With her highly polished “pill reliefs”, the renowned artist gives the pharmaceutical industry a completely new visual language in terms of content by creating seemingly abstract compositions in bright colours from iconic tablet shapes. Her three-dimensional, geometric wall reliefs are not immediately associated with pills; rather, they stand for a product aesthetic that counters the hard edge with a contemporary interpretation.

Beverly Fishman’s (*1955 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) works are influenced in their visual language by advertising and the power of the pharmaceutical industry. She aims to show how science, technology and medicine influence our bodies and minds and how our culture defines us as either sick or healthy. How our desires are fed by the mass media and the products we consume shape our identity. And so, in her powerful, visually electrifying works, she addresses the visual impact and allure of pharmaceuticals… their shapes, their colours, the materials.

The formal language of her wall reliefs made of urethane paint are modelled on actually existing pills, all of which she researched beforehand on the internet. The incisions on the surfaces symbolise the breakage notches with the help of which the pills can be divided into smaller doses. Fishman’s reliefs usually combine two to five medicines. The artist deliberately selects her carefully crafted forms according to their medical applications. The titles of her works each bear the names of the respective medical conditions.

For Beverly Fishman, colour is an extremely material substance. Colours change according to their texture, their saturation, their quantity and their use with other colours when placed in relation to each other. To understand the effect of colours, she first develops colour studies in the form of collages. These collages are based on pill formats. Shapes chosen to evoke the tradition of high modernism, from hard-edge painting to minimalism.
To explore her colour combinations, she uses, among other things, colour swatch cards from hardware stores or fragments of vinyl signs to create mixtures of various natural and synthetic colour systems. Once Fishman has decided on a colour palette, she has the tablet moulds made out of wood and specialists coat them with an automotive paint that has a direct connection to the Detroit region. Since scale affects colour relationships, she changes everything until it makes sense to her.

Fishman’s work is in the permanent collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts (Michigan), the Miami Art Museum (Florida), and the Istanbul Art Centre (Turkey), among others. Most recently, she has had solo exhibitions at Miles McEnery Gallery, New York (2020); Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago (2018); and DOSE, an exhibition curated by Nick Cave at CUE Art Foundation, New York (2017), as well as group exhibitions including. at the Cranbrook Museum of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (2020); Columbus of Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio (2019); Lehmann Maupin, New York (2019); Front International, Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio (2018); and the Borusan Contemporary Art Collection, Istanbul, Turkey (2017).

Beverly Fishman, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Philadelphia College of Art and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University, lives and works in Detroit, Michigan, where she chaired the painting department at Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1992 to 2020.

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