Gallery 415


Solo Exhibition


'Bar Code / Branding America'



image: Guillermo Bert



Artist Reception: Thursday August 7, 5:30 -- 7:30 pm


Exhibition Dates: August 7 - September 27, 2008


Gallery 415 is pleased to present new work by the eminent Chilean artist Guillermo Bert, well known for his sociopolitical murals and poetic, painterly mixed-media collages. Bert will be showing a new body of work that continues to explore that field, but in a more abstract and conceptual manner. Concurrently to ths gallery exhibition, Bert’s piece "The Price of Heaven" is included in the fall show at the Museum of Latin American Art in LA; ‘Spiritual and Religious Practices’.  
Having grown up under the autocratic General Pinochet, Bert has a less trusting attitude toward authority than most Americans. An early mural, Seeds of Illusion, depicted television sets cast adrift, a perhaps prescient vision of eco-collapse threatening a narcotized, passive society addicted to reality shows but reality-averse. Other, more poetic works depicted figures as if seen through the mists of time, shredded like old posters, or peppered with holes as if gunshot, or reassembled from partial renderings in various notebooks: poignant fossils juxtaposing Old Master and new movie imagery, as excavated by some future archaeologist or cultural anthropologist.
Bert’s new work is based, appropriately for our jittery Terror-Alert climate, on the theme of encryption, the high-tech collecting, coding, and decoding of information — and, whatever its benefits in managerial efficiency, its reduction of human beings to abstract demographic data streams. In his Branding America series Bert deconstructs the Universal Price Control bar code, the ubiquitous scanner-readable zebra stripes adorning everything manufactured nowadays, from bottled water to library books. Bert uses computer-guided laser cutters to create reliefs of them in industrial-grade plastic coated with lustrous urethane auto paint in red, white and blue (Chile’s colors as well as ours), or in wood coated with gold leaf, so that the symbols themselves become objects of desire (as art tends to be) — although satirical ones, with sardonic labels, like RED STATE / WHITE LIES / BLUE STATE. Some of the taller reliefs suggest, intentionally or not, boxy modernist high-rise buildings.
Geometric abstraction, of course, has a distinguished history in modernist painting, from Kandinsky and Mondrian through Stella and Scully, so Bert’s appropriation of the UPC code fits nicely into the history of art; but stripes also have their theological echoes, denoting Christ’s flagellation welts once upon a time. In some of Bert’s images the stripes even seem to weep or bleed from the emblematic images he chooses from art and architecture, like a pre-Colombian artifact, coded JUSTICE. Branding, of course, refers to a corporation’s (or political party’s) success in making consumers associate a particular quality with its product; in Bert’s wooden reliefs, with their blackened images, it takes on a more sinister, epidermal connotation redolent of conquistadors and slavemasters.
In addition to the Branding America works, Bert will be showing pieces from the series El Dorado, dealing with the idea of the Globalization. These are mixed media pieces combine pre-Colombian images with barcodes to create hybrid icons, coated with 24 ct. gold leaf -- in reference of the historic and mythological quest of El Dorado. A conceptually related series, but visually quite different is Encrypted Messages, classically and eternally beautiful, with lengthy faux-texts in Greek that here and there suddenly decode themselves into semi-legible Greco-English. In Fountain of Youth, “facelift” and “Botox” pop out at us; in Nuclear Club, “North Korea,” “Pakistan,” “China” and “United States.” (No Iran yet.) Deciphering hidden persuaders knowing they’re there is the fun here, but discerning their hidden constant presence in the daily media round is our challenge the rest of the time.

Other Gallery News

Bajo Fondo Tango Club: Join Gallery 415 for a free concert to see the Internationally acclaimed Bajofondo, a collective of Argentine and Uruguayan musicians. They blend the drama and passion of tango music with diverse electronic genres ranging from house, trance and trip hop to dub, drum and bass, and more. Sunday August 3, 2:00pm at Stern Grove.

Look for us right around the mixing table - by the orange balloons. Remember to come early, around noon and bring your picnic lunch. It tends to fill up quickly.

Gallery 415 in San Francisco focuses on modern and contemporary art from Latin America. The gallery program challenges the traditional views of Latin American art and showcases the great range of styles, materials, themes and aesthetics in artistic production from this diverse region. The gallery is located in the Union Square area of downtown San Francisco and is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am-5:30pm. For more information please contact: Christina Bosemark 1.415.690.0026 or email

49 Geary Str. 4th floor | San Francisco, CA 94108 | p: 415.398.2158 | f: 415.341.1137 || Tue - Sat, 11:00am - 5:30pm