Goblet Portraits 1977


The work of Zeke Berman demonstrates a truly unique eye in the world of photography. We are truly grateful to have such a talented artist on board, partaking in our upcoming auction.

Berman has honed his craft over the last 35 years, producing singular, studio-based photographs that reflect his long-standing interest in visual cognition and optics.

His work has evolved much over the years but always explores an intersection between sculpture, photography and drawing.

From the outset Berman received strong critical acclaim. His work has been collected, published and exhibited in galleries and museums such as MoMA, The Metropolitan, The Whitney, and Art Institute of Chicago. He has been featured in the first New Photography Exhibition at MoMA and has received multiple awards, including the Guggenheim, NEA and NYFA Arts Fellowships.

In the beginning

As a kid, Berman loved sculpture. He attended the High School of Music and Art and studied sculpture at the Philadelphia College of Art. He only backed into photography after graduating. To date he approaches photography as a studio based art and his sculptural training clearly plays an important part in his working process.

During his years in art school, conceptual art and minimalism were a fresh aspect of contemporary art. At that time, Berman began a developing fascination in perception theory –  a lifelong interest that involves questions of cognition, optical illusion and the evolution of the senses. The idea that an illusion can change in appearance,  right before our eyes, is equally fascinating and inspiring to him.

His study found its way into his working process when he began to experiment with a camera in the studio. Berman’s epiphany came when he discovered a deep mystery and possibility in the transformation of a three-dimensional construction into a two-dimensional photograph.

A cumulative process

The formal range of Berman’s work and his sculptural use of materials is varied, original and idiosyncratic. All his pieces are intricately designed and constructed in his studio.

Berman uses a 4X5 studio view camera  to create all his photography. The procedure is an old one that delivers extremely sharp, and clear prints, as well as images that are very realistic in the description of the materials used. The end result is often a photograph designed from a construction but with the appearance of a drawing.

His process is cumulative in nature – he makes photographic sketches constantly as he constructs and reconstructs, creating many, images as the work evolves. Intuition and spontaneity ensue throughout the process. We asked him how he knows when he has finally completed a piece.  His answer is that it simply feels complete.

Optical illusion

In the late 1970’s Berman had a direct interest in creating different kinds of illusion. His work from this period clearly demonstrates optical illusion and the transformation of three-dimension into two-dimension.

“Cup with Objects” from 1979 is a great example of 3D/2D play. All the objects fill up the frame up to the edge, however, one slight shift of the camera and the pieces wouldn’t work together.

Cup with Objects

“Web,” a piece from the late 80’s contains an actual spider web. It is a very linear, abstract work, and one that clearly depicts the flow from drawing to sculpture to photography. In fact, much of his work from this time period was very linear in nature.


Later pieces demonstrate the evolution and progression in his photography.

Take for example “Shoe and Tire,” a 1993 commission piece for Progressive Corporation, an auto insurance company. The company CEO is an avid art collector and commissioned Berman to create a suite of still life’s around which the company’s Annual Report was designed. He won several design awards for this work.

Shoe and Tire

“Heart,” created in 1995 was commissioned by graphic designer Mark Schwartz for his daughter who was born on Valentine’s day.


Although Berman rarely photographs people, “Standing Stack” from 1997 was made at a time when he wished to bring more human presence into his work.

Standing Stack

Berman lives and works in NYC. He now works mostly in color, a new turn in his evolving body of work.

To view the ArtistsinAuction website click here.

To view more of  Zeke Berman’s work, click here.

Plant Slice 1999

Fat Lamp and Cherry Blossoms 2008


Untitled (magician and cape)


The collages of Tom Smith are optically stimulating and complex – viewers are often hypnotized by his mesmerizing work. So, we were eager to learn more about our featured artist’s creativity and the ways in which he developed his unique craft.

It turns out that Smith has art in his blood – his mother is an accomplished decorative artist and his father has a deep appreciation of the arts. So it was no wonder that he followed in the same footsteps. In fact, never once did he entertain the notion of doing anything in life that was non-creative.

Smith studied art in Baltimore, close to his hometown in Maryland, and majored in illustration due to his strong interest in narrative work and storytelling. He went on to graduate school to further pursue his metier. Half-way through his studies a light bulb went off in his head as he realized he had something definitive he wanted and needed to share with others.

The turning point

Fine artist and printmaker, Carroll Dunham, whom Smith assisted when he first moved to New York, was the most influential person in his early career. Carroll stripped down all of Tom’s work and forced him to focus strictly on drawing (he spent an entire year devoted to this particular craft).

As a result, Smith became more introspective and was able to move into the subconscious, channeling human interest into his pieces versus the other way around. After that significant one year period, he finally understood his creative sensibilities.

To date, all of Smith’s work is drawing based, whether he is painting, sculpting, photographing or making collages. He expects that his drawing will evolve to other forms of new media in the not too distant future.


Superhero meditation

Smith’s collages emerged directly from his massive collection of superheroes – comic books, figurines, etc. The idea was to meld character images and witness the optical illusions he was able to produce. In fact, he discovered that a character could be completely transformed through the introduction of another image.

His process is equally transformative. The meticulous skill involved, although highly technical, is extremely repetitive and, therefore, exceedingly meditative. At first he is in control, but soon control flies out the window as he begins to manipulate images. A discovery element is always present as he never is quite sure what will emerge.

Color theory and the work of Josef Albers also play a large part in Smith’s collage work. All the pieces are based on the intermeshing of colors and the appearance of images as a consequence of color selection and interaction.

Take Untitled (red, yellow, blue), one of the first pieces he designed. Smith decided to create a collage based on the primary colors of red, yellow and blue – the three opposite sides of the color spectrum. Poring through the hundreds of images in his possession, he had to uncover three images that not only bore the requisite colors but were also standing upright. Combining them, he was able to create a figurative piece with the characters in the middle, successfully intersecting Minimalist art with Contemporary art.


Untitled (red, yellow, blue)

Untitled (magenta) is equally illusionary. In this work, we witness a woman with minimal clothing represented in a very special way as her image is placed among a field of pinks and magentas.


Untitled (magenta)

In Untitled (bird and gun) we see two women, one holding a bird, the other, a gun, both with identical background colors. The resulting image is the appearance of two individuals in one space, despite the fragmentation. The piece has been pushed into a very simplistic direction, yet can be very disorienting to the viewer.


Untitled (gun and bird)

Smith’s collage work has been very influential to his other work. For example, collage, which is two-dimensional, naturally transcended into sculpture, which is three-dimensional. He tells us that he is getting ready to produce an entirely new body of work, utilizing figurative aspects, yet in the realm of the landscape.

Tom currently lives and works in New York City and has the unique opportunity to be working full-time in a studio assisting a number of established artists. He admits his good fortune and loves that he is always learning new techniques and staying “au courant,” not to mention extremely motivated. Plus, he gets to feed on the creative energy when he uses the studio for his own work at night and on weekends.


We invite you to peer into the hypnotic and magnetic work of a very talented artist.

To view the ArtistsinAuction website click here.

To view more of Tom Smith’s work, click here.


Untitled (double vision)