For decades, Denver artist Roland Bernier has used words written out in printed letters as the principal forms in his paintings, works on paper, sculptures and installations. A workaholic, Bernier has relentlessly found new ways to employ words, such as in collages made from photocopied magazines and comic books, with laser-cut mirrored letters attached to the wall, in wooden letters stacked up as sculptures, on figurines covered with printed paper, and on and on.
In his latest efforts, on view in Signature at Walker Fine Art (300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955, www.walkerfineart.com), Bernier uses his own name, written in cursive, as the main aesthetic device. And that comes as a total surprise to me, even if, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense. Signature includes two distinct series — one based on money, the other on picture frames. To your right as you enter the gallery is "Me and George," the largest and most impressive creation in the show. It's a grid of thirty framed works on paper, hung six wide and five high. Each depicts a dollar bill with Bernier's signature superimposed across it. The installation refers to appropriation, minimalism, conceptualism and, of course, Bernier's use of words.
There are several other pieces from this same paper-money series, including a large single autographed bill that's likewise titled "Me and George" but has the subtitle "Green" (pictured). Doubtless Bernier is referring to the financial crisis we're currently dealing with, but the pieces are not desperate and are instead pointedly lighthearted, a standard feature of his oeuvre.
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For the picture-frame pieces, Bernier constructed frames, wrapped them in photocopies of found paper with text and imagery on it, then placed a three-dimensional version of his signature in the right bottom corner of the picture plane, as though he had signed each one. The centers of the frames, where the artwork would normally be, have been left unexpectedly blank, with the bare wall showing through. What a kidder.
As usual, Bernier has done work that's worth looking at. Signature comes down May 23.