Two Complementary Exhibits at Berkeley Art Museum

In its latest stroke of programming brilliance, the Berkeley Art Museum pairs its 248th Matrix exhibition, featuring recent work by Brooklyn-based painter Nicole Eisenman, with Ballet of Heads, a sprawling and diverse exhibition of works from the museum’s permanent collection. While the painter’s vivid, expressionistic works are generous and easily accessible in and of themselves, the complementary collection prompts viewers to situate them in a perhaps further-reaching art historical network than one might have originally assumed, in effect adding depth and richness to both shows.

As noted by curator Apsara DiQuinzio in a text accompanying the Matrix exhibition, Eisenman produced most of the works on display at the beginning of this decade or the end of the last one, placing them squarely in the shadow of George W. Bush’s two terms — far from a sunny period, in the artist’s view. Often operating with an overt political edge, one series of

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