The Lever House Art Collection recently hosted Concrete Jungle Jungle Love, a site-specific installation by New York based artist Katherine Bernhardt. I happened to pop in to the exhibit which filled the Lever House Park Avenue lobby, while passing time before dining a nearby restaurant, as the installation’s vibrantly-colored elements drew me in from the street like steel to a magnet.
The explosively colorful exhibition playfully fused imagery and objects of modern culture (Windex, Toothpaste, Tropical Fruits) with that of the tropics. The commission was one of Bernhardt’s first departures from canvas, pulling motifs out of her paintings and giving audiences a unique three-dimensional experience of her work.
A combination of acrylic and spray paint canvases, dyed interactive soft sculptures (which the artist refers to as “Gummy Worms”) and a concrete block plant installation, the show’s multi-medium elements serve as a whimsical juxtaposition to the modernist architecture of the space.
Bernhardt explains,”When constructing the show, I envisioned a giant fish bowl tank, with giant Jurassic objects, paintings, and soft sculptures. In this show, gigantism rules. You’ll find giant gummy worm sculptures and giant paintings. The gummies could also be seen as giant paint strokes that have fallen out of the paintings. You can play on them or rest on them as well as admire the beauty of gummy worms.
The painted walls, colored film windows, and painted concrete blocks, all encapsulate this colorful crazy concrete jungle. Similar to the botanical garden, these works are contained in their own glass bio-dome: The Lever House. Welcome to the Jurassic terrarium.”
The multi-layered show invited viewers to experience Bernhardt’s installation as a terrarium – from the exterior, or immerse oneself in her prodigious concrete jungle – from the interior. The artist’s works draw inspiration from symbols of urban living and her travels in Oaxaca, Mexico and Puerto Rico. She uses traveling as an inspiration for all of her work.