALCU of Oregon's Liberty Dinner Art Auction

Carson Ellis' donation to the ALCU of Oregon's Liberty Dinner Art Auction

Gallery artists Amy Bernstein and Carson Ellis are honored to be included in the ACLU of Oregon's Art Auction at their Liberty Dinner this Friday, February 24th. For more info on the Liberty Dinner, please follow THIS LINK. And for those attending, be sure to raise those paddles to support a more than worthy cause: civil liberties!

Amy Bernstein's  Soft Mechanics  will be up for auction at the ALCU of Oregon's Liberty Dinner

Amy Bernstein's Soft Mechanics will be up for auction at the ALCU of Oregon's Liberty Dinner


Gallery artists Amy Bernstein and Emily Counts, andartist Elizabeth Malaska all have work in Oregon College of Art and Craft's upcoming Art on the Vine auction supporting student scholarships. The official auction is April 8th, 2017 at the Portland Art Museum, but this coming Sunday, January 29th (2–5pm) there will be a preview party of the work included in the auction at OCAC's Hoffman Gallery. More details can be found HERE. If you can't make it Sunday, no worries! The work will remain on view until February 4th.

Hoffman Gallery, OCAC Campus
8245 SW Barnes Road, Portland 97225


Many thanks to Megan Burbank, at The Portland Mercury, for her inspiring article, THE ARTISTS RESIST about how art can help us through these bleak political times (as it has so many times before!). 

Burbank writes, "...if you’re looking for an aesthetic refuge from the 24-hour news cycle, pop in to see the shop’s January show of Amy Bernstein’s minimalist paintings. A Lover’s Race features neatly elegant constructions—bright blobs of color on white canvases that seem to blend into the wall—and after months of trying to make sense of Trump tweets, it’s a relief to get away from screens and in front of abstract pieces. Nationale’s accompanying copy calls the show an attempt to reach the 'heart within the chaos,' which is exactly what it was for me on a recent weekday visit."

Check out the article for other great exhibitions and programming happening now to, as Burbank puts it, "preserve your sanity"!



Amy Bernstein 

Amy Bernstein 

Lou & I had so much fun this morning visiting the TBA/Houseguest/PMOMA outdoor museum at Pioneer Square. Gallery artist Amy Bernstein's newest work left us feeling all dreamy...
Make sure to stop by Saturday 9/10 & Sunday 9/11, 11am–7pm.

Johanna Jackson

Johanna Jackson

Dino Matt & Daniel Long

Dino Matt & Daniel Long

Larry Yes's Art in the Park Project, a painting area free for all 11-4 both days

Larry Yes's Art in the Park Project, a painting area free for all 11-4 both days

Julia Calabrese

Julia Calabrese


Amy Bernstein's contribution to the Art Gym's  and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive

Amy Bernstein's contribution to the Art Gym's and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive

Nationale will open at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24 so we can attend gallery artist Amy Bernstein's conversation with Michelle Ross. We love these two women and wouldn't miss it for anything in the world. Please join us at Marylhurst University's Art Gym. The talk starts at 11:30 a.m. See you there!

THIS SUNDAY AT THE ART GYM: and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive

Pat Boas,  Three Triangles and Three Colors , Sumi ink on paper, 2015, Courtesy of Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Pat Boas, Three Triangles and Three Colors, Sumi ink on paper, 2015, Courtesy of Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Join us for the opening reception of and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive at The Art Gym this Sunday, January 10 from 4-6pm. Represented artist Amy Bernstein has work in the show alongside a number of amazing artists. Amy will also be giving an artist talk with fellow-painter, Michelle Ross on February 24 at 11:30am. Press release below. 

and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive // January 12 - March 5, 2016

Opening Reception - Sunday, January 10, 4-6pm
Conversations on Painting -
Amy Bernstein and Michelle Ross - Wednesday, February 24, 11:30am
Pat Boas, Calvin Ross Carl, and Michael Lazarus- Tuesday, January 26, 3:30pm
Jack Featherly and Grant Hottle- Friday, February 12, 10:30am  
Roomful of Teeth event in partnership with the Music Department - January 29, 7:30pm

The Art Gym at Marylhurst University will present and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive from January 12 to March 5, 2016.  This group exhibition will feature ten artists of the Pacific Northwest working with abstraction in painting.  The artists included in the exhibition work in a broad range of formal and conceptual abstraction, and within a broad definition of painting.

and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive, curated by Blake Shell, includes works by Amy Bernstein, Pat Boas, Calvin Ross Carl, Jack Featherly, Ron Graff, Robert Hardgrave, Grant Hottle, Michael Lazarus, Michelle Ross, and Amanda Wojick.

An opening reception will be held from 4-6 pm on January 10, 2016.  The Art Gym will publish an accompanying catalogue, designed by Sibley House, that includes an introduction by Blake Shell and essays by art writers Graham W. Bell and Sue Taylor.

The Art Gym is supported by the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation, the Collins Foundation, the Oregon Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Art Gym’s publication fund is supported by the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation and Linda Hutchins and John Montague. 

This exhibition and publication are made possible in great part through the generosity of The Ford Family Foundation.  Other individuals and businesses provided additional support.



Happy Monday from the backroom!

Happy Monday from the backroom!

A big thank you to Katie Behel for gifting us a large pedestal/storage box. It was a great excuse to move pieces around on the walls and reveal yet another version of the backroom gallery. More information about older pieces can be found on our "COLLECTING" page.



Amy Bernstein and Patrick Kelly reflect on their work and current exhibition, The Liminalists, now on view at Nationale through December 4.

Amy Bernstein & Patrick Kelly at the Disjecta Art Auction in front of Jeffrey Kriksciun's textile // photo by Katie Bernstein

Amy Bernstein & Patrick Kelly at the Disjecta Art Auction in front of Jeffrey Kriksciun's textile // photo by Katie Bernstein

Gabi Lewton-Leopold: I wanted to first get a little background on how you two know each other if you had ever thought of combining your work in this way?

Patrick Kelly: We met working at Stumptown, but we never really worked together here in Portland. I remember hearing that Amy was an artist, and I don’t even know if I had seen any of your work. I feel like I had, but I just remember various times we’d meet up at other events and have small conversations. I remember that when I started making these kind of works, Amy was one of the people I tracked down to see them, she and a couple of other people. I saw these particular individuals almost as points of validation: like, if these people approve, then I’ll keep pushing this. I don’t know if I really ever thought before about putting our work together.

Amy Bernstein: I don’t think we ever thought about working together, but the coolest result of this exhibit has been all of our conversations about how and why our work does work together. Just getting to work with Patrick has been such an honor for me; we’ve been colleagues and friends for such a long time. Most of our conversations before were sort of casual shoptalk, just shooting the shit, you know “what’ve you got going on? What are you thinking about?” Pretty classic stuff but not exactly “let’s collaborate” or “let’s see what from having our works exist in the same space.”

GLL: You did studio visits?

PK: Yeah, leading up to the show. It was funny; she and I had been sort of working respectively, for quite a while, developing these bodies of work. In a way these conversations we were having, it felt like they should have already happened, or had been waiting to happen for a long time, and this show finally realized them. Sometimes it feels like you need something to bring those conversations to light.

Amy Bernstein & Patrick Kelly: The Liminalists at Nationale

Amy Bernstein & Patrick Kelly: The Liminalists at Nationale

GLL: That leads to another question: you both have these distinct bodies of work, how did they develop?

PK: Many years ago when I started working on these drawings, the initial starting point was a point of frustration, of trying to build and design these horrible sculptures that just didn’t work. I was trying to force and mash these disparate materials together.

GLL: What were they made out of?

PK: A lot of it was black plastic, rope, and earth. It was that of creating a movement or traction of earth, of earth being pushed around. It was a horrible process. When I tried to redesign them, I started drawing them with pencil to plan out what was going to happen. Then I realized I was getting a lot more of a response, actually physically drawing these ideas—capturing movement with a pencil.

GLL: And when did you start using the template, or what do you call it?

PK: It’s been called a template, a jig, a guide, so many different things, which is really funny. I’ve never really given it a name. It’s not necessarily a very precious thing, so I never really thought of it as having a name. They are shapes that have been designed from quick gestural sketches and then cut out from foam core. The contour of the shapes are then traced repeatedly with pencil as I shift and rotate it minutely across a page.

GLL: But each piece uses a different one?

PK: Oh yea, definitely, and there are multiple ones in each piece.

AB: I think that the similarities of the way in which our work developed, which is maybe always the way it is when you are making work for a long time, is coming to a point when you realize that the process itself is problematic. I used to work on pieces for such long periods of time that they would become buried under other pieces. The work couldn’t be what it wanted to be. I think about language a lot, and writing, and the language of painting. I think about the visual language and trying to make your own. Making a language can take a very long time. It isn’t this way for everyone. But for me, I was putting it all in the same place rather than letting the words, or the symbols stand by themselves, so all this white space started to creep in so that these kind of quantifiers could have a space to exist. They needed it, and they responded to it, and then they could talk to each other in this space, so that’s how these kind of works developed. I think that oil paint can do anything, it’s such an amazing recorder of time, or of a moment. And for the surface to be incredibly smooth, it becomes an even better recorder.

Amy Bernstein,  Vowel Sounds , 2015, oil on canvas, 28 x 26”

Amy Bernstein, Vowel Sounds, 2015, oil on canvas, 28 x 26”

GLL: You both talk about time, and there is something very time based about both bodies of work. There’s a feeling of accumulation and process but in different ways.

PK: Yes, even when I was initially beginning these pieces, the idea of how much time you’d dedicate to something cropped up; at that point, I felt it was really a problem for me because I felt like I didn’t have an understanding of what that would mean. When I started making these works, that was a part of the challenge because they are so time consuming: how much time could I devote to this? This was not just physical time but also a certain mental space. How much could I devote of myself to make this work? I really wanted to push myself to keep testing that idea.

GLL: This brings me to a question about the title of the show and the idea of the Liminalists as a reference to the creative process. It makes me think of the ongoing debate about when and where creative impulses happen. One camp argues that it’s about time dedication and hard work, while the other side says it’s more mysterious than that and that it often comes from outside of the self. Thinking about the Liminalists and your studio practices, how do you feel about those two philosophies?

PK: I think we both might be from the camp of work and dedication (laughs).

AB: I think it’s both. You need the time to spend sitting and thinking, to get to the place in your brain where these things live, where the need is to make them. And you need this in tandem with the actual hands-on making.

PK: I also think it is a little of both, and it’s ambiguous to say which one weighs more. Sometimes the physical work isn’t happening yet, because you are still looking for inspiration, but once you find it, the mind quiets down and you can really devote a lot of time to that work, to the physical craft. But yea, I think it does sort of exist in this ambiguous state and when you are an artist, you can’t really define when one stops and when one begins.

AB: I can’t get there only in my mind, as much as I would like to, as much as I’ve tried. I’d love to get there in my mind and see a piece and just make it, but it never works that way for me. I have to make something and there’s going to be all these other things that happen in the making of the thing that I can’t control. It’s taken my whole life to let go of wanting that control.

In terms of the title itself of the show, I think that part of it is a play on words, in referencing art history and the Minimalists. But the idea of liminality itself has to do with the place between language and thought. That impetus is also where making comes from, and so I think that’s what we were thinking about a lot.

PK: A lot of conversations were that of, if you strip away language, what is it that you are still communicating? You are kind of lost in that. Each time we venture into a new piece, we are at that beginning state.

Patrick Kelly,  Carbon trace 24 , 2015, graphite on paper, 42 x 30”, Private Collection   

Patrick Kelly, Carbon trace 24, 2015, graphite on paper, 42 x 30”, Private Collection


GLL: Have you always both worked in abstraction, or is that something you came to later?

PK: No, further back in my life I was a very representational painter, highly realistic, lots of detail. I would say this sort of abstraction is a recent thing in the span of my life. But it’s interesting; this is one of those bodies work that developed outside of the way you have been trained. Like, ok you’ve gone through all this school and finished graduate school and struggled for several years, not knowing what to make because you are finally removed from the community from where I started. It became a body of work that really came from myself, from myself searching. It was void of influence, or at least of a direct influence of an immediate community.

AB: I was a figurative painter when I started school. but at the same time, I always think that all painting is the same.

PK: Well, it really is. I would agree with that, it really is all the same.

GLL: How do you see that?

PK: Well, the materials are the same—it’s still paint. I think that the painterly strokes that Amy works with and communicates with are the same things you would use to communicate the idea of a rendered space or a three dimensional form. Which is funny because in those arenas it’s almost like a visual trick. You can look at a painting of a landscape, for example, and think to yourself: oh that tree looks like a three dimensional form, but it doesn’t really have the feeling of a three dimensional form, and the color next to it sets it back in a space that looks three dimensional, but doesn’t necessarily feel like it. It is essentially, an abstracted three dimensional space. It’s all still the same language.

GLL: Yes, but do you think that maybe these abstract works are more open in a sense? In terms of that visual language, you are allowing for more interpretations and those kind things that come along with abstraction versus giving someone a rendered space or form.

AB: I think people rest on the things that they can recognize like a figure or a room, and maybe in this sense, they can become maybe a little less open because they aren’t always looking at the paint as much. And of course, these created spaces are loaded, psychologically and emotionally in all kinds of ways, as in the ways we relate with any depiction of our world: I know what it feels like to hold my body like that, or stand in a room, or lie next to my lover, or see a bowl of fruit lit like that, etc. Or maybe I never saw it before and now you are showing it to me (but this is part of what art does, right?) But honestly, if you think about Vermeer or even Ralph Pugay, a fantastic artist that works here in town, those are psychological spaces that those artists create with figures. The paint is part of it too, but my work is different in that way. But when I think about Frank Auerbach, or Manet, or Alice Neel, all those painters that use this juicy, psychologically charged medium to convey emotion, I think it’s about the way that they use paint more so than...

PK: ...than what they’re rendering.

AB: Yea, and that’s what they are conveying more than anything, and I feel that I’m doing , or trying to do, something more like that.

PK: If you look at the history of painting, it has always been about the application of paint. That’s the thing that set successors apart from the people that came before them. Certainly, certain subject matter has been jarring for what they are, but movements in painting are always based on the application of paint.

Amy Bernstein,  An Intellect’s Love , 2015, Oil on canvas, 20 x 18”, Private Collection // Patrick Kelly,  Untitled , 2015, graphite on paper, 13 x 10”

Amy Bernstein, An Intellect’s Love, 2015, Oil on canvas, 20 x 18”, Private Collection // Patrick Kelly, Untitled, 2015, graphite on paper, 13 x 10”

GLL: Amy, we spoke before about how you often work on the ground to get rid of the hierarchy of shapes and spaces. So, speaking of abstraction, my question is, how is orientation important to you in the final work?

AB: I do work a lot on the ground because I don’t want the work to be affected by gravity. But, I think somehow these works still got a little affected.

PK: What exactly do you mean by being affected by gravity?

AB: Every time I work in a way that I exist in my body, with my feet on the floor and the work on the wall, I eventually start making the world around me. Things start to move to the bottom of the picture plane and all of a sudden, it’s like the real world, and that’s not what I want at all in this work. So, I have to work on the floor because gravity always seeps in. I don’t want to make the physical world in my painting, so I have to work on the floor.

GLL: So, you don’t want that horizon line...

AB: Exactly, well, not really a horizon line, but the way things are weighted, a top and a bottom, a right and wrong, an up and down. Even when I look at the work and make a decision while the work is on the wall, gravity happens again and confounds me. I don’t want my characters to be affected by those rules. Gravity is so inescapable, it turns out!

PK: It probably is like one of the most inescapable things!

AB: But you’d think in my painting it doesn’t have to exist, but it does, it gets in there. I have had people turn my paintings different ways. I think of them as being oriented a certain way, because for me they do something for me that way. I want to not care if it’s oriented in a different way, but I probably do.

PK: Yea, you probably do.

AB: Yea, I do. I read this wonderful idea that I want to take on as my own but I can’t because I’m just not being honest. You know there was that awesome aboriginal show over the summer (No Boundaries: Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Abstract Painting, presented by PICA) and those artists were like, “put this piece on the floor,” because the way that they orient space is just so fantastic, and they don’t cater or work in any of our western pictorial constructs of making a landscape to explain your experience at all, which I thought was the most fantastic thing in the world and which I wanted to do so badly. But honestly, I know someone who owns one of my paintings and has turned it a different way and every time I walk in the room I’m like “ehhh...that’s not right.” But, you put it in the world and it’s not yours anymore.

GLL: And Patrick, with your work you are definitely working on the wall.

PK: I am, yea.

GLL: Physically, it would probably be difficult to work on the floor.

PK: It kind of would be, but honestly when I’m making these too, I am kind of twisting and bending so many different directions. It’s really kind of strange. Sometimes if I find my body in a stressful situation all of a sudden, I’ll switch to the other side and find another position. Once a work is completed, I’ve always enjoyed the fact that there is not one fixed spot in which to view it, for the fact that under certain amounts of natural light affecting it’s constantly changing.

GLL: Which brings us back to the idea of time.

PK: Right.

GLL: But in terms of orientation, you know from the beginning how a piece will be placed on the wall?

PK: Yea, I don’t ever really turn the page when I’m working. I haven’t really gotten to that point because I don’t know the reason why to do that, other than just to do that. Usually, I orient a page and say this is how I’m going to work, in this format. It’s interesting when Amy was talking about trying to rid yourself of gravity, because I’ve really tried to do that as far as keeping these images floating in space to almost feel weightless, outside of the fact that they also feel very heavy, very dense.

GLL: And these newer pieces on black paper, almost feel like a piece of a larger one or a zooming in.

PK: Yes, somewhat, getting a little bit closer in. Maybe a little more terrestrial. The black paper was really started as more of a curious thing of seeing what could happen.

Amy Bernstein,  We’re Creatures of the Wind , 2015, oil on canvas, 20 x 20”, Private Collection //  Patrick Kelly,  Traverse , 2015, graphite on paper, 15 x 11”

Amy Bernstein, We’re Creatures of the Wind, 2015, oil on canvas, 20 x 20”, Private Collection //  Patrick Kelly, Traverse, 2015, graphite on paper, 15 x 11”

GLL: This brings me to a question about Amy’s latest painting, with the black background, what are your thoughts on that newest work?

AB: I think after awhile you work in a certain way for a long time, I think of people like Morandi who painted still lifes his whole life and they are just so sublime, so fantastic, they hold something that is so otherworldly. This time that we are in right now is so fast, which I think is hard sometimes for making art because developing language is a slow, slow thing. I think I had the impulse, I need to not work on this white space because it is limiting me, but then I think about people like Morandi, and the fact that I haven’t even begun to even touch the surface of what could possibly be in this white space, in this sensitive void record, but I wanted to make something that filled the hole—and so I filled white with black.

GLL: Do you think it’s somewhere you’ll keep going?

AB: I don’t know, I’m not really good at knowing. I kept thinking about this the whole time making this work, that I just can’t get there in my mind. I can’t do it in my mind, I have to make the thing. It’s the only way to work toward where it will go, and I’m absolutely positive it’s influenced by all my ideas and thoughts about the world, but I have to make the thing to find out. Other people don’t work that way; they have a complete concept. But I don’t entirely believe that either. I don’t entirely believe in a watertight concept. I don’t think that works.

PK: I don’t know either, it’s hard to judge if that really is happening that way or not for some people.

AB: I have a sneaking suspicion though that with anyone who is making anything, that the transformation something goes through while it’s being made is probably pretty drastic. And then the end product holds so much more than anyone ever intended, especially if it’s a powerful piece of work.

Amy Bernstein,  Untitled , 2015, oil on canvas, 24 x 22", Private Collection

Amy Bernstein, Untitled, 2015, oil on canvas, 24 x 22", Private Collection

GLL: The idea of darkness as a meaningful space, or a political space, has come up in a few of these artist interviews. I started thinking about your work, Patrick, and wondering if you think about darkness, and if so, what does that mean for you?

PK: Now, I don’t really think so much about the idea of darkness. Originally when I was conceptualizing these I was thinking about darkness and the void that exists there. Part of it is that staring into the abyss or staring into shadows of something that is void of light, like light of this physical world. What happens as you start staring into a void is that it becomes a reflection of yourself. You start looking at a picture plane that is not existing here, but feels real and you start creating imagery, creating shapes, you almost start creating light that is going to exist there. I feel that that part, where you get to staring, is actually pretty critical for us as humans, especially for our entire development from where we’ve started from to where we are going. There’s a part of me that feels it’s very necessary to have that, to have that bit of darkness. I think it has to be there.

Patrick Kelly,  Untitled II , 2015, graphite on paper, 24 x 18”

Patrick Kelly, Untitled II, 2015, graphite on paper, 24 x 18”

AB: Which I think also goes back to the title of the show, you know. The liminal space is a dark one.

PK: It is definitely. In a way, those dark spaces are the places where you have to create what exists there because maybe there is nothing there at all, but you can’t tell.

GLL: There are many conversations going on between the two bodies of work, but the one thing that really stands out is the fact that both bodies give us that time and space, and it feels really generous. It’s work that the more time you spend with it, it keeps changing, keeps giving more.

PK: I definitely want people to consider it that way, because it is such a long journey for myself, moving physically from one piece to the next. People can’t be there with me while I’m making the work; they can’t be in that mental space, but hopefully the images encourage an experience that opens them up to these ideas.

AB: That is definitely the goal. As someone who feels that way about the work that I look at, you know, that it’s work I feel like I will look at for my entire life, that would be amazing. That’s like, my life’s goal for my work, what I would want, something someone would want to come back to. That would be amazing.

Post-interview follow-up question with May Barruel (Nationale owner/director)

GLL: How did you arrive at the idea of pairing Amy and Patrick's work?

May Barruel: It was one of those moments when I was laying in bed, either had just woken up or couldn't sleep, and I had a vision of their work being paired together. I've always been drawn to how sparse both of their work is, how minimal and yet intense, and I wanted to put that vision into reality in a gallery setting. As different as Amy's bright colors and Patrick's blacks and greys can be, I had a sense that their work also had a lot in common. I was attracted to both the stark contrast, and the similarities of their work, and wanted to see where that conversation could take us visually.

Once we started planning for the exhibition, I knew it would all come together because of their shared enthusiasm and dedicated studio practice. From the start, I always envisioned that Amy's and Patrick's pieces would be paired together in the gallery, for the public to see that conversation, as opposed to grouping each of their work in two different areas. I couldn't be happier with how the show turned out. It has infused the space with a sense of both calm and euphoria.

That's all for now—thank you Amy, Patrick, & May!

That's all for now—thank you Amy, Patrick, & May!


So proud of our 8 represented artists (+ Jeffrey Kriksciun) for their generous donations to the upcoming Disjecta Auction happening next Saturday, November 14. Start bidding now via Paddle8 for the pieces featured on the live auction and see you in a couple weeks for the big night...

AMY BERNSTEIN & PATRICK KELLY // reception this sunday

On view October 21–December 4, 2015
Opening reception Sunday, October 25 (2–5 p.m.)

The work of Portland-based artists Amy Bernstein and Patrick Kelly may at first glance seem like formal contradictions. While Kelly's thick layers of graphite depend on countless passes of his hand to achieve their silky depths, Bernstein's colorful compositions herald the immediacy of her gooey medium. And yet, their processes abound in a shared ritualism. Exhibited together at Nationale for The Liminalists, the two may be seen to similarly tease the standard behavior and limits of their given mediums (painting and drawing, respectively) in the attempt to create a new language. For both, the act of creation—rife with introspection and indeterminacy—thrives on the unfamiliar. Their images are disoriented and rebuilt over time, forever questioning the limits and givens of perception.

Specifically, within Bernstein’s practice, painting’s hierarchy of color and composition is routinely upended. Placed in what appear as haphazard configurations upon a slick, white background, her colorful blobs and geometric shapes float unconstrained by the two-dimensional surface. This illusion of randomness and detachment enables Bernstein to orchestrate a pause within her audience. Her sparse works beg the viewer to confront their ideas of a visual status quo. Her palette and layouts, while seemingly accidental, are, instead, deliberate examinations of cultural perception, design, and visual construct.  

Kelly’s Carbon Traces series similarly challenges space in order to manipulate perception. Using hand-cut forms to trace an initial design, he then continues to move the stencil ever so slightly in order to widen the image. The result of this laborious repetition is amorphous and seductive. The graphite that Kelly uses subtly absorbs and reflects light, thereby invigorating the drawing with an atypical sense of sculptural depth. Meanwhile, the line of the individual contour merges through endless reiterations into a new object, a distant, haunted trace of its original state.

Hailing from Atlanta, GA, Portland–based artist and writer Amy Bernstein received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2004. Her work has been exhibited in Portland at Nationale, the Littman Gallery, Portland State University, Car Hole Gallery, Worksound, and Carl & Sloan Contemporary. She has received grants from Creative Capital and the Warhol Foundation in 2010 and from the Regional Arts and Culture Council in 2012. She joined Nationale as a represented artist in the summer of 2015.

Patrick Kelly is a practicing artist living in Portland, OR. He received an MFA from The George Washington University in Washington DC in 2005 and a BFA from East Carolina University in 2001. He has shown in Seattle, WA, New York, NY, and in Portland, OR, at Worksound, Basil Howard Gallery, Half/Dozen, and Autzen Gallery. Kelly’s work is included in collections at the MoMA Library, New York, NY, the Bieneke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale, New Haven, CT, and the Oregon Arts Commission.