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An Artist’s Life: Conversation with Joe Amrhein

A Feb. 24, 6:30 p.m. dialogue between the Berman Museum of Art director and a well-known Brooklyn artist will focus on the artist’s dual identity as a working artist and gallery owner.

In Conversation: Joe Amrhein and Charles Stainback promises to be somewhat free-flowing, lively and insightful, says Stainback. “Aspiring writers are often told to write about what they know. ‘Art about art’ reflects that advice in a perversely postmodern way. The jargon that permeates so much art writing today, especially in magazines such as Artforum and October, becomes fodder for Joe Amrhein’s vivid text-based paintings.”

Amrhein is the founder and co-owner/Director of Pierogi gallery and The Boiler, both in Brooklyn, N.Y. Known for its inventive program, Pierogi exhibits the work of contemporary emerging and mid-career artists in a wide variety of media; from drawing and painting, to sculpture, installation, photography, and video. Trained as a traditional sign painter, he translates out-of-context snippets such as “pre-postmodern cool” or “snarky conceptual witticism” into beautifully crafted paintings made from layers of translucent Mylar. Amrhein started working in this way in the mid-1990s, and since then has made these multilayered works his signature, contrasting the bold clarity of his crisp, hand-lettered fonts with the incomprehensible nature of the words they comprise. “His works bring front and center the textual obfuscations that result in smirks and snickers from some and total bewilderment in others,” Stainback notes.

Amrhein is one of 12 artists in the current exhibition Museum Studies, on view until April 3, curated by Stainback. Museum Studies brings together artwork by influential contemporary artists, all of whom find inspiration in the vocabulary, procedures, and conventions of museum practice. Taking their cue from the essential but often mundane duties of art handlers, conservators, critics, curators, and registrars, the artists in Museum Studies explore aspects of the museum’s functionality that generally remain out-of-sight or unacknowledged.