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Katherine Bernhardt

Katherine Bernhardt’s images—of running shoes, cigarettes, and Pac-Man—are messy; her large-scale spray-paint-and-acrylic canvases feature graffiti, cartoon characters, and emoji. What makes her works more than just decorative is that they present the viewer with unsolvable visual and verbal puzzles. They achieve this semiotic ambiguity because her simple renderings of things don’t always make it clear what is being represented. The ten paintings and one quilt in Bernhardt’s recent exhibition, “Product Recall: New Pattern Paintings,” saw the artist on familiar ground: juxtaposing imagery typical of the place where she is currently exhibiting—in this case, Belgium—with the iconography of her past appearances, such as the tropical motifs from her earlier series in Puerto Rico, mixed with less localized ones. While certain images are easy to read—bananas, Windex bottles, Lisa Simpson—others are harder to identify. In Nutella, 2016, for example, are those goblets of Belgian beer and waffles, or are they glasses of red wine and pieces of chocolate? The execution is loose enough that, on first glance, it remains playfully uncertain. And any of those things locate the imagery in Belgium, more or less...

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