Marius Bercea's first solo exhibition in New York opens at François Ghebaly

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Marius Bercea's first solo exhibition in New York opens at François Ghebaly
Installation view.


Across the exhibition, Bercea’s subjects quietly and solemnly enact the rituals of interior life. Each figure, cloistered in his corner of the domestic labyrinth, appears petrified in moments of respite or pensive focus. Gestures are inward and gazes conspicuously averted. The exhibition title alludes fittingly to Pablo Picasso’s ‘Blue Period,’ a short and monochrome stretch of the artist’s early career defined by melancholy, contemplation, and figurative solitude. Sour Milk (George) (2022) and So white the light (2022) are particularly evocative and feature two figures who appear to face each other, each seated before a swathe of blue backdrop. Although the composition suggests togetherness, the scene is divided in two separate canvases, further divorcing the figures as their glances already seem to avoid both viewer and each other.

In his process especially, Bercea intuitively reflects the tenor of the times. Gone are the large sets of models, stylists, and photographers from which his vibrant tableaux were previously derived. Instead, scenes are painted slowly and loosely, with figures drawn from the artist’s close friends (many works are entitled with their names in parentheses). Muted palettes of blue, green, and pale gray are reminiscent of the sorts of stoic hues preferred by the German Romantics, while planes of view are tight and close. The resultant effect—quiet, deliberate—heightens the contemplative feeling of Bercea’s subjects, equally embroiled in the affairs of newly insular life as in the collective anxieties of regime change, global crisis, or encroaching Westernization.

Similarly, Bercea’s rich textile study, among other references to turn-of-the-century schools like Les Nabis, relate his works with longstanding traditions of social commentary in portraiture. The ‘blue silk’ in question, which Bercea maps onto garments in works like Blue Silk (Vanessa) (2022) and So white the light (2022), conjures equally the ‘free Europe’ metaphorized in the blue E.U. flag as it does the sort of Hellenic blue whose titular empires bridged both Western and Eastern worlds. Even in poetic influence, Bercea draws as much from Verlaine and Rimbaud’s libertine love poems as from the serious, embattled literature of Romanian author Nichita Stănescu. This perspective—entrenched in the complex post-Communist geography and historicism of Eastern Europe— bears an urgent importance in light of our most recent global affairs.

Marius Bercea (b. 1979, Cluj-Napoca, Romania) lives and works in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Art and Design in Cluj. Recent solo exhibitions include MAKI Gallery, Japan; François Ghebaly, Los Angeles; and Blain|Southern, Berlin. Selected group exhibitions include Jan Koniarek Gallery, Trnava, Slovak Republic; MAKI Gallery, Tokyo; and François Ghebaly, Los Angeles. Bercea’s work is held in the collections of Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia, USA; ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, USA; Kistefos-Museet, Jevnaker, Norway; Zabludowicz Collection, United Kingdom; Olbricht Collection, Berlin, Germany; Space K Museum, Seoul, South Korea; and MAKI Collection, Tokyo, Japan.

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