Artist in Focus: Michael Berryhill
In 2012, we had our first solo show with Daniel Rios Rodriguez, a painter whose work I really love. Shortly after the opening, Daniel called me and asked if I was going to be around; he wanted to show his artwork and our space to some artist friends. The next day, Daniel showed up with John McAllister and Michael Berryhill. I knew of John’s work, (I had bought a beautiful painting of his) but was less familiar with Michael at the time. This interaction led to the beginning of a five-year observation of Michael Berryhill’s work that has now come full circle.
Our current exhibition at One River in Allendale, NJ features a survey of Michael’s painting and drawings from the last four years. I have visited Michael’s studio multiple times over the last two years and these visits have taught me so much about him and what makes him special. I love the way relationships develop in the art world…they are often built on a chance occurrence.
Let me be clear, I do my very best to avoid the topic of “favorites” in the context of art. In fact, I have great love and respect for many of the people who I have gotten to know, some of whom I have purchased artwork from over the years. It just so happens to be that I think Michael is special, as do many of the painters and artists that I respect. He is a fan favorite… “the painter’s painter,” and someone who has the ability to mystify and frustrate his peers because his exquisite paintings are so consistent.
These days, there is so much pressure in the art world to make something big, have a personality all over social media, see and be seen at all the right events, network and cultivate the right people. Then there are artists that continue to go against the grain, they are the working artists, those who commit everyday to making things that represent their unique method or style. They check into work and check out in search of finding themselves and finding the purpose in each object they create. These are the people I am attracted to– the real song writers. The ones who I know are fully immersed in their own practice and are on a journey that will bring undeniable recognition and rewards. More importantly, their contributions will make us a more fulfilling world and a more soulful culture by virtual of the visual currency they share.
When we present exhibitions at One River, it allows me to “celebrate artists and celebrate art-making” by sharing the artwork of contemporary artists that we believe are doing something current and relevant within the context of today’s artworld. Michael straddles the fence because his work is the opposite of fad; it’s rooted in something mystical with great depth. It’s grounded in something personal, yet guarded in the statement that it is making. All in one, the work challenges you and also provides simple feedback, both complicated and easy to relate to. In some ways, I think this is a metaphor for Michael in general.
This past fall, I bought a painting at his critically acclaimed show at Kate Werble Gallery in New York. You can read more about that show here. I urge you to come check out his artwork while we have it on display. I am grateful to have really gotten to know Michael and it has given me a greater context of what he is about. I will buy more of his work because it moves me intellectually and spiritually, and that is the greatest gift an artist can provide me with.