The Elizabeth Leach Gallery is pleased to present Ed Bereal: Studio Studies – Survey of Drawings 1958 – 2020, featuring small and large scale drawings and collage created over six decades. The show highlights Bereal’s work on paper from early figurative and abstract artworks to recent drawings that focus on socio-political themes of racial inequity and corruption in the United States.

Ed Bereal’s distinctive visual language combines illustration, pop art, abstraction, holography and assemblage, and the new exhibition delves into the artist’s foundational practice of mark-making. Drawing has always been a primary modality and way of thinking for Bereal, exemplified through pictures on view that range from energetic sketches, portraits and collage (1958-64), to politically charged depictions of the present day rendered in graphite. Perhaps most significantly, the works included in the exhibition make visible the artist’s ideas, decision-making, discoveries and inner dialogue.

Bereal began experimenting with a stylistic figuration that synthesized perception and observation during his student years at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, CA. The Gallery presents his early journal sketches of bold graphite lines that exaggerate shadows, obscure eyes and faces in self portraits, and hints at an interest in Abstract Expressionism. At that time, these new philosophies were introduced by his professor, artist Robert Irwin, and Bereal embraced the blurred distinctions between traditional mediums.

Intimately-sized 1960s collages demonstrate his burgeoning interest in a multimedia approach. Scrawled, smudged, velvety graphite markings, overlapped torn newspaper, painted gestural shapes and distorted symbologies (including swastikas and German crosses) reject straightforward illustration in favor of expressionistic critical discourse.

Amid the racial tensions that followed the Watts Rebellion in 1965, the artist chose to distance himself from the art world for over two decades. During that period, he immersed himself in social justice movements, formed the “Bodacious Buggerilla” theater troupe, and traveled internationally to war-torn countries around the globe as a video journalist.

Bereal returned to his studio practice in the 1990s to focus largely on imagery and ideas epitomized in his Miss America series, also on view. The menacing symbology of Bereal’s grimacing, skeletal female figure personifies capitalism, racism and corporate greed, often appearing alongside cultural and political characters with provocative hand-written text. The new works in the exhibition communicate the artist’s interest in making injustices visible through an ongoing practice of drawing, and the rhythmic intensity and immediacy of his hand. Concurrent to the Elizabeth Leach Gallery presentation, the Portland Art Museum’s exhibition APEX: Ed Bereal features objects and installations on view through June 27, 2021

Ed Bereal attended Chouinard Art Institute from 1959-1962 and later taught at the University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA) and Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA). His work is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY); The Smithsonian Institute (Washington D.C.); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA); Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, TX); and The Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn NY), among others. Recent exhibitions include the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, France) in 2006 and Moderna Museet (Stockholm, Sweden) in 2009; L.A. Object & David Hammons Body Prints, Tilton Gallery (New York, NY) in 2006; as well as participating in Pacific Standard Time at The Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA) in 2011. His first museum retrospective Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace was held at the Whatcom Museum of Art (Bellingham, WA) in 2019, and Bereal’s APEX installation is currently on view at The Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR) through June 21, 2021.