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Geta Brătescu / MATRIX 254 (July 25—September 28, 2014)

Geta Brătescu: Mrs. Oliver in her traveling costume, 1985, reprinted 2012; gelatin silver print; 15⅜ × 15½ in.; courtesy the artist; Galerie Ivan, Bucharest; and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin. Photo: Mihai Brătescu.


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Berkeley, CA, July 21, 2014 — The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents MATRIX 254, featuring a selection of works by artist Geta Brătescu (b. 1926), a critical figure in the history of postwar Romanian art. For over fifty years, the artist has continually reinvented her practice and subject matter, alternating among film, textiles, collage, performance, photography, sculpture, and installation. What remains consistent throughout her body of work, in the words of the exhibition’s curator Apsara DiQuinzio, is “a rigorous, yet playful sense of experimentation.” Due in large part to Nicolae Ceauşescu’s totalitarian regime and Romania’s subsequent political isolation in the latter half of the twentieth century, Brătescu’s work was little known to international audiences until recently. For her first solo exhibition in a U.S. museum, Brătescu presents key works made between the years 1974 and 2000.

After formative studies at the Bucharest Academy of Fine Art, Brătescu worked as an illustrator and later as an artistic director for the cultural newspaper Secolul 20, in addition to developing her artistic projects. Toward the close of the seventies, she rented a studio that served as a place of work and retreat, and also increasingly functioned as a subject of her artistic practice, becoming a stage for temporary installations as well as a production site for her films.

Brătescu has equated the studio to her own state of being, explaining “the studio is myself,” a space she can explore both physically and psychically. The Studio (1978), one of her most significant works, shot with the aid of fellow artist Ion Grigorescu, is a lively parody of life in the studio. Based on an elaborate written scenario, it is divided into three sequences—The Sleep, The Awakening, and The Game. In the first, the camera pans across the studio’s contents, inspecting rolls of paper, printing machines, cabinets filled with jars, artworks, and even the artist herself sleeping on a cot. In the second sequence we see Brătescu at work, drawing on a large piece of paper. She lies down to mark the length of her own body on the paper. And in the final segment we see her pantomime various gestures: she plays patty-cake with an invisible partner; she builds a caricature out of a stool and work clothes; and she pulls her shirt above her head to become a puppet as she plays with various objects around her.

For Brătescu, the studio was a place of freedom and refuge, where her artistic identity could flourish outside of the view of the brutal totalitarian state she inhabited. Related to the performances Brătescu carried out in the studio is her frequent use of role-playing and self-portraiture, as in the photograph Mrs. Oliver in her traveling costume (1985), where she dons an alter ego. Drawing and collage have also been mainstays of her practice. In the series Memorie (Memory) (1990), Brătescu presents forty unique, abstract collages, all black and deep indigo painted on paper. Made just after the Romanian Revolution in 1989, these works subtly conjure her deep reflection on this dark period of her personal and national history.

Public Program
Curator Walk-Through
Sunday, July 27, 2014; 1 – 2 p.m.
Join Apsara DiQuinzio, curator of modern and contemporary art and Phyllis C. Wattis MATRIX Curator, for a walk-through of Geta Brătescu / MATRIX 254.
Included with gallery admission

Geta Brătescu / MATRIX 254
is organized by Apsara DiQuinzio, curator of modern and contemporary art and Phyllis C. Wattis MATRIX Curator. The MATRIX Program is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.

About the Artist
Geta Brătescu was born in Ploieşti, Romania, in 1926; she lives and works in Bucharest. She studied at the School of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest and at the Bucharest School of Fine Art. She worked primarily as a graphic designer in the 1950s and 1960s as she developed her conceptual studio practice, which began to flourish in the 1970s. She first exhibited a series of drawings in the Venice Bienniale in 1960 and exhibited frequently in Romania from the 1970s through the 1990s. Since then she has been included in numerous international exhibitions. Most recently she has had solo exhibitions at Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin (2014); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), Lyon (2013); Galeria Ivan, Bucharest (2011); Galerie Mezzanin, Vienna (2010); Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck (2008); and the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC), Bucharest (2007). Recent group exhibitions include: A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance, Tate Modern, London (2012–13); Intense Proximity, La Triennale, Paris (2012); the 12th Istanbul Biennale (2011); Museum of Desire, MUMOK, Vienna (2011); and Ostalgia, New Museum, New York (2011). MATRIX 254 is Brătescu’s first solo exhibition in a U.S. museum.

The MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art introduces the Bay Area community to exceptional work being made internationally, nationally, and locally, creating a rich connection to the current dialogues on contemporary art and demonstrating that the art of this moment is vital, dynamic, and often challenging. Confronting traditional practices of display and encouraging new, open modes of analysis, MATRIX provides an experimental framework for an active interchange between the artist, the museum, and the viewer. Since the program's inception in 1978, MATRIX has featured artists such as John Baldessari, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, Nan Goldin, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Shirin Neshat, Nancy Spero, and Andy Warhol. In recent years MATRIX has embraced a greater international scope, with the roster including Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Peter Doig, Omer Fast, Tobias Rehberger, Ernesto Neto, Rosalind Nashashibi, Tomás Saraceno, Mario Garcia Torres, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, representing countries as diverse as Finland, Germany, Iran, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, and many others.

Founded in 1963, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is UC Berkeley’s primary visual arts venue and among the largest university art museums in terms of size and audience in the United States. Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, BAM/PFA is a platform for cultural experiences that transform individuals, engage communities, and advance the local, national, and global discourse on art and ideas. BAM/PFA’s mission is “to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film.”

BAM/PFA presents approximately twenty art exhibitions and 380 film programs each year. The museum’s collection of over 19,000 works of art includes important holdings of Neolithic Chinese ceramics, Ming and Qing Dynasty Chinese painting, Old Master works on paper, Italian Baroque painting, early American painting, Abstract Expressionist painting, contemporary photography, and video art. Its film archive contains over 16,000 films and videos, including the largest collection of Japanese cinema outside of Japan, Hollywood classics, and silent film, as well hundreds of thousands of articles, reviews, posters, and other ephemera related to the history of film, many of which are digitally scanned and accessible online.

Museum Information
2626 Bancroft Way, just below College Avenue across from the UC Berkeley campus.

Gallery and Museum Store Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Open L@TE Fridays until 9 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Information: 24-hour recorded message (510) 642-0808; fax (510) 642-4889; TDD (510) 642-8734.

Website: bampfa.berkeley.edu