Friday, December 12, 2014


If you're anywhere near Manhattan between now and January 10th, drop by Tibor de Nagy Gallery (724 Fifth Avenue, 12th floor) and see the show Rudy Burckhardt Subterranean Moments: A Centenary Celebration.  It includes some of Rudy's photographs and short films, the art he was most famous for, but also paintings and more.

"Subterranean Moments" is a perfect title for this show, as it doesn't so much emphasize his most iconic photographs or short films, but rather captures what I always felt and still feel is the most impactful aspect of Rudy's art: its unpretentiousness.

Yes, it was "underground" in the sense of "indie" or "Alternative" culture etc. but more importantly it was grounded in exposing the layers of social and cultural interactions from top to bottom, or vice versa: photos and paintings of manhole covers, film of Manhattan's streets and walking feet or building tops against the sky making abstract patterns.

His art seems to me to always be about the contrast of shapes and light and surfaces and movement: i.e. juxtapositions often seemingly banal, yet take your time to visit with an image or a few minutes of film or a painting and something more subtle and poignant begins to emerge, as in how incredibly present the images, in whatever form, become, despite their obvious datedness. Rudy always had the capacity to transmit the viewer back into the time the image was made, or discovered or commented on, through a photo or film or painting.

It's also fun to spend time with a photograph of an urban landscape or one small piece of it and then spend time with a painting Rudy did based on that image. His technique often seems almost amateurish, in the sense of snapshots vs. art photographs or raw figurative depictions vs. artistic statements etc. but that's his grace, to always be the beholder rather than the explainer or glorifier.

All Rudy's work seems to say: I was here and this is what I saw, or how I saw it. Sit and watch the few short films in a small room off the main show and you will see what seems like raw footage of Manhattan scenes from earlier eras that look like deteriorating home movies shown through a bad projector, but if you stay and watch for a while, what begins to emerge is the beauty of the shapes and silhouettes and neon at night et. al.  It's a rough beauty, a mostly urban beauty, and it is in the eye of the beholder: Rudy's. I am grateful he took the pains to find the means of sharing it.

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