LOS ANGELES, CA.- Hans Burkhardts (19041994) expansive career and influence in L.A. are the focus of a survey exhibition of paintings and drawings entitled Hans Burkhardt: Within & Beyond the Mainstream. The exhibition, is part of the October 1 inauguration of the Gettys initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945 1980.
Arriving in L.A. in 1937, following his association with Arshile Gorky, whose studio he shared in New York from 1928-37, Burkhardt represented L.A.s earliest and most critical link to the New York School. The exhibition will also juxtapose Burkhardts works with contemporaneous reviews and rare archival documentation spanning more than six decades.
Included are important paintings shown in his first solo exhibition at the Stendahl Gallery, and his first museum exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum in 1945, which the L.A. Times called an exhibition of
a striking transfer of feeling into form.
Following that museum exhibition, Burkhardt was both critically celebrated and censored, as his works proved controversial in the years leading up to the McCarthy Era, when modern artists in L.A. were seen as Communist threats. Particularly controversial were his anti-war paintings and Hollywood studio strike paintings, including his indictment of then, Screen Actor Guild head, Ronald Reagan. Less incendiary subjects also proved controversial, such as his Crucifixion Series condemned for his use of red color and abstract style, regarded as subversive; examples of which are included in Hans Burkhardt: Within & Beyond the Mainstream.
Works of the 1950s onward were hugely influential to young artists emerging onto the scene. Artists ranging from Ed Kienholz, John Altoon and Karl Benjamin to Tony Berlant, Michael C. McMillen etc, were impacted by Burkhardts independent and provocative works, as he received extensive critical recognition. In the 1950s alone, Burkhardt had an impressive 23 solo exhibitions including a 10 year Retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum, as well as museums in the U.S., Mexico and the Sao Paulo Biennale.
In the 1960s Burkhardt was the subject of museum retrospectives at San Diego Art Institute and San Diego Museum of Art and afforded a 30 year retrospective exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum, San Franciscos Palace of the Legion of Honor and Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.
Also shown in the Rutberg exhibition will be Burkhardts profound anti-war paintings of the 1960s and 70s, reacting to the Vietnam War, prompting art historian Donald Kuspit to cite: Burkhardt is the master - indeed the inventor of the Abstract Memento Mori. Throughout these years, Burkhardt taught at numerous schools; among them: USC, UCLA, Choinard, Otis, and CSUN where his influence was profound.
The reactive and prescient nature of Burkhardts work is evident in the exhibition, through the earliest anti-war subjects dating as early as 1938 through his final painting included in this exhibition dating 1993. His Graffiti Series of the early 1980s shows Burkhardt to have been among the earliest responses to graffiti art. In 1992 Hans Burkhardt received the American Academys Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hans Burkhardt was born in 1904 in Basel, Switzerland. He arrived in New York in 1924. When he arrived in Los Angeles in 1937, he represented the most critical link between L.A. and the New York School, as he was part of its genesis. Burkhardt lived in Los Angeles until his death in 1994.
Hans Burkhardt: Within & Beyond the Mainstream is part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980. This unprecedented collaboration, initiated by the Getty, brings together more than sixty cultural institutions and selected private galleries from across Southern California for six months beginning October 2011 to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene. Hans Burkhardt's career was the most expansive in L.A.'s history, spanning more than six decades, influencing generations of artists.