Collection Favorites: Bernard Kester Textiles

June 17, 2010
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I’ve chosen a group of pieces that I’m fortunate enough to have a personal connection to. It’s rare to have the opportunity to speak with an artist whose work you love, so I took this blog post as a chance to talk with Bernard Kester, an exhibition designer here at LACMA, about his textiles, which have been in rotation in the Art of the Americas Building. Bernard began designing textiles while an undergrad student at UCLA. The textiles were designed for a store on Robertson Blvd. Textiles eventually gave way to pottery and teaching (Bernard eventually became the Dean of the School of Art at UCLA). From his involvement with the California Design Collections to the simple beauty of the first floor of LACMA’s Ahmanson Building, Bernard’s enviable career plays out like the history of modernism itself.

Bernard Kester, Textile Length, "Cross Section," 1964, gift of Bernard Kester

Cross Section blew me away. The color palate, if described, sounds like it would never work. Yet as everyone here knows, Bernard is a master of color and he pulls it off. It manages to be comical and a bit grotesque simultaneously. When I first saw it I was reminded of the Visible Human Project, a 3-D rendered cross section of the human body which was done in 1994 by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The visual similarities are striking. I’m always attracted to art that intersects with science—throw in midcentury graphic design and I’m a goner! Cross Section scratches an aesthetic itch for me, like a dog having its belly rubbed.

I asked Bernard what he was looking at when designing his patterns, which all seem to reflect organic forms. Was science important? Where did the name come from? Mostly he seemed interested in what I had gleaned from them. I went on about biology and the natural world and dissection. “Hmm” he said. “No, I wasn’t looking at anything like that, but that’s interesting.” Then he added “Or it could have been a cut piece of cake, I don’t know.”

Michael Storc, Graphic Designer