PHOTO: Emily Davidson

Untitled (2011) in Contiguous Doubles at Napoleon Gallery
Daryl Bergman at Napoleon Gallery
Posted: 11/13/11

I could call it a snowflake, but it isn’t one. Actually, it is a creased white page with symmetrical cut-outs, suspended and framed in a velvety gray expanse. Another glance reveals that the cut white page is not a mounted, physical object but an image: it is an oil painting on wood, a careful rendering of a flat, familiar material. It is persistent, willful, in its translation of our (my) idea about uniqueness, the sentiment we (I) might project onto a natural, falling snowflake: No two are alike.  

Daryl Bergman plays with this commonly-held misconception through a painting of a kids’ craft snowflake, and in doing so, examines the lapse in meaning between our knowing of something natural and the neat facsimile of a paper keepsake.

In terms of their molecular structure, all snowflakes are unique. Viewing two snowflakes side by side, contiguously, however, one will often find duplications. Doubles. But to say that the entire show consists of this formula, of such instances of contiguous doubles, would be unfounded. In fact, an attempt to dissect and define the varied moves Bergman makes throughout the exhibition won’t add up to anything concrete, not discernible subject matter or an evident, labored process. What, then?

Between material, image, and language, Daryl Bergman reveals (if only to cover her tracks) lapses in meaning and understandings. With these lapses, or negative space, we are forced to look back and forth in the small gallery. There is one image of the world, then another. An empty, yellowed photo holder, blown up like a large wall map.  A stick. Then birch veneer interventions atop the universe. These articles make evident her material sensitivity as a printmaker, but each arrangement, even the digital photographs, feels remarkably singular, unique like the snowflake--precious in their ordered precarity.

Throughout the show, a sense of vacancy pervades. The generative processes Bergman engages--altering, scanning, collaging--construct a vacuous space. In each work, she makes great effort to place a flat horizon in the faraway distance. As a result, we feel both discomfort and pleasure. Discomfort in realizing the snowflake not unique, and pleasure in crafting paper facsimiles until the sky becomes blanketed white, the contiguous flakes indiscernible but thick with meaning.  

Contiguous Doubles
Napoleon Gallery
319 N. 11th Street 2L
Philadelphia, PA 19107
On view till November 20th, 2011


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