Bernard Gilardi, “We Belong”
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It’s been a good couple of months for artists who labored in complete isolation for decades, only to be discovered after their deaths. Anton Kern and White Columns recently mounted concurrent revivals of the upstate painter David Byrd (1926–2013), and now, with the aid of Maurizio Cattelan, Shrine performs a similar duty for Bernard Gilardi (1920–2008). Cattelan encountered Gilardi’s work in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where Gilardi spent more than 45 years working on his art at nights and on weekends in the basement of the house he shared with his wife and two daughters. It’s easy to seen why Cattelan, well-known as an art-world prankster, would fall for Gilardi’s compositions: In contrast to Byrd’s wispy magical realism, Gilardi, whose day job consisted of employment at a number of different lithography companies over the years, went for a garishly colored Surrealism that often dipped into homoerotic, and even transgender, themes—subjects that seem at odds with his life as a devoutly Catholic family man.