Ken Berman is a northern California, self-taught, Outsider artist whose work combines the energy of the urban environment with the mechanics our modern age. Born in New Jersey, Ken’s journey as an artist began as an undergraduate studying architecture at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. where he was inspired by the raw energy and visual power of the old Bethlehem Steel Mills. As fate would have it, while studying to get his master’s degree, Ken was invited to a book-signing at Robert Rauschenberg’s home/studio in New York City. This chance meeting gave Ken the opportunity to speak to Robert about his life as an artist. Inspired by this encounter Ken began his own fine art career by pursuing his own artistic vision comprised of architectural and technical elements.
Over the years Ken has won many awards for his work including First Place and Best of Show awards. He has also shown his work at the prestigious Sausalito Art Festival as well as ArtExpo New York and has had the honor of showing his work in several California museums including the Crocker Museum and the Sonoma Valley Museum.
Ken’s work is in many private residences throughout the world and is also included in the public collection of Keysight Technologies and Kaiser Permanente.
Building forms and mechanical appurtenances have always interested me and are the primary inspiration for my work. Ever since I was an undergraduate at Lehigh University, surrounded by the Bethlehem Steel Mills, I have explored my own inner ‘factory’ with the goal of creating a visual language that articulates my own theories of art and life.
I loosely describe my artwork as Industrial with architectonic and mechanical influences referencing Cubism, Constructivism, Dadaism and the Steampunk movement. Some have misinterpreted my work as being just about machines; however, whereas the components are portrayed in a mechanical way the imagery is in fact genderless with the ’machine’ representing a variety of human characteristics including strength, power and confidence.
Metaphorically, my work is about the mechanics of this modern age. In many ways it is a visual equivalent to Shakespeare's monologue "All the World's a Stage" from As You Like It in that the men and women of any given time are merely players in the world in which they live. With invisible algorithms and binary codes controlling much of our daily lives, the mechanics of this modern age have removed the control that people thought they had in their lives and their destiny. The unknown 'purposes' of the images incorporated in my work are meant to confront that paradigm to maintain the balance between man and machine by bringing to the forefront the key concept of being human ... abstract thought and purpose.
My work has been described as:
“A mysterious schematic for an extraterrestrial widget” - Colin Berry, Artweek
Schematic: Generalized diagram, plan, or scheme
Extraterrestrial: Outside or originating outside the limits of the earth
Widget: A small mechanical device whose name is not known or cannot be recalled
What is Outsider Art?
Link to the Outsider Art Fair 2016 Paris website:
One of my largest collectors also collects the work of Jean Dubuffet amongst other notable contemporary artists. This got met thinking about what category or group my work belonged. After additional research I came upon the website link above and found that in his 1947 manifesto, French artist and curator Jean Dubuffet coined the term art brut (aka Raw Art/Outsider Art) as follows: "We understand by this term works produced by persons unscathed by artistic culture, where mimicry plays little or no part (contrary to the activities of intellectuals). These artists derive everything...from their own depths, and not from the conventions of classical or fashionable art."
Master of Architecture - New Jersey Institute of Technology - 1991
Bachelor of Arts in Architecture - Lehigh University - 1988
Licensed Architect - California - since 2001