Katherine Bernhardt paints large, brightly colored, exuberant canvases and murals of everyday objects. Her vibrant color palette comes from Day-Glo washes of hallucinogenic color. Influenced by street-art murals, she paints in a loose, improvisational, gestural style using strong brushwork. She paints the canvases face up on her studio floor with spray paint or with thinned out acrylic paint, building up layers for her strongly shaped objects.
Bernhardt received her B.F.A. from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998 and a Master’s Degree from New York’s School of Visual Arts in 2000.
In the early 2000s, Bernhardt was painting fashion models appropriating photographs from magazines such as “Elle” and “Vogue” as for a reference. She painted the models in a feverish, manic way, exploring hyperreal fashion photography and notions of beauty. She has been involved in collaborations in the art and fashion industries, one of which was her in-store installation in a Chanel location in New York City.
In the following decade, Bernhardt began making “pattern paintings,” inspired by the graphic, two-dimensional illustrations found in Moroccan rugs. She explored patterns in her large-scale paintings in the context of these imported rugs, but she painted everyday objects and not geometric forms. She often riffs on similar patterns or motifs across a number of canvases. Shoes, tropical fruits, food, birds, turtles are some examples in paintings that depict these objects isolated from any kind of original context. She works with exuberant colors and arranges her visual combinations in the style of jazz patterns.
Her most recent work comes from her interest in Dutch wax printing and the rhythmic patterns of African textiles. Her subjects are grouped according to emotional associations and are broken down into pure forms and swaths of color in simple yet expressive arrangements.
In 2017, Bernhardt had a solo exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. In the same year, she made a 60 foot-long mural “XXL Superflat Pancake” for the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum. At the 2018 exhibition at Art Basel she exhibited a gigantic 69-foot-wide painting, “PLANTAINS, BANANAS, & TOILET PAPER.” Recently she hosted a socially distanced sign-painting party in Puerto Rico.
She has had solo exhibitions in Tokyo, Brussels, Lima, Paris, Stockholm, and New York City. In the spring of 2022 her work will be exhibited in London’s David Zwirner Gallery.
Her work is in the public collections of the Carnegie Museum, Rubell Collection, Smithsonian-Hirshhorn Museum, Portland Museum of Art, San Antonio Museum of Art, among others.