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Tom Burckhardt at Tibor de Nagy
Art in America, Nov, 2004 by Carl Little

Several works in Tom Burckhardt's second solo at Tibor de Nagy evoke our era of Superfund sites, mercury emissions, water pollution and other crimes against the environment. In Haz Mat Shan II (2003), for example, figures in industrial protective outfits go about their business, cleaning up the mountainous terrain, spraying, collecting. One man, sans helmet, holds a bag marked "hazardous material"--a clutch of WMD, or just leftover asbestos?

This 88-by-33 1/4-inch landscape (among many works of generous dimensions) recalls the vertical vistas found in traditional Chinese paintings, but the outcroppings that frame the view consist of scraps of pattern that might have been torn from a wallpaper sampler. The volcanic vista in Lava Lake (2003) also features designed topography, including striped atolls from which astronautlike figures survey the swirling red seas of their planet.

The digitized images that appear in these watercolor-and-pencil-on-paper pieces bring to mind the gag photo-collages found in Surrealist and Dada work. In Glow Falls (2003, 44 by 30 1/4 inches), a scanned man empties a barrel of silver liquid into the top of a waterfall. Toxic or not, the substance lends a pleasant sheen to the falling water. Perhaps it's the dumper's job to improve on nature.

Other pieces evoke that famous verbal image from Lautreamont's late 19th-century classic Les Chants de Maldoror, which was a talisman for the Surrealists: "the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella." All Points In (2002), one of several enamel-on-wood pieces, depicts a clothesline from which hangs an assortment of objects, including a gas can, napkins, paintbrushes and a flashlight. A decorative ewer strung on the line in this work reappears in Kilim All Totem (2003) discharging small Op-art patterns from its perch atop a miraculous stack of oil barrels, porcelain vessels and colorful cartoon patches. The totem balances on an Oriental rug, a reference, one assumes, to the state of affairs in the Middle East.

While the artist continues to be a "pattern maven," as Alexi Worth calls him in his introduction to the exhibition catalogue, the work this time around seems worldlier.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Brant Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Bibliography for "Tom Burckhardt at Tibor de Nagy"
Carl Little "Tom Burckhardt at Tibor de Nagy". Art in America. Nov 2004.

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