Sasha Pierce: Wagara | Cindy Bernhard: Smoke and Prayers

2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404
Sep 04, 3 PM - 5 PM — ends Oct 02, 2021
Richard Heller Gallery is pleased to present two solo exhibitions for Sasha Pierce: Wagara & Cindy Bernhard: Smoke and Prayers.

About the Exhibition:

Sasha Pierce's art practice centers on the painterly integration of the complex relationships between repeating geometry, perspective, self-determining systems, and material processes. The unfolding of time plays an important role in the visual and somatic sensory experience of the work. Think of the process of sediment forming, or the process of weaving, or the process of origami. The slow unfolding of time is an antidote to our fast-paced and hyper culture.

For Pierce's upcoming exhibition, Wagara, her second solo exhibition with Richard Heller Gallery, new work is shaped by ongoing detailed investigation of Wagara, which are traditional Japanese patterns. Wagara emerged from deep respect for and awe of the power and beauty of nature. Each Wagara is based on a natural form, and each is associated with deep and auspicious meaning. In this exhibition Pierce's work is inspired by Kagome (basket weave) symbolizing protection; Kikkou (turtleshell shell) symbolizing longevity; Shippo (seven treasures in Buddhism - gold, silver, pearl, coral, crystal, agate and lapis lazuli) symbolizing never-ending harmony and peace; and Yagasuri (hawk or eagle feathers found on an arrow) symbolizing straightforwardness and good luck.
About the Artist:

Born 1974, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Lives and works in Toronto, Canada

Pierce received her Bachelor of Arts Degree, Honors, at the University of Guelph, Ontario in 1997 and a Master of Fine Arts Degree, at the University of Waterloo, Ontario in 2004, where she was awarded the Sylvia Knight Graduate Award in Fine Arts.

Pierce has had previous solo exhibitions at Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, California; Jessica Bradley, Toronto, Ontario; ACME, Los Angeles, California; and CTRL Gallery, Houston, Texas (just to name a few). Pierce has also been in numerous group exhibitions at Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, California; Mercer Union, Toronto; Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan; II, Ballhaus Ost, Berlin, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Ontario; and the University of Waterloo Art Gallery, Waterloo, Canada.

Pierce was the 2015 recipient of the Laura Ciruls Painting Award administered by the Ontario Arts Foundation. Since 1996, she has received well over 20 Artist Grants including: Canada Council for the Arts Visual Artist Project Grant; Ontario Arts Council Visual Artist Grant – Mid Career; Toronto Arts Council Visual Artist Grant – Mid-Career; and Ontario Arts Council Community Outreach Grant, Sol Express, L’Arche. In 2009 Pierce was awarded honorable mention in the Eleventh Annual RBC Canadian Painting Competition.

Pierce's work has appeared in numerous publications including Canadian Art magazine, Border Crossings, The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star.

Pierce's works are in the permanent collections of the Doris McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto Scarborough; The Donovan Collection, University of Toronto; Collection of the Canada Council Art Bank; RBC Collection; BMO Collection; and the TD Collection (Canada) and The Progressive Art Collection; the Cleveland Clinic art collection and the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection (United States).


Richard Heller Gallery is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition with Chicago-based painter, Cindy Bernhard.

About the Exhibition:

"What can painting still do in 2021, you might ask. At the hands of Cindy Bernhard, almost anything. Bernhard, like all true painters, is in love with the pure sensuality of pigments, the visceral effects of paint upon the canvas. You see this in the stunning color of the paintings, but also in the patterns and shapes.

Joints and Jesus (2021), at first appears to be a cute and cheeky portrayal of a cat captured in an act of genital licking through the reflection of a mirror on a mantelpiece. It's a clever painting within a painting, a trope you might find in Van Eyck or Vermeer. It is only with further reflection (pun intended) that we realize this is an altarpiece. The smoke of the “holy incense” is provided by a joint smoldering at the center of the picture.

Another startled cat, this critter with one blue and one yellow eye, meets our gaze in Momento Mori (2021). The joke here is that it's the joint that's died, the head of which has fallen from the table and is burning out on the beautifully painted carpet beneath. The cat alerts us to the problem, made all the more dire by the amusing presence of a classic memento mori skull at the far end of a pastel blue table. But you might also argue that the real memento mori in this picture is the pink butthole of the startled cat. That's to say, this is a painting of dualisms, of the dark that always comes with the light, of the corruption at the heart of all beauty, of the inevitable passing away of all that seems vibrant and new.

The paintings of Cindy Bernhard are veritably crackling with tensions, with a palpable sense of mystery that is all the more delectable for being suffused with such a lightly and confidently wielded wit and charm. You're struck initially by these paintings because they are daring and fresh and a treat for the eye. You stay with them because they are genuinely deep."

Morgan Meis, 2021
About the Artist:

B. 1989, Illinois
Lives and works in Chicago, Illinois

Bernhard received a Bachelor of Fine Arts, American Academy of Art, Chicago, IL in 2011 and a Master of Fine Arts, Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, CA in 2014.

Recent solo exhibitions include Mirror, Mirror, at Vital Signs, Milwaukee, WI in 2019 and Candy Corn & Roaches, Shelter In Place Gallery, Boston, MA in 2020. This is her first solo exhibition at Richard Heller Gallery.

Recent Press and Publications

Newcity, “60wrd/min COVID Edition: Cindy Bernhard” by: Lori Waxman
Artnet, “Editor's Picks: 11 Events for Your Art Calendar this Week” by: Sarah Cascone

New American Paintings, Editor's Pick of the Day