This exhibition features the small-format paintings by the San Francisco-based artist Elisheva Biernoff, which are inspired by enigmatic photographs she encounters and collects that impact her in one way or another. The photographs she gravitates towards are taken by strangers and evoke an element of ambiguity and reverie. As a result, Biernoff is also painting and collecting other peoples’ memories, friends, relatives, and landscapes. Because she does not know the story of each photograph, other than what she intuits by looking at it, she imagines and reflects on the anonymous traces of lives and places that are for the most part unknown to her.
Painting, for her, is a way to see and understand the subject of a photograph, given she spends so much more time looking at the image than the person who took the original picture. In effect, her work manifests a great sense of care for other people’s lost or discarded memories. About her work, Biernoff reflects, “I’m getting to spend time with someone who is absent. Absent because they’re unknown to me, because they’re far away, because wherever they are, they’re either an older version of the person in the photograph or no longer living.” She imbues her work with consideration and a belief that every tiny detail of the image is momentous and meaningful. In the process she creates a re-enchantment with the object, and constructs new memories that we can imagine and share, even if their origins remain unknown.
Biernoff’s process is slow and methodical; she typically takes about three months to complete one work that is the same diminutive size of the photograph she paints. Cumulatively, she builds the image over time, adding small characteristics as she goes until eventually the work adopts a photographic quality. She makes her paintings on thin sheets of plywood and paints both sides of the wood to also represent the backside of the photograph, setting the finished works on small hand-made shelves, or above bases so that multiple perspectives are possible. Biernoff captures the reverse side of the image with equal attention to detail as the front.
The exhibition will consist of approximately ten paintings, several of which will be new, along with a group of postcards depicting photos Biernoff has taken, which will be made available to the public. Notably, this will be the artist’s first solo museum exhibition. Biernoff was born in 1980, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and lives and works in San Francisco. She received an MFA from California College of the Arts and a BA from Yale University. She is represented by the Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.
Joachim and Nancy Hellman Bechtle