BY ADAM KENT ISAAC
The retrospective exhibition of printmaker Ed Bernstein’s work, shown this winter at Indiana University’s Grunwald Gallery of Art, was titled “Almost Illuminated.” “I try not to take myself too seriously,” says Bernstein, hence the Almost. “I haven’t gotten there yet.”
Nevertheless, the past 22 years have taken him around the world in pursuit of his art, from the slums of Brazil to the grand palaces of Venice. Combining photography, drawing, sculpture, and digital manipulation, Bernstein’s work draws its inspiration from his travels.
For example, his four-by-six-foot piece Tapecaria (Tapestry) is composed of hundreds of small photographs that he and his wife, Wendy, took in the favelas, or shanty towns, of Brazil in 2012. The photo-mosaic is overlaid by orange wire like a chain-link fence, with each image composing a square section of the “fence,” symbolizing the class divisions and social barriers he observed there.
Bernstein has worked in France and Italy, returning many times to the latter country. Several of his large prints are based on chandeliers and glasswork from Venetian palaces. Most recently, he says, “I was living in Italy in 2009 when they had a major earthquake in Assisi … I helped pick up pieces of the frescoes of Cimabue [a Florentine painter born in the 13th century].” The chaos of the disaster inspired further art.
“A lot of my work has a socio-political base,” says the New York-born Bernstein, “but it’s not in your face.” He describes himself as “a political animal,” and he holds a degree in political science from Miami University of Ohio in addition to his B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design and his M.F.A. from IU.
A member of the IU Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts faculty beginning in 1991, Bernstein continued the strong printmaking tradition established there by Rudy Pozzatti, with whom he studied. Bernstein was appointed head of printmaking and continued to teach until his retirement in 2013. His work has been shown in galleries in China, Russia, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. To see more of his art, visit his website.