John Yau reviews an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Jake Berthot at Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, on view through November 30, 2013.
Yau writes: "The paintings are simple observations: a tree; a landscape stretching into the distance; a skull sitting on a table, facing you, like a friend who is trying to tell you something and needs you to look him in the eye. They are complemented by delicate pencil drawings in which he uses an isometric-orthographic grid, which is often still visible, to locate and measure a tree trunk’s slow rise and twist, or a skull’s contours, rounded surfaces and angles. The palette runs toward coppery greens, sepias, umbers, and blacks, with traces of red and white. The light is faint and dissipating or it’s diminished to a glow in the distance. It is always night in Berthot’s paintings, with no promise that dawn will arrive. It is the blackness that inhabits, and thrives, in the heart of America, however much we might trumpet otherwise."