Menagerie (a whole bag of different animals was turned upside down)
Christian Ruiz Berman is a writer. Elaborate allegorical stories. Deeply, wrenchingly emotional. Crushing narratives transcending time and space. One might argue he is a writer with an art problem. He is a storyteller that uses metaphors conveyed visually. In his first solo exhibition debut, Ruiz-Berman combines various elements from his life to craft a compelling, cohesive presentation. “The show title (as well as most of the paintings and their titles) stems from ways that poetry, humor, and painting can inform each other. A malaphor is a mixture of two idioms, creating a sort of malaprop in metaphor form.”
Utilizing resources as diverse as Japanese ukiyo-e printing, Mariachi ballads, and Mexican Folklore to the confrontation of indigenous, European, and even Tibetan Buddhist symbology, Berman creates a complex layered tale. “These amalgamations of proverbs or sayings (such as “we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it”) become humorous jumping-off points to comment on society or philosophy. They also mirror the general nature of the my work, which is at root a remix and a reinvention of expected tropes and real objects, a visual archaeology akin to collage and intent on portraying the ways that the juxtaposition of disparate elements (i.e. abstraction and figuration, digital and physical, connected and removed etc) can work to create fresh and cohesive combinations and viewpoints.”
Creating a series of richly developed, painstakingly crafted works, Berman explores the ways in which objects inform storytelling and history. “Having grown up in Mexico, and being steeped in the work of authors like Garcia-Marquez, my work is highly influenced by magical realism. My paintings exhibit many of the key identifiers of the genre. Like literary examples of the genre, the paintings blur the line between the fantastical and the highly defined, tangible, and seemingly solid elements of reality. The supernatural realm blends with the natural, familiar world. Explaining the supernatural world or presenting it as extraordinary would immediately reduce its legitimacy relative to the natural world. As such, there is deliberate, open-ended withholding of information and explanations about the invented spaces in the work. The paintings bring fables, folk tales, and myths into contemporary social relevance, engaging in a form of visual archaeology that aims to question both human progress as well as hierarchies of visibility. The re-positioning of ancient Mexican artifacts is an attempt to both challenge western primacy and also hint at new possibilities for the Mexican diaspora- an existence stripped of historical and cultural trauma, and open to new possibilities.”
Bringing his multi-cultural perspective to the exhibition, Berman entices the viewer to stand closer and examine further the complexities within each work “Traditionally drawn to birds for their significance in Pre-Columbian mythology, I expand my bestiary to include the snakes and amphibians that also appear as wise administrators of the ecological life force. In contrast, humans are reified, appearing only as abstract totems and artifacts against a complex backdrop that weaves architectural elements—Mayan relief carvings and kitchen linoleum—among meandering rainbows of color. We are reminded of disparate aspects of our human existence- Mesoamerican mythology, the three graces, childhood games- and yet human presence is limited to our objects and stories. In this way, the viewer is asked to question where these landscapes exists. Do they occur in the past, or in a post-apocalyptic future? Or are they beyond time and recognizable space?”
Like a poem, a corrido, or a hip hop track, Christian’s process of building a canvas unfolds in sometimes improvisational stages. Loose brushwork characterizes the initial poetic stage of intuitive exploration, during which the artist listens to diverse music and layers the canvas with these transposed rhythms. This is followed by meticulous, almost sculptural painting with tiny brushes, in order to render the realistic elements within his works. The end goal is to create worlds of surprise, humor and joy; places that are influenced by the ways that we create and consume digital imagery, but also grounded, moment to moment, in our experience of the physical object. We look forward to sharing this visual journey with you.
About Christian Ruiz Berman
Christian Ruiz Berman was born in Mexico City, and has lived in 11 US states and four countries. He have a BA from Duke University, a masters in landscape architecture from RISD, and most recently, an MFA in painting from RISD (2018). Ruiz Berman’s work spans various mediums, including painting, poetry, film, and sculpture. He has had three solo exhibitions, his paintings have been included in group exhibitions nationally and internationally, and his work has been reviewed and published in Juxtapoz, New American Paintings, Hyperallergic.com, Boooooom, and others. In 2021 Ruiz Berman had a solo show in Austin TX, as well as group shows in Berlin, Los Angeles, and Rome.
In 2022 he will have three solo shows, one will be a museum show at the Kemper Museum of Art in Kansas City, and the others will be in NYC (Calderon Gallery) and Miami (Mindy Solomon Gallery). He will also be participating with Calderon Gallery in the 2022 edition of the Armory Show. Ruiz Berman was a runner-up for the Foundwork Prize in 2020, he has taught at various universities as an Assistant Professor of painting and drawing, and in 2018-2019 he was an AICAD diversity teaching fellow at CCAD in Columbus. Ruiz Berman has participated in several residencies, including Fountainhead, 100W Corsicana, Jentel, Marble House, the Wassaic Project, The Chautauqua School of Art, Plop, and others.