Tom Burckhardt ransacks his influences

Tom Burckhardt, “157 Elements of a Painting,” installation view. All works 2009-2010, oil on book page.
Tom Burckhardt, “A Whistle for a Pilot,” 2010, colored pencil and acrylic on book cover, 10 1/4 x 9 1/4″ Private Collection
Tom Burckhardt, “Do-It-Yourself,” 2010, colored pencil and acrylic on book cover, 11 3/8 x 9″ Private Collection

Through October 16 Tibor de Nagy is showing paintings by Tom Burckhardt. The exhibition comprises two bodies of related work, 157 oils on book pages and twelve acrylic and colored pencil paintings  on the blank endpapers of clothbound book covers.  In The Brooklyn Rail, John Yau reports that Burckhardt is like a giddy cartoonist channeling artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Paul Feeley, Robert Therrien, and Myron Stout. “Like Red Grooms, for whom he worked as an assistant, Burckhardt ransacks his influences yet ends up with something unmistakably his own. The monochromatic silhouettes range from abstract horseshoes and boomerangs to what looks like a blue water balloon hanging from a peg or a gray breast in profile with a bullet-like nipple. For all their flatness, the shapes come across as things. A couple of works appear to be simple house-like shapes. Others are more elusive. Mounted directly on the wall, like studies one might see in a geometric artist�s studio, this lexicon of forms plays with the permeable relationship between connotation and denotation….

“What is remarkable about the book cover paintings is that Burckhardt infuses the tension between abstraction and representation with freshness, enthusiasm, and humor. He has absorbed, and ultimately made his own, the layered space and interlocking forms of the Indian Space painters, while adding elements basic to both minimalism and New Image painting: monochromatic abstract shapes inscribed with lines, fields of dots, and repeated forms. The result is a masterful combination of the comical and the pathetic. The pain of being is inescapable, but, to Burckhardt�s credit, we feel sympathy rather than pity or sorrow. We have seen the schlub, and it is us. In this artist�s hands, the book becomes both a portrait and a mirror.”

Tom Burckhardt: 157 Elements of a Painting,” Tibor De Nagy, New York, NY. Through Oct. 16.

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