Austin Museum of Art
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Bernard Maisner: Entrance to the Scriptorium / Contemporary Illuminated Manuscripts and Paintings
February 12 - April 30, 2000
"Bernard Maisner: Entrance to the Scriptorium / Contemporary Illuminated Manuscripts and Paintings" presents 25 years of work by New York artist Bernard Maisner. An innovative and singular figure in contemporary art, Maisner has developed a complex iconography of ancient and contemporary symbols and techniques in his meticulously crafted illuminated paintings. Like Blake and Heraclitus, whose writings he weaves into his compositions, Maisner seeks to uncover the originating principle of systems. In 55 drawings, paintings, illuminated pages, and books, this exhibition examines what art historian Dore Ashton has called Maisner's "love of riddles, of all that is cryptic, that has kindled the spirit of inquiry felt throughout his work." (left: The one who loves... (Henry Miller), 1982, egg tempera, gold leaf, shell gold, ink, paper, 3 1/8 x 3 11/16 inches)
From his earliest days as an artist, Maisner studied original medieval texts at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, and the Bibliothéque National in Paris. He spent years acquiring the medieval techniques of gold leaf, calligraphy, and interlace, incorporating the manuscripts' seamless integration of script and image into his own work. Although Maisner is scrupulous in maintaining the authenticity of these techniques, he combines them in contemporary, unexpected ways: Using calligraphy, the artist integrates writings by such diverse modem authors as Franz Kafka, Anaïs Nin, and Henry Miller into his works. His applications of gold leaf, woven through luminous layers of collage and glazes, can be read as contemporary abstractions, or depictions of symbols from Eastern metaphysical thought. Maisner's formative influences are diverse. He has studied biology and subatomic physics, and is fascinated by Rorschach signs, rebuses, and the early Renaissance works of Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden. (left: Moment of Flight, 1987, acrylic, watercolor, graphite, gold leaf and sand on stretched paper, 36 x 24 inches)
In recent years, Maisner has moved from miniatures to large-scale paintings, freeing the artist from the rigorous control of the miniaturist's grid, and allowing him to experiment with rich, allusive juxtapositions of forms and images. Several critics have noted the dreamlike quality of these recent compositions and their resemblance to that anticipatory moment that precedes creative thought. (left: Yes, 1989, oil, ink, mulberry paper, and damar on canvas, 60 x 60 inches)
This exhibition is curated by Terrence E. Dempsey, SJ, and organized by the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri. It is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by the renowned art historian Dore Ashton. The catalogue is available in the Museum Store.
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