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Martin Bernstein

Spotlight on the artist...

Martin Bernstein ( www.martinbernstein.com ) studied art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, initially making geometric and three-dimensional canvases and later becoming one of the founding members of the Cincinnati Artists Group Effort, or C.A.G.E.

He discovered how paint oozing under taped boundaries softened hard lines, and how the limitations of edges and boundaries grew in his work into sculptural objects and paintings. This led to work on unstretched canvases, and eventually the environment around him became his canvas, with dots and splashes “shape-shifted into three-dimensional objects” in what he calls “the accumulation of a process that leads up to and is exclusive of the finished product.”

Entering a Bernstein exhibition is like suddenly inhabiting an internal world completely externalized with a viscerality of objects from one’s imagination turned into a new and engulfing environment. Another facet of his recent work is the jewelry and jeweled objects, adornments that “exalt the feelings and emotions” and are composed of both precious and non-precious substances, sometimes appearing “broken, tangled or forgotten.” It is this veil of forgetfulness that heightens the sense of discovery in every particle of Bernstein’s bejeweled universe.

The interior side of the entry wall into his environment has two golden and textured giant curtains that establish the boundaries of our new world. Chandeliers and furniture are encrusted with fabulous confluences of sparkling and radiant details, and works on paper with distressed and scarred surfaces and edges are curatorially framed under glass in the manner of “an artifact like the Dead Sea Scrolls,” where the content delivers the meaning and becomes a conscious or unconscious artifact of his time and travels.

Martin Bernstein did work for Saks Fifth Avenue, and his highly distinctive earrings and belts have been featured on models on the cover of Rolling Stone, and his one-of-a-kind necklaces have appeared in Vogue. “I didn’t want to be an artist making jewelry to make a living,” he reflects. “But it was an element that fit into what I was working on.” He has attained a self-imposed sense of structure that counters his early spontaneous nature, and his work is a dance with reality in an organic sheen.

“Everything is precious,” Bernstein states. “And it’s how you appreciate things, and are able to keep going on a nice, frictionless course as opposed to banging up against the wall. So I appreciate and incorporate perhaps something of my dad’s or my mother’s, or something someone gave me, and glean something new.”

There are pieces here with mirrors “so we can see ourselves reflected in the work, or the possibilities of our reflections.” There are also illuminated pieces that “shine out and leave trails on the walls, like paint going into shadows and light.” His life’s work is, for him, really one immense piece, and “there’s a lyrical narrative going on… It’s really a kind of personal journey around the room.”

Every piece I make is truly a one-of-a kind item. I personally and solely produce each piece. I use precious, and semi-precious stones such as Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds, Sapphires, Aquamarines, Beryls, Black Opals, Tourmalines, Tahitian and South Sea Pearls along with many other types of gemstone. Then I ensnare the gemstones and Pearls in a delicately woven array of multi-colored strands of wispily fringed, dangling, and seemingly tangled chains netting the precious items within a web of tiniest gauged 14kt Gold chains in yellow, and white, and rose with sterling silver, palladium chains.


1949 Cincinnati, OH

1980 - 1994 Los Angeles, CA
1994 - 2001 Miami, Fl
2001 - 2004 Touring USA
2004 - Chicago, Ill
1971, BFA, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
1968, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Cincinnati Artists Group Effort (C.A.G.E.)
Founder, Board of Directors, Cincinnati, OH, 1978


2006 "Martin L.Bernstein New painting", Zhou B Art Center, Chicago, IL
2005/2006 A Personal Odyssee: Paintings, Jewelry and Mixed Media Installation by Martin Bernstein, Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
2005 "About Face", ZBCenter for the Arts, Martin L. Bernstein, Chicago, IL
2005 "Living", ZBCenter for the Arts, Martin L. Bernstein, Chicago, IL
2004 "Preview, Three facets of...", Martin L. Bernstein, ZBCenter for the Arts, Chicago, IL
2003 "Treasure Trove", Objects, Jewelry by Martin Bernstein Oskar Friedl Gallery, Chicago, IL
2002 "PaperWork: An exhibition of Paper" Oskar Freidl Gallery, Chicago, IL
2002 "Surface to Earth" Andrew-Shire Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1999 “Kowargzie”, Stone by Stone Gallery, Dallas, TX
1997 “Victory:s Homage at the Battlement of Her Soul”, 8th Floor Gallery, NY, NY
1996 “Martin L. Bernstein on Canvas”, State - Thomas Gallery, Dallas, TX1996 “All That
Glitter’s,The World of Martin Bernstein”, BP Gallery, Houston, TX
1996 “Lair”, Sally Sprout Gallery, Houston, TX
1995 “Jeweled Objects, Martin L. Bernstein”, Main Street Gallery, Sag Harbor, NY
1994 “Martin Bernstein”, OCHI Gallery, Ketchum, ID
1990 “Marteanus”, Environmental Installation, Diverseworks, Houston, TX
1988 “Environmental Installations”, EM House, Los Angeles, CA
1987 “Under the Sun”, Otis-Parsons Gallery, Site- Installation, Los Angeles, CA
1987 “11-11,Torrents,”Stock Exchange, Performance-Installation", Los Angeles, CA 1986
1987 "Martin Bernstein” LACMA, Sales and Rental Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1984 “Carmelita's Jewels”, Nightscene, Beverly Hills, CA, Performance
1983 “Altered Image”, Newport Art Museum Rental Gallery, Newport Beach, CA
1982 “Martin Bernstein: Paintings” Newport Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA
1980 “Essence and Art”, Contemporary Media Study Center, Dayton, OH
1980 “Martin Bernstein: Painting”, Art Consortium, Cincinnati, OH
1980 “Painting, Carnegie Art Center” , Covington, KY
1979 “Painted Polaroids”, Kata Gallery, New York, NY
1978 “Invitational Drawing Show”, C.A.G.E., Cincinnati, OH
1978 “Painting, Martin Bernstein Inaugural Exhibition”, C.A.G.E., Cincinnati, OH


2009 "Visionaries" 2009 Auction, MAD, Museum of Design, New York, NY
2009 "Center Line 2009" ZhouB Art Center, Chicago, IL
2002 "Small is Beautiful", K Gallery, Washington DC
2002 "PaperWork: An exhibition of Paper" Oskar Freidl Gallery, Chicago, IL
1996 “Treasure Boxes”, Artables, Houston TX
1995 “Seductive Surfaces”, Sally Sprout Gallery, Houston, TX
1995 “Group”, State -Thomas Gallery, Dallas, TX
1994 DIFFA Collection, National Tours, Los Angeles, CA
1994 “Born Again Objects”, Arlington Museum of Art, Arlington, TX
1993 “In The Raw”, Santa Monica, CA
1992 “Group Paint”, Andrew-Shire Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1988 “Group”,Gallery of Functional Art, Los Angeles, CA
1987 “Group”,Virginia Miller Gallery, Miami, Fl
1986 “California Assemblage, Past and Present”, Forum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara, CA
1986 “California Assemblage, Past and Present”, Santa Cruz, Museum of Art, Santa Cruz, CA
1985 “Dimensions”, LACMA, Los Angeles, CA
1985 “The Torso”, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Los Angeles,CA
1984 “HOT”, Simard - Halm Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1984 “Art and the Familiar Object”, Security Pacific Bank Plaza Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1984 “Functional Art”, Functional Art Gallery, LosAngeles, CA
1984 "County Sculpture; Source and Process”, Guggenheim Gallery, Orange, CA
1984 “Postmodern Mannerisms”, Ettinger Galleries, Laguna Beach, CA
1984 “Drawing a Personal View”, Mills House Gallery, Garden Grove, CA
1984 “Drawing a Personal View”, Mills House Gallery, Garden Grove, CA
1984 “Contemporary Uses of the Photographic Medium”, Amarillo Art Center, Amarillo, TX
1983 “Painted Polaroids”, Orlando Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1983 “Boxed Art”, Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, CA
1983 “29th Annual”, San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, CA
1983 “Forum I”, Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, CA
1982 “Poetic Objects”, WPA Gallery, Washington D.C., Walter Hopps, Curator
1982 “The Human Presence”, Toni Birkhead Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
1981 “Cincinnati Invitational Exhibition 1981”, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH
1980 “About Faces”, Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center, Portsmith, OH
1980 “SX-70”, Contemporary Media Center, Dayton, OH
1979 “Strategies Exhibition, Art of the Eighties”, Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, OH
1978 “Invitational Drawing Show”, C.A.G.E., Cincinnati, OH
1975 “1975 Mid-Year Show”, Butler Institute, Youngstown, OH
1975 “1975 Invitational Exhibition”, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH