CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Take a seat: Dr. Berman unveils stool samples

Irwin Berman, Mondrian


Readers who turn your nose up at crass puns, turn the page!

  Consider yourself warned. As many of you know, since the end of last year, the s**t has hit the fan in Charlottesville's art world. First, the University of Virginia dumped Jill Hartz. Then Second Street Gallery squeezed out Leah Stoddard (er, I mean she "resigned"). And now Les Yeux du Monde has to find a new place to squat.

So, it figures UVA would make a big stink over a multi-part piece of art intended for Irwin Berman's exhibition, "Sedentary Pleasures: UnCommon Stools," at the UVA Art Museum. Flushed from the show, the poo-poohed video and sculpture commemorate "Seal," a UVA canine mascot from the 1940s who famously relieved himself on the megaphone of an opposing team's cheerleader. The expelled artwork, "The Great Seal of Virginia,"– which Les Yeux du Monde scooped up for display– features animation by UVA alumnus and bizarre 1990s cartoon strip "Ackxhpaez" creator Michael Wartella as well as a Berman-sculpted stool piled with orange and blue dog turds. Hello, scatological humor!

  A University publicist disingenuously explains the dropped piece does not fit with the rest of Berman's exhibition. In the words of Mike Meyers, "Ex-squeeze me?" UVA Medical School alumnus Berman is a proctologist as well as a sculptor, and his show is nothing if not a celebration of his tongue-in-cheek, go-with-what-you-know approach to creating art.

With the exception of a small, cast-silver tongue, the 15 works that passed the Museum's sniff test are all functional stools, packed with visual puns about everyone's favorite bodily orifices. For instance, the phallic "Object of Desire" is a hilarious take on "the crown jewels." Semi-precious stones sparkle from the rounded top of an upright silver shaft entwined with a metallic hose. Meanwhile, huge nuts stud the base, which Berman has crafted from a re-purposed hubcap.

Berman enjoys mucking around with the material expression of ideas, and even his most streamlined productions reek of intellectual content. The ivory smooth "Tusk, Tusk" mimics the extracted fang of a huge beast. A curved red cavity beckons at one end, while a white point pokes upward at the other. Berman takes this wink-wink dentata eroticism even further by offering two options for straddling the piece.

Hardly a load of crap, "Sedentary Pleasures" is a thoroughly entertaining lumping together of form, function, and fun. Perhaps the Museum should consult Dr. Berman about removing that stick from its a**.

Irwin Berman's exhibition, "Sedentary Pleasures: UnCommon Stools," is on view at the University of Virginia Art Museum through June 15. 155 Rugby Road. 924-3592.


1 comment

Ms Parsons: Eureka, somebody gets it! I am especially happy that you returned to what you seemed previously to have perceived as a "crime scene".

As for what you euphemistically refer to as "the dropped piece", THE GREAT SEAL sniffs ahead- approved by Outdoor Arts Committe for an Alumni Weekend World Premier at the GREAT SEAL gravesite. Although not permitted entry into the formal Program, the show will go on.

Bill Bennett has all the details. Look for the Posters-they are beautiful!

Above all, thanks for your kindness in relating to my work. All the best, Irwin