PST On The Down Low
by Peter Frank

(an excerpt)
Jack Rutberg mounted an especially thorough, if necessarily abbreviated, survey of Hans Burkhardt, proving all over again that LA had nurtured (almost despite itself) one of America’s most vital abstract expressionist painters, someone who took the seed of the movement and cultivated it a rather different way in very different soil.

"The Small Print," 1979
Oil, Assemblage on Canvas, 77 x 114 inches
(click to enlarge)

hb0315_click 3
"Her Jewels," 1950
Oil on Canvas, 20 x 12 inches
(click to enlarge)


"La Brea Tar Pits (Burial of the County Museum)," 1975
Oil on Canvas, 77 x 114 inches
(click to enlarge)

Retrospective: Hans Burkhardt
by Mary Woronov

Hans Burkhardt has enjoyed great acclaim in europe and New York, but here in LA he is relatively unmentioned, which is odd because he lived and taught in Los Angeles. A powerful Abstract artist, he was not satisfied with just the problems of color and paint. Like Goya, he was driven to express what he felt was unjust, whether society agreed with him or not. Certainly the painting Reagan–Blood Money (1945) was not something that was going to ingratiate him with LA’s ruling class. Nor did the blacklisting of the McCarthy era intimidate him into toning down his angry red-and-black paintings about war. These are things people want to forget but Burkhardt would not let them, because it is not good to forget. Looking at his painting, Bikini (Hydro­gen Bomb) (1954), you want to stop the blast. If only we had put a leash on the military indus­trial complex back then in­stead of look­ing the other way, perhaps we wouldn’t still be at war.
But Americans don’t like being told they are the bad guys, espe­cially out here in the West. During the Vietnam war when Burkhardt used human skulls in his painting Lang Vei (1967), we really didn’t like it. We decided to be offended and threw him out of the sacred circle where artists just contemplated their precious formal art problems. After years of conceptual contemplation, civilization has slipped backwards here in Lotus Land — New York has thousands of people demonstrating in spite of the police pepper-spraying them, whereas here in La-La Land there were only hundreds demonstrating, in spite of our mayor handing out rain ponchos because of an unseasonable shower. This was not how it was during the ’60s.
Burkhardt did not stop at war. He nagged LA about everything, from their museum to the cigarettes they were smoking. In the paint­ing The Small Print (1979) he even used stubbed-out cigarettes in the paint. And in La Brea Tar Pits (Burial of the County Museum) (1975), LACMA sinks into the tar pits while a tiny flag flies at half-mast in surrender. In a novel stroke of genius he has depicted the tar pits in a very Pollock–drip kind of way. (This pleases me to no end — loyal readers may recall my disdain for Jackson Pollock.) Above the drippy all absorbent tar pits is the sinking museum depicted as a large black submerging rectangle, very minimalist — hardly the kind of shape an emotional abstract painter such as Burkhardt uses. This is when you begin to understand his work: The reason for the demise of art in general, the reason the museum is sinking is because it is loaded with the limited and very unemotional vocabulary of Minimal-ism. In fact, anything that removes art from the intuitive understand­ing of the people is worthless to Burkhardt. He is an artist who feels responsible for bringing truth to his audience. He can be wrong or misunderstood, but he must struggle to reflect reality in a way that speaks the truth, whether we comprehend it or not.

“Hans Burkhardt: Within & Beyond the Mainstream” at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts thru Dec. 24, 2011, jackrutbergfinearts.com,
link to article online
click here

currently on view


A Participating Gallery in the Getty Initiative
Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980

357 N La Brea Ave                    Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tel. 323-938-5222       www.jackrutbergfinearts.com

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Jack Rutberg Fine Arts
357 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90036

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