We are delighted to present an exhibition of Tom Burckhardt’s recent work. Dominating the main gallery is a life-size, walk-in installation—”STUDIO FLOOD”—executed entirely in cardboard and black paint, and centered on the image of an artist’s studio that has experienced a catastrophic flood. “I have many friends in New York who had this very situation a few years back when Hurricane Sandy damaged their spaces and artwork. Visitors to this installation will enter a fictional painting studio—not unlike my friends’—but this flooded room is upside down. Here the floor plane, now an extended surface of water, appears above our heads. One’s world is turned upside down, both figuratively and literally. In the floodwater, black monochrome canvasses—emblems of intellect, will, and discipline—are floating and have been wrenched from their creators’ control and set adrift.” (Burckhardt)
John Yau notes that “[d]isaster has struck, and we must deal with the aftermath. In this scenario, as we enter the studio, we would have to walk on the surface of the water, which is not the metaphor the artist wanted. Instead…the studio will be constructed upside-down, and we will walk on the ceiling: the ground has been pulled out from under us.”
Imagine an artist who insists on separating his paintings from the “real” world only to find that world crashing in anyway. New York City, and indeed, all costal communities around the world are vulnerable to rising seas and flooding. “Like most of us, I am concerned about these unsettling ecological prospects, but what concerns me most directly is reality’s clash with human creativity. Rather than address this in the macro-political sense, I find an individual’s experience can be a stronger narrative.”
We all know something about the myriad global cultural biases associated with the color black: deathly, powerful, racial, spiritual, martial, passive, sophisticated, terrible, assertive, empty. In the context of contemporary art, it has a more limited set of associations. The purist paintings here naturally evoke the work of artists like Ad Reinhardt or Kasimir Malevich: an art of purity and rejection, of passionate anti-symbolism, and dour non-objective intentions. “As a painter myself, I have problems with that aesthetic’s narrowness, but all the same I remain fascinated and deeply respectful of its sense of purpose. I also enjoy subjecting these precious artworks to some violence. If the floating canvases symbolize the endlessly advertised ‘end of painting,’ the flood seems to answer: ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet!’”
Included in a second gallery, behind this immersive installation, will be a series of works on paper, installed salon style, as well as what appear to be several stacked paintings which are made entirely of cardboard.
An iteration of “STUDIO FLOOD” was recently included in the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennale (Kochi, Kerala, India). In 2005-2006, over the course of eight months, Burckhardt first created a walk-in cardboard installation titled “FULL STOP,” exhibited in New York City at Caren Golden Gallery and elsewhere. For that initial installation, Burckhardt “…wanted to capture the situation when an artist has run out of ideas and is blocked, hence the blank canvas in the middle of the room… The piece [was] filled with subtle homages to influences of mine, as well as being a tribute to my father, also an artist, who had passed away a few years earlier.”
Burckhardt is perhaps best known for his paintings, which examine aspects of abstraction and often incorporate sculptural elements. “…[H]e resists the institutionalized model regarding what constitutes an accomplished abstract painting. This resistance is what threads many of Burckhardt’s distinct bodies of work and styles together. He wants to subvert the standards of judgment integral to our understanding of abstract painting, while being committed to the act of making… He is interested in—to use his own words—perversely cultivating the tenuous relationship between ‘creative seeing’ and the randomness of nature without becoming explicit… By finding ways to foreground his conflicts about painting, while also expanding its definition, Burckhardt has become one of the most interesting artists of his generation.” (Yau)
Burckhardt’s work has been shown widely in exhibitions such as the 2016-17 Kochi-Muziris Biennale (Kochi, Kerala, India); “New Image Sculpture” (McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX); the Annual Exhibit at the National Academy Museum (New York, NY); and “A World In Cardboard” (City Museum, Aalst, Belgium). His paintings have been exhibited at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Caren Golden Fine Arts, and Pierogi (all NYC), and Gregory Lind Gallery (SF). Burckhardt was born in and currently lives and works in New York City.
Special thanks to Alexandra Scarangella for assistance in creating this work.