NEW YORK, NY.-
Through an admixture of academic naturalism and whimsical surrealism, artist Ard Berge examines themes of American experience, identity, and history. Works such as Conquest of the West, Pegasus Reborn, and Uncle Cincinnatus Hitches Up the Plow center on motifs of rural Americana while exploring the disjuncture between national ideals and contemporary reality. By means of the artist's meticulous aesthetic, Berge renders his figures and environments with a combination of uncanny precision and wry social commentary.
Berge received his B.F.A. in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1995 and his M.F.A. from The New York Academy of Art in 1997. Between 1990 and 1998, he studied at The Art League at the Torpedo Factory in Virginia, the Centro Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, the Patrick Devonas Studio in New York, and the Water Street Atelier in Brooklyn. He has shown his work extensively in the tri-state area, including a recent solo show at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. He is currently an associate professor of Fine Art at Felician College in New Jersey, where he teaches courses in drawing, painting, and art history.
Arge's paintings Conquest of the West, Pegasus Reborn, and Uncle Cincinnatus Hitches Up the Plow are currently featured as part of Underline Gallery's exhibition The Good American, on view through August 12. The large-scale Conquest of the West depicts a young girl riding a bison, with the bucolic setting of the Southwest in the background. The work, which plays directly on the notion of manifest destiny and the foundational ideals of American expansion, encourages the viewer to reevaluate national identity and the struggle between man and nature. While the subject matter is distinctly surreal, the careful depiction of the figures, scenery, and surface exemplify the timeless naturalism of Berge's work.
Pegasus Reborn dwells upon similar themes of the disjuncture between the natural and man-made worlds. The Mobil station, a symbol of the American obsession with oil, is combined with a classic image of the country's rural past. Horses drink from pails beneath the gas tanks in a dreamlike depiction of the Midwest that questions American resources and reliance on foreign oil. While Pegasus Reborn exemplifies Berge's talent as a landscape artist, Uncle Cincinnatus Hitches Up the Plow reveals his distinctive skill as a figurative painter. The small-scale work depicts an elderly man who gazes out from the two-dimensional frame, drawing the viewer into an ambiguously dreamlike world. In the background appears the towering bow of a ship, a rope dangling from its edge, adjacent to a red tractor. The surreal images coalesce to create a powerful portrait of an older generation and the bucolic history of a nation.
The exhibition is on view at Underline Gallery