The paintings of Edward Bekkerman maintain an interiority whose vertical forms, are at once abstract and strangely human. Bekkerman offers his audience these presences as a means of communicating with an ethereal world in which the shapes of angels and people seem to have been merged into a single gestalt.
To realize in actual form the presences of spiritual bodies involves long labor in a contemplative mode. Bekkerman's movement in the direction of ideal principles made it necessary for him to find a shape that would read abstractly, as evidence of the unseen, and in a worldly way, so that the unseen might be given attributes tying the ethereal to the real. The results of his journey are deeply convincing in their unspoken dignity with the forms seemingly moving in a world of their own. We should realize that no matter how theoretical our understanding of these shapes may be, we much see them first before we conjecture their presence as something real. Their perfections remind us of our earthly lives and the inevitable call to, and fall resulting from, our sophistication. Somehow we must effect a balance between our humanity and our striving for contemplative insight; without both, it looks like we could no do justice to either.
Because Bekkerman's audience must be guided into a place in which paradoxes are merged, representing angelic presences demand insight and a continuous attempt to transform the sacred into visible form. The language he has chosen for such a task joins up with the traditions of abstract expressionism, whose gestural experiments are clearly incorporated into his own work. The color white plays a large role in Bekkerman's canvases, offsetting the other colors he uses, including black and standing in as ghostly auras that intimate a spiritual reality. One could easily argue, on seeing the artist's efforts, the details of his devotion combine realism with an aptitude for celestial insight; his audience never senses that Bekkerman is overreaching his goals. Supposed conflict is transformed into a unity the likes of which are both individual, that is, the result of contemplative insight, and public, that is, the consequences of an adherence to the traditions of the New York School. We should be aware that this achievement doesn't occur within the realm of the invisible; rather, it is mediated by shape and color and overall composition, the traditional elements of the artist's arsenal.
"Spirits," the title of Bekkerman's ongoing series, transform his sequence of wavering vertical forms into an extended meditation on the meaningfulness of the spiritual life. Like many visionary artist, Bekkerman's vision is idiosyncratic and profoundly specific to his own sensibility. This does not mean, however, that his sense of the unseen leading us is private. Instead he expresses himself by creating forms that are specific in their shape and also transparent-rather like what we might expect the angelic to be. The real difficulty facing Bekkerman is found in the very hard task of giving form to what we but partially know, if we know at all. The artist's audience must trust his explorations and discoveries as interesting in their own right--even if the terms of their portrayal defy convention. Bekkerman's language is distinctive to the point of being slightly ceived scant attention during his lifetime but are today characterized as possessing immense insight after his death. Sometimes, but especially now, integrity must wait to be discovered; Bekkerman's long odyssey of the self is ready to be contextualized, brought into current discussion.
In Bekkerman's "Winter" series the effect of the painting is that of tall, thin, multicolored shapes that are crowded up against each other; they function both individually and as a group of spirits in silent attendance. The forms are apparitions whose presence en masse would seem to argue for solidity and stability, yet their individuality, composed of differing colors and a good deal of white, indicates a separate distinct existence, even if hard to say exactly what they are. On the ground at the bottom of the painting lies what appears to be a blanket of snow, a genuine reference to the world of nature. Yet the real interest of these ghostly manifestations lies in their ability to summon a sense of supernatural beings whose attendance indicates something of a guardian spirit-it is as if we are being watched for our own good. Green and red and pinkish tan in conjunction with blacks and whites, seamlessly merge in an abstract idiom. The overall gestalt of these paintings encompasses both the massive and the particular, with the colorful forms working individually and in cohesion with each other.
It might be asked, why would an artist spend so much time and effort on a theme that is inherently difficult, more or less unreachable within the details of its representation? The answer is that humankind has always sought a reality beyond the one of flesh and blood on earth; the search for transcendence is one of our general characteristics, usually understood as piety but in a few cases achieved by artists of outstanding integrity and imagination. Orthodoxy does tend to diminish spiritual insight in the sense that is does not allow for a certain rebelliousness that is key to many artists' sensibilities. Yet it is also true that the role of defiance has become a stylized cliché in contemporary life, making it next to impossible to work out an aesthetic of meaningful resistance to the powers that be. Bekkerman's originality is also a denial of much of today's art. To his credit he has established a firm ground on which to build his mental pictures of forms that cannot be separated from the ideal, the unknown. In a painting like Spirits 12, the figures are presences are portrayed as larger shapes; they too follow Bekkerman's colorful treatment of the tall narrow forms, the hues spilling over into each other as if the flickering figures might merge into an overall abstraction. Here the idealization of these ethereal beings results in an indistinct outward appearance, as though there were no differences between the theme of spirituality and the subject matter of paint as a physical medium.
Bekkerman's wonderful command of his are allows us to appreciate and to some degree participate in his vision. The work may also be enjoyed as examples of pure painting; one has the sense that Bekkerman is an original not only in his concept but also in his painting style. The vertical strips hover on the canvas as if they intended to free themselves entirely of worldly bonds. The patches of color both build up Bekkerman's structure and at the same time eloquently intimate the legacy of gestural abstraction, which contextualizes the artist in a historical sense. It matters little, finally, whether we can translate his imagination from a personal abstraction into common ground primarily because the paintings command their own vision, being self-sufficient in powerful ways. Bekkerman asks a considerable amount of his audience, in the sense that we too should imagine what we see as visible evidence of an idealized esthetic. But it would be a mistake to speculate too freely in regard to the "Spirits" and "winter" series; the artist really has something very specific in mind when he sets out to paint the invisible.
In the end it becomes clear that Bekkerman is an artist whose faith is found in the activity of painting indiscernible presences– a paradox that he asks his visitors to share. He refuses to make things easy for us, we are expected to develop our own independent line of reasoning in the face of what we see. The world of the spirits demands a response whose characteristics remain utterly private and personal, and it is much to Bekkerman's credit that he has found a language that convinces us of the legitimacy of his vision. In a world increasingly lost to materialism and consumer habits, his perception that we live alongside the presence of spirits may seem peculiar and eccentric. Yet we must remember that quirks of the mind often reveal incisive insights into its working. Bekkerman secures views of the real that capture both our hearts and minds. This is the measure of a true painter, an artist whose integrity leaves us with much to consider. Bekkerman's brilliant raids on the unseen take us there with him and he is an excellent guide.
— Jonathan Goodman