Michael Berryhill: Scenic Route | Rachel Youn: Well Adjusted

2276 East 16th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Sep 23, 5 PM - 8 PM — ends Oct 28, 2023
Night Gallery is pleased to present Scenic Route, an exhibition of new paintings by Michael Berryhill. This will be the artist's third solo show with the gallery following Loony Tombs, 2016, and Romancing the Stoned, 2019.

Using a dry brush to add paint and a palette knife to scrape away, Berryhill works and reworks layers of vibrant oil paint onto canvas. He builds his weathered surfaces of color, cultivating his compositions slowly through both additive and subtractive gestures with the patience and focus of a prospector.

Berryhill refuses to ever give up on a canvas. He believes that, with time, a solution always presents itself. Some of his paintings take up to sixty iterations to arrive at completion. This process of changing images omitted or reworked only to be transformed yet again is, for the artist, like watching the changing vistas through a car window on a long drive and turning the wheel at each hint of a view.

As in earlier bodies of work, the paintings in Scenic Route are created without visual source material, allowing the artist to openly unearth new images. In spite of this, the paintings are not alien but informed by Berryhill’s deep knowledge of the medium’s history. In Rights of Spring, one of the larger paintings included, the suggestion of a still life; a calligraphic flourish; the shadow of a fauvist interior; and a disintegrating, geometric abstraction all join together in a kaleidoscopic dance.

In order to distinguish the journey from the destination, Berryhill insists that no painting is finished until it earns the right to not be destroyed. Then it has arrived, becomes a painting, a genuine artifact.


Night Gallery is pleased to announce Well Adjusted, a presentation of new mechanized sculptures by Rachel Youn. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, following their inclusion in the 2022 group show Shrubs.

Youn’s sculptures are lonely, lovely machines. Their motors derive from second-hand massagers, baby rockers, exercise machines, and other devices intended for self-soothing and self-improvement. The artist attaches these exposed, abstracted engines to fake plants and other found objects. Youn’s animated sculptures labor and entertain on an endless loop. Their gestures conflate comfort and care with eroticism and desire. As they jiggle and turn, the sculptures probe the boundaries between pain and pleasure, control and hysteria, exercise and overexertion.

Notions of feminized labor and American aspiration undergird Well Adjusted. The mechanized movements suggest the presence of a laboring body such as a mother rocking a child to sleep or limbs massaging the fatigue out of one’s body. Youn also references scholar Lauren Berlant’s idea of “cruel optimism,” that our desires related to jobs, social equality, and partnership are actually impediments to happiness; we feel we’re moving towards better lives without ever making real progress. As we contort to meet the demands of unaccommodating systems, we may rethink what it means to be “well adjusted.”

Perfect Lovers (2023) serves as a centerpiece for the show. The work features two motors from baby rockers, connected on the floor by an s-shaped metal bar that’s submerged in a bed of white sand. The motors bump up and down, squeaking softly as each waves a metal arm back and forth. These limbs hold two artificial plants, which hover above the ground in an apparent dance. Sometimes the plants sync up. Sometimes they drift apart.alt

The artwork title references Félix González-Torres’s installation Untitled (Perfect Lovers) (1987-1990). He represented his “lovers” with two clocks, initially wound to the same time and gradually diverging. Youn describes their own Perfect Lovers as diaristic: The artist’s immigrant parents have lived in the New Mexican desert for years, and Youn considers the comforts they provide each other, even when out of step with the other partner and their surrounding landscape.

When melancholy pervades the presentation, Youn’s process embraces connection. The artist often sources their motors from Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Gathering materials requires small interactions with strangers around their New Haven home. The sellers give the artist machines once used to soothe their children and themselves, and memories of these bodies and past lives haunt Youn’s sculptures. They’ll keep moving, as long as their motors allow.