Michael Berman – Gila

October 19 - November 17, 2012

“I am not concerned with fashioning something New… rather I am obsessed with retrieving what is lost. I walk in the land… sometimes I make images. I use the images in installations, objects, and paintings. Eventually everything is discarded … but nothing is lost.”  Michael Berman

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Michael Berman – Gila

Michael Berman’s work is firmly rooted in both the contemporary and the classical tradition. His classically executed black and white photographs participate in and extend the romantic tradition of western landscape photography. He avoids the spectacular, however, in favor of small and unnoticed scenes or vast empty views. The photographs reveal both the complexity and abstraction of nature, while his installations seek to find a place for man within it.

Scheinbaum & Russek are proud to exhibit Michael Berman’s inspirational work in the Gila, designated the first wilderness area in 1924, and named the first wilderness within the U.S. National Wilderness Preservation System by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Often referenced but seldom visited, the Gila is one of the most important and least photographed landscapes in the American West. Noted environmentalist Aldo Leopold conceived the modern concept of “wilderness” there.

 The work is presented in three different mediums: gelatin silver prints, carbon pigment prints, gelatin silver prints deconstructed and mounted on aluminum plates.  Michael starts with a fine silver print, mounts them on aluminum that he cuts and files by hand.  The plates are then layered with paint into which the photograph has been set, abraded back through the pentimenti, rubbed with graphite and pure pigments, and finally, waxed. The pieces range from small single plates to 5 plate pieces that when assembled together present an imposing testament to both the strength and the delicacy of his vision and of the Gila’s natural beauty.   

Rather than examining only the edges of what might be considered a pristine wilderness, Berman hikes miles with his camera into places not easily accessible. Often walking on animal trials, he searches for untrammeled, scraggly and complex ecosystems on which to turn his lens. Berman took part in the New Mexico BLM Wilderness Photography Survey in 1996 and became a founding board member of the Gila Resource Information Project (GRIP) in 1997.

Michael Berman was born in New York City in 1956 and later came west to Colorado College, where he studied biology. He subsequently received an MFA in photography Arizona State University. Fifteen years ago he settled in southwestern New Mexico, where he now lives in the Mimbres Valley near San Lorenzo.

Berman was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008 for his work Grasslands: The Chihuauan Desert Project. Photographs from this project will be published in 2009 in the book Trinity, by The University of Texas, Austin. Trinity is the third book of the border trilogy, The History of the Future, produced in partnership with the writer Charles Bowden.

Berman’s photographs are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum, Lannan Foundation, and the New Mexico Museum of Art. He has received fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Wurlitzer Foundation and his installations and paintings have been reviewed in Art in America and exhibited throughout the United States.

“Michael’s new two-volume book on the Gila presents, in images and words, why it is increasingly critical to save the wild places on the planet,” said Mary Anne Redding, chair of SFUAD’s Photography Department. Redding edited Gila and wrote the Foreword. “In today’s climate of global warming and extreme carbon emissions, it seems there are no longer sacred places. Berman shows us a glimmer of hope when care is taken to honor the earth.”

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