• Christian Ruiz Berman (Mexican-American, born 1982)

    American Dream (trickle down), 2021, acrylic on panel, 16 inches x 20 inches.

    Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Christian Ruiz Berman 

    Christian Ruiz Berman (Mexican-American, born 1982)

    American Dream (trickle down), 2021, acrylic on panel, 16 inches x 20 inches.

    Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Christian Ruiz Berman 

  • Christian Ruiz Berman (Mexican-American, born 1982) 

    Double Xolotl, 2021, acrylic on panel, 16 inches x 20 inches.

    Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Christian Ruiz Berman

    Christian Ruiz Berman (Mexican-American, born 1982) 

    Double Xolotl, 2021, acrylic on panel, 16 inches x 20 inches.

    Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Christian Ruiz Berman

Christian Ruiz Berman: Hortus Inconclusus

Friday, October 14, 2022 to Sunday, March 5, 2023
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

New York-based artist Christian Ruiz Berman (Mexican American, born 1982) draws from personal histories of migration and adaptation in his intricate paintings. His stylistic influences are wide: perspectives and the mood of Japanese ukiyo-e printing; the direct and tragicomic nature of mariachi ballads and Mexican folklore; and the confrontation of Indigenous, European, and Tibetan Buddhist symbology. He remixes traditions of abstraction, realism, and trompe l’oeil into joyous compositions that teem with color and vitality. He draws from personal backgrounds in graphic design and architecture, his Mexican heritage, and narratives of adaptation and migration to create dynamic packed scenes. These guides support Ruiz Berman’s layered methods of working with abstraction and iconography. His work encourages viewers to examine what is exotic and what is commonplace, what is authentic and what is fabricated.

Ruiz Berman is fascinated by what philosophers like Donna Haraway and Karen Barad call “tentacularity,” an ontology of actions and connections rather than hierarchies of objects. The paintings in this series challenge anthropocentrism (human primacy), and feature mischievous animals that spin connective threads. We are reminded of the interdependence of living organisms, objects, and histories, as well as all the other entangled elements from which reality is constructed. Ruiz Berman’s work is highly influenced by the writing of Gabriel García Márquez (Columbian 1927–2014), who is known for writing in the style of magical realism, where magical or supernatural phenomena are presented as real. Ruiz Berman’s paintings blur the line between supernatural and the natural, familiar world. They bring fables, folk tales, and myths into contemporary social relevance, engaging in a form of visual archaeology that aims to question human progress and hierarchies of visibility.

The exhibition title Hortus Inconclusus references the Latin hortus conclusus, an enclosed garden, which traditionally symbolizes both paradise and purity. While an attempt to put brackets around nature, Ruiz Berman’s paintings align with the prefix “In-“ of “Inconslusus” suggesting a push against confinement. Their entwined shapes, animals, and natural imagery move the viewer’s eye around to forms, shapes, and textures that maintain a constant flow, making them less “enclosed” and instead navigable toward an array of formal and conceptual influences.

This exhibition is organized by Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.