San Francisco Chronicle 06.09.2008

by Kenneth Baker


We can see in Berlin painter Emanuel Bernstone’s work at Dolby Chadwick another sort of effort to reconcile the values of abstraction and narrative, or of the mind as a storytelling faculty.

Bernstone asserts painting as an art of surfaces even when he constructs deep spaces, as in “Off-Season” (2008). The painting reads as a view of an empty underground parking garage with daylight sheeting from a light well, adding to the optical bounce of the white parallelograms blazoned on walls and columns.

Bernstone apparently wants us to ask what it means to enter into a painting, the optical path being only the most obvious. Some of his pictures, such as “Off-Season,” describe barriers to that path. Light ricochets within the uninviting yet intriguing spaces he describes, demonstrating his skill at evoking reflective or textured surfaces with gradations of tint and value.

Like most of Bernstone’s image spaces, “Off-Season” stirs anxiety about being stranded in merciless circumstances. Some of Gerhard Richter’s work, which Bernstone’s occasionally recalls, strikes a similar note, in a less existentialist key.