Art / GIF Reviews

Filthy Dreams GIF Review: Katherine Bernhardt’s “Done With Xanax” At Canada

Katherine Bernhardt, E.T. + Xanax + Reese’s Pieces, 2019, Acrylic and spray paint on canvas (Courtesy of the artist and Canada, New York)

How could anyone be done with Xanax? When the nostalgia bug hits and you can’t avoid compulsively revisiting imagery from a media-soaked 1980s childhood, who doesn’t need even just a little smidgen from a bar to quiet down the blaring romanticism? I know I certainly did while visiting Katherine Bernhardt’s Done with Xanax at Canada Gallery.

The exhibition is filled with large expressionistic portraits of E.T. Yes, that E.T. Our collective wide-eyed alien buddy from Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film who biked his way through our Gen X/older millennial youth, occasionally in drag (The realization of our generation’s rapid aging while viewing the show had me muttering: “Elliott…OUUUUUCH!”). While Bernhardt is no stranger to mining cartoonish pop culture icons such as the Pink Panther and Garfield, surrounding them with cigarettes or watermelons, E.T. holds a particularly cherished spot in the artist’s heart. According to her sister’s corresponding essay, Bernhardt saw the film eighteen times in the theater as a child. That’s dedication.

Depicted in shimmering acrylic and spray paint, Bernhardt contextualizes E.T. amidst the surrealistic, teeth-rotting, mind-altering ruins of late 20th century American culture: Pepsi, Reese’s Pieces (alien approved!), Pac Man and yes, Xanax. I mean, what could be more American than embracing tinfoil hat theories about extraterrestrials, while courting cavities and benzo addictions? I certainly can’t think of anything, so read on for the rest of my GIF review:

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