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 Gene Beery  (1937 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/California/Wisconsin      Known for: funk imagery-words, conceptual

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Eugene Brian Beery is primarily known as Gene Beery

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Racine, Wisconsin, Gene Beery established a painting career as one of the pioneers of text-based art in New York City at a time when many persons were feeling burnout from Abstract Expressionism.

He had studied at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin before going to New York where he attended the Art Students League and then received a fellowship from the William and Noma Copley Foundation. He had only one New York exhibition, and that event was at the Alexander Iolas Gallery in 1963. The next year, having decided he preferred to live near the Sierra Nevadas, he moved to Northern California, where he publishes books and continues to create "word paintings that look and read like signs you see in shop windows". ("New York Times", May 18, 2001). This same reviewer, Ken Johnson, wrote, "while you are at it, read some of Mr. Beery's books. They are highly amusing too".

In 1961, while employed as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art, he pursued his own painting talents, and was especially interested in the reexamination of contemporary abstract movements in painting and sculpture and the emerging pop art. He also noticed that people responded much more strongly to written words than to traditional visual imagery. His response was paintings he called "logoscapes", his still lifes with words that reflected his motto that "one word is worth a thousand pictures". He referred to this concept as 're-ification', the process in which the abstract name for something (the word) is regarded as the material thing." (Matrix) An example is Beery's work of 1961 titled "Howdy Pardners",a parody of western films.

In the exhibition catalogue of his work titled "MATRIX", at the Wadsworth Atheneum, 1980, it was written: "All of the works in MATRIX suggest Beery's easy involvement with language on the most basic level. The words are clearly and casually printed by the artist's own hand and the paint is allowed to drip. The unmistakable feeling of a personal spontaneous gesture prevails."

Titles of some of his "logoscapes" are "Temporarily Closed", "Out of Style", N.F.S., "This is My Last Serious Painting", "Be An Artist Tomorrow", and "Here Lies the Corpse". These works, completed in the 1960s, play off of informational signs, making words the subject of paintings.

In a letter dated December 17, 1979, to Andrea Miller-Keller, curator of the MATRIX exhibition, Beery wrote about the fun he had with his paintings where "the word works as art" and the fact that his book publishing was an extension of his fascination with words. . . .isn't that what Art is all about---to do what you think you should in the spirit of freedom, keeping in mind it's nice to find agreement and that the products or actions have some human benificence."

An exhibition reviewer in the "New York Times", May 11, 2001 wrote of Beery's work featured at the Mitchell Algus Gallery: "The wordy sign paintings by this pioneering Conceptualist mischief-maker are funny and philosophically knotty. A recent work, 'Essences Only', consists of a comically self-referential message hastily brushed in black paint on white canvas: 'My life is too short to spend much time on formal painting art concerns. I am simply recording essences' ."

"California Works", California State Fair, Sacramento, CA 1992, 1994, 1997
"An Open Mind", Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, 1991
"Word as Image", USA Tour, 1990-1991
"Matrix 55", Matrix Gallery, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford CT, 1980
"Elegant Miniatures from San Francisco", San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco and Kyoto, Japan, 1983.
"Biennial Exhibition", Whitney Museum, New York City, 1975
"955,000", Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia, Canada, 1970
"557,087", Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, 1969
"Spirit of the Comics", University of Pennsylvania, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA 1969
"Recent Figure Painting USA", New York City, 1961
"Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors Annual", Milwaukee, WI 1957, 1959, 1964

The Di Rosa Collection, Napa, CA
The Lewitt Collection, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
Chase Manhattan Bank, New York City
Illinois Telephone and Telegraph, Chicago, IL
Marine Bank, Milwaukee, WI

Material submitted June 2004 by the artist including his resume, copies of "New York Times" reviews, and the MATRIX catalogue of the Wadsworth Atheneum, January to March, 1980.

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