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Lyric Escape Paintings by Lawrence Ferlinghetti 

When: April 15-May 10 2009

"Luddites, Buddhists, vegans, psychics, exotic mystics, dopers, [and] psychedelic visionaries," according to painter, poet, and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti, loathe "the dominant technocratic materialist consciousness of America today." Ferlinghetti, an artist for sixty years, escapes from "skyscraper America" into the realm of imagination inhabited by visionary artists, whom he considers natural "enemies of the state." The twelve paintings assembled here by Berkeley Art Center Interim Director Kate Eilertsen merge figuration and abstraction, exploring romantic/symbolist themes through expressionist means; one critic even dubbed the poet the godfather of 1980s Italian neo-expressionism. In "Freud," a man silhouetted like a cave-painting hunter confronts love and death, eros and thanatos. In "Proust," reminiscent of Picasso's elegy for Casagemas, the bedridden writer is granted artistic immortality by "the golden bird of memory." Two "Sun Boat" paintings revisit the archetypal theme of the soul's journey. Lyric Escape runs through May 10 at Berkeley Art Center (1275 Walnut St., Berkeley). or 510-644-6893.

— DeWitt Cheng


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