Hamptons Magazine © 2013
Kevin Berlin Presents Striking Party Portraits at Art Southampton
by Stacey Goergen
Artist Kevin Berlin began his series of cocktail party paintings in 1999; he populated primarily black and white oil-painted canvases with depictions of the actual figures he encountered at events around New York City. "In the same room you find people going through the whole range of human emotions," he explains. "They laugh. They cry. They fall in love. They feel betrayed."
Fast-forward to today, when Berlin is unveiling a new series of cocktail party work with Gallery Valentine at Art Southampton, opening July 25, entitled "Alien Invasion." "It started because a lot of people around me seem as if they are on another planet-they are right in front of me, but they don't act present," says Berlin, who often incorporates clever and humorous performances in his installations. "They are either on their cell phones or in cyberspace."
Berlin has always drawn from his immediate experiences, traveling to exotic locations over the past decades to depict different sources, among them Russian ballerinas and Ukrainian circus workers. In "Alien Invasion," he has come full circle, returning to address what he sees in everyday social situations. "It used to be that if you were in the same room with friends or someone you cared about," he says, "you would make eye contact, you would listen to each other and have a conversation."
Recognizing a recent complexity to social alienation, he translates this disconnection in his new paintings. In SMS (2013), a group of partygoers stands in the same room, dangling their drinks, disengaged from each other, but engrossed with their electronic devices. More literally, in Alien Invasion (2013), a naked woman with discordant eyes, two sets of breasts, and antennae stands alongside two traditionally dressed guests. To Berlin, these narratives are critical: "I think it's very important for contemporary art to say something that matters." "Kevin Berlin: Alien Invasion" is on display July 25 through 29 at Art Southampton, Southampton Elks Lodge, 605 County Road 39, Southampton, then Gallery Valentine, 33 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, 329-3100