AUSTRIAN-BORN painter and fashion designer Sigmar Berg arrived in Los Angeles with his family nearly two years ago, in the midst of a hiatus from his work as an abstract artist.
An accessory designer by day who, under the Beryll label, creates chic shades, functionally trendy belts and hefty silver jewelry out of his Santa Monica studio, Berg fully intended to resume painting in his self-described big, vibrant style. Much to his surprise, though, he's become a photographer, and he credits the City of Angels with sparking his new inspiration
"The light in Los Angeles is amazing," says Berg, 39, whose previous experience in photography had been essentially limited to shooting catalogs and other commercial fare. "The city where you live affects you. Since living here, my eye has been developing in a new direction, seeing things in the strong light here, the specific layout of the buildings or the shape of a palm tree. L.A. is so exceptional."
For "Developed Views II," his first local solo show at West Hollywood's Ambrogi-Castanier Gallery, Berg has amassed photographs shot in Mexico and across the U.S., namely New York City, Utah, Hawaii and a subsection of California centered around Big Sur, Los Angeles and the environs surrounding his Malibu home.
Thus, it's not geography or subject matter that creates a thematic through-line in this collection, he says; it's point of view. "I say they're reduced to the maximum to underline an emotional effect," he says. "It's reduced to the shape of the street, the green of a tree." Whether he's capturing the latticework of New York's Williamsburg Bridge or a traffic jam on L.A.'s Pacific Coast Highway, "People who see this situation all the time say, 'It's crazy how you see this,' " he says.
Using a Leica exclusively, Berg achieves most of his effects in-camera as a consequence of exposure manipulation. Often, he'll also run his images through a second level of computer processing, to tint, supersaturate or otherwise alter the drama of his colors. On the whole, however, he eschews an all-encompassing Photoshop aesthetic. "Ten years ago it was great to see a picture like that, but now we have to overproduce everything," he says. "Our natural vision has nothing to do with the pictures we see."
As a final step, Berg employs a particularly thick ink, but not photo stock paper. Rather he layers his images onto a painter's canvas.
"For me, it's very important, the texture of canvas," he says. "It gives it the appearance more of a work of art."
'DEVELOPED VIEWS II' WHERE: Ambrogi-Castanier Gallery, 300 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood WHEN: Opens 6-10 p.m. Sat.; ends June 28 PRICE: Free INFO: (310) 652-5511, ambrogicastaniergallery.com