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"Jonathan Berger: Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts" by Abraham Adams
sculpture of metal text

Jonathan Berger, Untitled (Tina Beebe, Barbara Fahs Charles, Robert Staples, and Michael Wiener, with Matthew Brannon) (detail), 2019, tin, nickel, dimensions variable.

Eros rides a dolphin or a swan—or else a crab, a snail, a dove, a lion, an aquatic goat, a unicorn-drawn chariot, a turtle. I thought about this history of images while reading of a man’s devotion to a turtle, on a visit to Jonathan Berger’s “An Introduction to Nameless Love,” a show with its own vision of those various conveyances. Made up of texts either written or edited by seventeen collaborators on “earnest but unusual love relationships” (to quote the scholar Mady Schutzman’s excellent accompanying book, Behold the Elusive Night Parrot [2019]), the installation had a rigorous simplicity: Letterforms arranged on rows of nickel rails suspended in the air evoked ghostly, abstract theater marquees, hovering within black walls above a floor of gridded charcoal blocks. The author of the turtle story, the conservationist Richard Ogust, wrote about the way RELATIONSHIPS WITH PEOPLE ARE ABOUT A HUNDRED DIFFERENT THINGS AT ONCE. WITH AN ANIMAL, YOU KNOW MUCH BETTER WHAT IS GOING ON, WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND WHAT YOU ARE FEELING. Anyone who loves an animal could recognize that cleansing unequivocality.

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