Katherine Bernhardt

Katherine Bernhardt's Magic Flying Carpets of the Berber Kingdom of Morocco

June 2–June 18, 2017

The artist Katherine Bernhardt met the Berber Youssef Jdia while travelling in Morocco and they currently live in Brooklyn with their son, Khalifa. Katherine's fascination with the carpets quickly seeped into her paintings; the patterns and wild color combinations making complete sense with her earlier raw and loose portraits of models torn from magazines. For a solo show at CANADA, Katherine transformed the gallery into a souk, and has since continued to hold roving pop-up souks in New York⎯at various galleries including Feature Inc., in projects organized by Jeanne Greenberg and Clarissa Dalrymple, and in Los Angeles at the Pacific Design Center and International Art Objects.

Katherine and Youssef travel throughout Morocco to collect these unique rugs. Katherine curates them in accordance with her aesthetic, while Youssef's self-trained eye after years of experience⎯offers a different perspective; combined, their take is at once ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’. In addition to supporting the predominantly female laborers who create the rugs, Katherine and Youssef’s mission is to spur production and keep the vital weaving traditions of these rural women alive. The carpets are handmade by both Berber ‘cave’ women and nomads in tents, using hand-spun wool from their own sheep and recycled clothing from their respective families. These rugs can be read like hieroglyphics.

The many symbols to be found within the weavings range from tents, tangines, and mountains to ‘evil eye’ repellents. There are also references to vaginal and birthing shapes, as well as abstract designs and painterly compositions. In terms of style, the carpets range from the traditional ‘Beni Ouarain-style’ (mostly white and cream-colored) to the contemporary ‘boucherouites’ or rag rugs; there are even some titled ‘Picasso-style’ for their visual connections to the artist’s cubist and abstract phases.

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Gordon Robichaux