Tony Berlant

(b. 1941)

About The Artist

Born in New York City in 1941, artist Tony Berlant is celebrated for his intricate and highly inventive collages constructed from metal and other found materials. Berlant studied painting and sculpture at UCLA, where he was taught by Richard Diebenkorn and graduated with an MFA in 1962. He first came to attention in 1960 when his work was included in an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, curated by influential art critic Clement Greenberg.

Berlant carefully crafts meticulously detailed, textured collages. His work employs a bricolage technique, incorporating a range of brightly-colored materials including wood, tin scraps, metal and thousands of tiny brads, or thin nails. These objects are often found and collected by the artist from the streets of Santa Monica, his adopted hometown.

Berlant works across multiple scales and formats and has produced as many abstract works as representational. The artist is particularly interested in landscape and as such has created numerous images of the natural world, from detailed representations of plants and flora to more surreal, dreamlike panoramics. The works are inspired by the everyday, by the artist’s surroundings as well as his own imaginings, “There are literal things, and things in my mind that I project into that space,” says Berlant. “It’s this combination of very literal depiction and highly subjective images all mixed-up together.”

Berlant’s alchemical touch transforms inexpensive materials like tin into expressive forms, resembling brushstrokes in a variety of sizes and shapes. The multitude of layers and textures in his compositions creates a sense of movement in the picture plane, imbuing the collages with a dynamic energy that leads the viewer’s eye across the work. The laborious process of construction is in itself an essential aspect of Berlant’s practice. The artist has been quoted as saying, “A lot of what I like about it is . . . the physical labor and activity.” This involves nailing shards of flat tin onto wooden panels, after which Berlant prints and collages his own photographs on both sides of the panel. The ambiguity of Berlant’s detailed, intensely evocative work conjures up multiple associations.

Berlant has exhibited widely in the United States and his work is held in numerous major collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“The Artist-Scavenger Who Turns Scraps of Tin Into Evocative Collages.” Artsy Editorial. S. Agustsson. Nov, 14, 2014. Web. Sept, 26 2016.