Ron Burkhardt is a consummate bi-coastal artist, who has a literal great gift for calligraphic gab, expressed in symbols and marks on canvas with an assemblage style that’s truly unique. As a man who has outworn and outpaced many creative hats, most notably as an inventive advertising executive and later as a painter of subliminal communicative works, which he invented over time and labels “Notism,” Ron takes the best of his creative experiences and throws out a curve ball at the viewer that spins a curious personal tale with cryptic messages incorporating his own daily schedule wrapped into one.
In his latest series, the artist has adopted a “green” approach to art-making by adaptively re-using multi-folded white pieces of stationery that he keeps secluded in his jacket pocket. In one section there might be a reminder about a museum opening, in another a date with a curator and an exhibitions committee. Only the artist himself, like Picasso and Giacometti with their penchant for illegible notes, can fully decipher the doctor’s prescriptive scratchy codes and numerical figures that don’t add up for a common bystander. In some areas, geometric columns have been staked out for days of the week and then sub-divided into hours of the day, only to be eventually crossed off with exuberant scribbles that Cy Twombly would be proud of. At first glance, the written words seem to be the gentle graffiti of a mad man’s fantasy chronicles, until with a smile you discover “things to do” notes about pool furniture, stretcher bars and a Sunday brunch in the Hamptons. At the week’s end, the artist unfolds his personal tales of life and adventures and attaches this post-modern diary to canvas, where he over-paints and embellishes the disappearing calendar of events and visual symbols that are creatively sealed with a transparent wash like a public time capsule at the National Archives of the Smithsonian.
In 2009, he again broke through with his new “Earth Art” series. A total contrast with Notism, these works are devoid of words and scribbles and instantly resonate with our current subdued, economic times. A metaphor for the disintegration of beauty and all things temporal, Earth Art strikes an organic chord that “all glory, and all beauty, is fleeting.” In some cases, he actually allows the canvas to begin deteriorating to convey that we can never conquer nature. Burkhardt travels to hot climates where he places canvases outdoors and alternatively soaks (with rain water), paints and bakes them in the sun, fusing raw dirt into the art’s surface. This weeks-long process creates stunningly unique textures and color palettes, further cementing his status as one of our most original, conceptual artists.
–Bruce Helander is an artist, critic and curator with collages in the permanent collections of over fifty museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.