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Katherine Bernhardt’s Fruit Salad Mural Graces the Walls of Venus Over Los Angeles

By Michael Slenske

When the gallery Venus Over Manhattan approached Katherine Bernhardt about doing a solo show, the artist asked if she could create a mural. “They said, ‘We have this perfect wall,’” recalls Bernhardt. That wall, it turns out, was the façade of the gallery’s West Coast location, Venus Over Los Angeles, where the artist painted a tropical-themed piece titled Fruit Salad this month. “I’ve painted garage doors and the interiors of people’s apartments and the front room of the Happy Ending restaurant, but never something that big outside.”

Bernhardt made her art world debut in the early 2000s with dark paintings of couture-clad models. Twelve years later she abandoned the models for bold abstractions of Moroccan patterns, and then landed on her current style, which was inspired by a graffiti work she spied in New York. “It had a rainbow, a smiley face, a Popsicle, and a dollar sign on a white background,” remembers Bernhardt, who now spray paints pop culture graphics with African wax cloth motifs. With its bright, colorblocked simplicity, this pictorial style has earned her critical praise.

The artist has also agreed to the gallery’s initial request: She will put on a solo show back east at Venus Over Manhattan in September. “It’s all about Puerto Rico, so it’s fruit, sharks, water, sea turtles, all tropical,” notes Bernhardt, who titled the exhibition Pablo & Efrain, a nod to the artist twins behind the collective Poncili Creacion, whom she met during a recent residency on the island. “I’ve been going down there for ten years, and I love it. I want to move there.”

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