Western Project

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Thomas Burke - Dutch Jailbreak: New Paintings - Opening February 21, 2015

Western Project is proud to present the third solo exhibition by Thomas Burke. Originally from Boulder City, Nevada, the artist has lived and worked in New York since 2005. This bold body of work continues his interest in diamond shaped compositions, large in scale, forcefully illusive; new propositions in the lineage of geometric, hard-edge painting. Burke mines minimalism, color field painting, and op art of the 1960s. It is drawn with digital technology and hand sprayed with dozens of layers resulting in immaculate surfaces on metal panels. The paint is built up in formal structures creating a central point or visual peak; each a kind of dynamic rogue-wave structure. Using contrasting light and dark color values, the paintings appear to leap into the viewer’s space as though they are three-dimensional sculptural works. Burke’s intuitive use of color creates movement in the paintings. He writes:

I work on it until it feels right.  It’s right when it’s bold but appealingly balanced with unexpected choices. I try to avoid color that’s bound up with meaning, both cultural and personal… meanings vary with fashion and taste and time…..Paintings are to be lived with and looked at, and I aspire to make mine loud and subtle, fast and slow.

Mondrian’s interest in the universal balance of nature was reflected in his use of the grid; Burke’s grid knowingly spins and convulses, suggesting an aesthetic jolt for our hyper-driven time:

Optical effects are a tool to create motion in the compositions.  It makes the curves, which along with color make the sex.  I’d rather be taken for a formalist than a practitioner of Op-art.  I don’t care much about the merits of Op-art, and its art-historical politics are unfortunate and distracting.  Op is a means to an end.

One could also look to early concert posters from the Fillmore or Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco as psychedelic precedents; optical advertising for an experience rather than product. Burke’s not dissimilar sensibility disrupts any architectural context; as an interference, a psychic wave. While his language comes directly from technology and the digital world of systems, mathematics and design, it is a landscape or mirror of the mind, not the exterior physical world. Conversely, it is a knowledge felt, not understood. As technology implies logic, Burke puts it to service for a more personal, contradictory, and perceptual vision.

Thomas Burke received his BFA from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in 2002 and in 2004 attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He has exhibited with Ameringer McEnery Yohe in New York, James Kelly Contemporary in Santa Fe, and Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard in Paris, France. His work was highlighted in the Las Vegas Diaspora: The Emergence of Contemporary Art from the Neon Homeland curated by Dave Hickey at the Las Vegas Art Museum in 2007 and the Laguna Beach Art Museum in 2008. His work is in numerous museums, as well as public and private collections.