On Sunday evening, after a full afternoon in the Freer and Sackler galleries, a tour of the Hirshhorn and a stroll around Washington, the ITE team bundles into the van for a visit to Jeff Bernstein and Judy Chernoff in their lovely suburban home. Jeff and Judy have been building their collection of art in wood for about 12 years, they recently remodeled their house to improve the display, and they’re both active with the Collectors of Wood Art. You can read a delightful essay about the Bernstein-Chernoff story in the ITE blog for 2011 (there’s a link at the end of this post), so before we get to the photos let’s just note that this is a purposeful collection focused on larger sculptural forms in wood, ceramic, glass, and fiber. Jeff and Judy both agreed that when encountering new work they know within seconds whether they’d like to acquire it. With two sons in college it’s not always easy to proceed, so the collection is growing more slowly now than in some past years. But grow it does, riding on Jeff’s infectious enthusiasm. And Judy’s delicious cooking.
Jeff Bernstein begins our tour with a group of ceramic vessels. He wants to be clear that it’s not all about art in wood, but about related forms and sculptural investigations.
And a lot of it is about art in wood, like this grouping that includes work by Betty Scarpino, Harvey Fein and Douglas Fisher.
Gaynor Dowling and Neil Turner inspect a basket woven from strands of paper. Gaynor has a fiber-arts background and a particular interest in basketry.
The collection includes superb examples of contemporary Japanese basketry, like this intricate piece Jeff shows to Malcolm and Gaynor.
Malcolm is entranced by this basketry sculpture, also from Japan.
Jeff Bernstein selects a Todd Hoyer sculpture from the main grouping in the family’s great room.
The incredible lightness of a David Ellsworth turning amazes Ben Carpenter, while Malcolm looks on. Lots more great art in wood in the background of this shot.
Hunt Clark roughs out his sculptures with a chain saw then carves and sands to impeccable surfaces and thicknesses. The piece has such a strong sculptural presence that Jeff displays it on its own pedestal, explaining that it doesn’t play well with others.
Malcolm examines the carved and blackened surface of this tall vessel in the Bernstein collection.
Kinetic and haptic sculpture by Siegfried Schreiber is always a delight, as Neil Turner learns. The ball bearing rolls in a groove in the rim of this round-bottom vessel. It rolls with the merest touch.
Jeff inverts the Schreiber piece — the rolling ball does not fall out — and shows Gaynor how it evokes the sound of the sea.
Jeff took a weekend workshop with David Ellsworth to try his own hand at the lathe and to better understand the art he loves. His first piece blew apart but he kept the fragments as a souvenir.
Judy Chernoff likes it when guests appreciate her fine collection.