Whitehot Magazine

Kelly Berg: A Crack in Everything at Craig Krull Gallery

A Crack in Everything, Acrylic on Wood Panel, 10" x 8", 2023. Photo by Alan Shaffer.

By LORIEN SUAREZ-KANERVA February 24, 2024 

A Crack in Everything opened on February 10th and will run through March 23rd at Craig Krull’s Gallery in Santa Monica, California. The exhibition showcases Kelly Berg’s most recent paintings. A Crack in Everything was inspired by Leonard Cohen’s music by this title. Berg’s artwork’s conceptual focus is on the crack as an element and cracking as a natural process, revealing what lies beneath the surface. The artist works with symbolic forms that align closely with universal paradigms. Pyramids, fault lines, rifts and chasms, and their distinct opposite Terra Firma are all timeless psychological narratives of universal human consciousness. A more profound  hidden quality beneath the earth draws a curious expectation about the underlying foundations. Notwithstanding the psychological sense of danger, something new arises in the form of a pyramid. The breaking of the serene landscape presents a geometric form that radiates light. The quality of the visage appeals, symbolically evoking mystical auras and the reaches of spiritual enlightenment. 

The artist sees the crack as an opening of significant transformative spaces. Each of her paintings features a highly delineated ripping open into a myriad of geometric planes spaced at varying angles that are highly pointed, linear, and triangular. The extensive traces at the surface of the wood grain seamlessly draw curves and undulations toward the tense drama at the point where the separation appears.  

Berg’s landscapes are split open on central zig-zagging lines with sharp edges that span the terrain. The fault lines open up three-dimensional arrangements that appear in the space created by the gap. The moment is at the jagged edge of change as the land cracks and its fault line spreads - some of the surface lies like a sliver surrounded by space. How pyramids appear out of the depths touches on the mystery at play. Like icebergs from the ocean depths, the pyramid’s base lies hidden.  

Left Wall: Kilauea Rift, Acrylic on Wood , 84" x 54", 2024, Right Wall: (Far Left Top) Fern Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 5" x 7", 2022, (Far Left Bottom), Olivine Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 8" x 8", 2023, (Left Center), Kilauea Iki Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 12" x 12", 2023, (Left Center Top), Eruption Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 6" x 12", 2023, (Left Center Middle), 'Ama'u Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 6" x 12", 2023, (Left Center Bottom), Viridescent Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 6" x 12", 2023, (Center) Rainbow Obsidian Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 18" x 24", 2024, (Center-Right Top) Reflection Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 7" x 5", 2022, (Center Right Bottom) Velvet Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 6" x 6", 2023, (Right) Sunset Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 12" x 12", 2019, (Far-Right) Sandstone Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 8" x 8", 2023. Photo by Alan Shaffer. 

The extensive flat terrain is furrowed by wood grain outlines that evoke an elemental quality of predictability and rhythmic pattern with innate stability. The panel surface has been symbolically cracked open due to currents, shifting sands, sediment lines, and lava flows.   

Perspective lines and logic spin around as pyramids appear upright and upturned seamlessly within a three-dimensional space. The angular reflections of the landscape divide to allow pyramid apparitions. There’s a surrealist component inherent in these arrangements. They appear to be magic illusions that challenge perceptual reason and the natural way of things. Berg reveals something untenable and unexpected that yet fits in and of itself.

Copper Mirror Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 8" x 10", 2023. Photo by Alan Shaffer.

Terra-not-so-Firma holds a hidden and threatening shifting nature. Earthquakes shake landscapes, volcanos erupt, and molten magma flows from deep beneath the earth's surface. From above, lightning bolts strike to vividly connect the divide between the land and the sky through powerful electric discharges. These natural forces have an extreme rawness that assails human reality and remains uncontrollable. 

Berg traveled to volcanic sites like Mt Vesuvius. In Hawaii, she traversed the Kilauea Iki Crater and experienced crater and molten magma formations. The Hawaii Volcano School and the work of Jules Tavernier, in particular, are important antecedents. As an artist working with natural scenes, she admires the paintings of the magnificent landscape dioramas showcased at the New York City's American Museum of Natural History. Stephen Quinn's expansive and imposing panoramas reveal breathtakingly detailed and far-reaching horizons that explore richly diverse worldwide habitats.

(Top) Moonlit Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 4" x 4", 2024, (Center) Obelisk Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 6" x 6", 2023, (Bottom) Mojave Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 4" x 4", 2024. Photo by Alan Shaffer.

Berg's visit to Egypt and its pyramids was a creative catalyst inspiring her art. Thought to bridge the realms of life and death, for the Ancient Egyptians, the pyramids held a symbolic paradigm, connecting life and death. She observed, "The pyramid form in ancient Egypt represents the primordial mound that rose out of the abyss, the moment of our world's creation." The sites of pyramids represented points of connection with the cosmos and the divine in many civilizations, including the Aztecs and Mayas. Through extensive knowledge of astronomy, many of their pyramidal ceremonial sites appeared to mark important dates, which they pin-pointed on the landscape as calendars that marked observable instances of the passage of time. 

Beautifully crafted chiaroscuro compositions orchestrate seamless transitions from degrees of light and shadow to define a three-dimensional pictorial space on a flat surface. The wooden panel reveals the inherent composition's perspective lines that Berg extends and crafts as trompe l'oeil sculptural edges. Following this careful painting of gradations in black and white, she applies numerous washes of color. The color palette includes iridescent hues echoing the glowing rainbowed surface of volcanic sediments. 

Ama’u Rift, Acrylic on Wood, 6" x 12", 2023. Photo by Alan Shaffer.

As the artist reflects, The crater consists of a long expanse of black lava with large cracks across it, some of which emit steam created by the cooling of hot magma below and provide the perfect environment for the strikingly colorful ‘Ama’u ferns to grow out of. This unique volcanic landscape and ever- evolving environment is a place of both destruction and rebirth where one can truly experience the sublime.

Berg’s treatment of the landscape is unique. It presents a view of the threatening crack at its point of fait accompli. In the aftermath of destruction, the narrative converges squarely on the new birth already on hand. The damage from explosions, earthquakes, and storms, with all their material and organic castoff debris, has already been cleared away by the effects of time. The beautiful, weathered cracks are all appealingly clean, resolute, solid, and monumentally refined. The silhouettes are both sculptural and geometric. There’s an innate beauty to the arrangement and vision that emanates light and the promise of new life. Life undoubtedly prevails in the cataclysmic cycles of death and regeneration. At this point of depiction in Berg’s artwork (in almost all,) the pyramid ultimately appears. Housed snugly, the artist situated the pyramidal human design at the breaking point in the landscape. The pyramid reaches beyond threatening specters to neatly bridge the inevitable divide toward an auspicious resurgence. WM 

Lorien Suárez-Kanerva

As a Geometric Abstract artist, Lorien Suárez-Kanerva explores the dynamic interplay of color, light, and geometric patterns found in nature and the cosmos.  A Retrospective of Lorien’s work titled “Coalescing Geometries” won First Place in Non-Fiction at the 2019 International Latino Book Awards. She has exhibited in several curated solo and group shows in NYC, Los Angeles, and Miami. Her artwork appears at International Art Fairs and educational centers including Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton Museum of Art, and UC Berkeley’s Engineering Department. Lorien resides in Palm Desert, California.

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