Bernay Fine Art a family undertaking
'A lot of room for growth'
GREAT BARRINGTON — During their childhood, art and artists surrounded Lou and Paula Friedman. Their late mother, Marcia, was a potter, and their father, Warner, turned part of an old Sheffield church into a painting studio that prompted some of his most inventive pals to visit the Berkshires.
"All the artists would come up and spend the weekend and get away. I grew up in that environment," Lou said.
Now, the creative realm Warner first fostered decades ago is inspiring his children to fashion their own. This weekend, Bernay Fine Art's sibling owners and directors open their first show at the 325 Stockbridge Road gallery previously occupied by Lauren Clark Fine Art, which moved to 684 Main St. in Great Barrington. Featuring works by Warner, Sandra Byers, Francesco Clemente, Jean-Claude Goldberg, Jessica Hess, Robert Mangold, Joe Neill, Linda Pochesci, Marjory Reid, David Ricci and Janet Rickus, the exhibition will be up through April 20. (An opening reception was scheduled for Saturday, March 9, from 5 to 7 p.m.) The show draws from Warner's circle, but also represents his children's artistic interests.
"I'm irrepressible, but they had very strong ideas of their own," Warner said.
Lou and Paula share an interest in realism as well as ceramics. Upon entering the gallery, visitors will encounter Byers' eight porcelain forms.
"When I first saw them, I thought they were a picture of a seashell," Lou said.
Wisconsin-based Byers has had work on display at the American Craft Exposition in Chicago, where Paula used to live and where she founded Bernay Fine Art, a private gallery, in 2008.
"It was sort of just dabbling," Paula said.
She had always wanted to run a public gallery. Last summer, the Sanibel, Fla., resident began exploring potential spaces with Lou. The Wall Street banker had been helping his father make cartons for his paintings, which were selling at a rate of four or five per month. Great Barrington appealed to the siblings. The former Lauren Clark Fine Art gallery was the perfect fit for them.
"There's so much going on around here now," Lou said.
Bernay Fine Art will specialize in American and European artists focused in painting, sculpture, ceramics and works on paper.
"I'm delighted," Warner said of the endeavor. "I think they have a great deal of respect for art and artists."
A walk through the gallery with Lou on Monday supported that notion. Across from the entrance, Neill's homages to towers had caught Lou's attention. One of them was a white wooden sculpture, "SomewhereThree," with dozens of rising shapes carved into its top, a body with many heads, of sorts. "PrivatePlacesFive," consisting of India ink and paint on cardboard, offers a flatter, more conventional portrayal of structure, which is a focus for the artist. Neill lives in Paris and has had sculptures on view outside of the Louvre Museum. But he is a New Eagle, Penn., native.
"I've known him since I was 15 years old. He used to come up," Lou said.
Lee photographer Ricci had a few works nearby. He captured winches and lobster traps at a commercial fishing port as part of his "Wave" collection, finding some common geometry among them. From his "Emergence" collection, "Wonderland" includes a Ferris wheel and other amusement park attractions, late-day shadows and bright lines meeting.
"It just made it a little bit more surreal," Lou said of the photo's timing. "He's got a great way of capturing the light."
Hess' series of urban landscape paintings are even more vibrant. The Oakland, Calif.-based artist's pieces focus on graffiti. She painted a piece of graffiti on one of Warner's works when she was living in the Berkshires.
"She had a severe urban decay period where she did these pieces, which I really love," Lou said.
Egremont resident Goldberg's crushed-can paintings stem from his time living in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood after moving to the U.S. from France.
"He noticed that these crushed cans were radiating out of this mess of garbage [in the streets]. So, he picked up a couple, and he took pictures of them. Then, he started painting them. He's still doing it today," Lou said.
Great Barrington still life painter Rickus uses fruits, vegetables and crockery as her subjects.
"Everything is painted at eye level, which is kind of a unique way of doing it," Lou said.
Rickus only paints in natural light, placing the objects on a table under a north-facing window. She lives with Warner, who created the show's largest pieces. In "Safe Harbor," a 96-inch-by-56-inch acrylic on a shaped canvas, the viewer spots some docked sailboats through a porch's columns. Warner typically frames a landscape scene with an architectural structure, such as a door or fence.
"I thought, rather than use a rectangle [as the canvas], I use the shape you look through. ... I thought it lent a drama to it," Warner said.
The artist incorporates his engineering background into his work.
"When it goes back into the distance, you have to factor in the fact that things are smaller in the distance. So, he figures out in decimals how much smaller going back," Lou said. "It was a really interesting thing that I learned about him."
Lou is excited to be spending the majority of the year in his home county. His sister will join him for much of the summer, too.
"I'm happy to be back in the Berkshires," he said. "It's really changed around here. I think there's a lot of room for growth."
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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