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Tom Hackney debuts new exhibit of paintings at the World Chess Hall of Fame
A Portrait of American Artist Man Ray (L) (1890 - 1976) Sitting and Playing Chess With French Artist Marcel Duchamp (1887 - 1968), Using Geometric Chess Pieces, January 1, 1952. Courtesy of Michel Sima/RDA/Getty Images.

SAINT LOUIS, MO.- The World Chess Hall of Fame debuted an exhibition of paintings, Tom Hackney: Corresponding Squares: Painting the Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp, on May 19.

The exhibit was recently on view at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art in New York and represents the British painter’s first solo show in the U.S. This is the second collaboration between the Saint Louis Chess Campus and the Naumann gallery. In 2009, to commemorate the U.S. Chess Championships, Marcel Duchamp: Chess Master, traveled from the Saint Louis University Museum of Art to the Naumann gallery, with support from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

“We are thrilled to welcome Tom and his work to the World Chess Hall of Fame,” Shannon Bailey, WCHOF chief curator, said. “His paintings are not only visually compelling, but also skillful and graceful representations of Duchamp’s historic games.”

Hackney’s paintings, all made on linen, are geometric abstractions based on the movement of chess pieces in games played by the celebrated French artist and chess player, Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), from the early 1920s through the 1960s. Duchamp once said that playing a game of chess was like making a drawing: “The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts, and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem.”

Hackney’s art represents this visual design in a single static image. It was Duchamp’s goal to elevate art from a purely visual experience to something more cerebral, an aspiration that Hackney accomplishes in these paintings, which are influenced by ideas that took place on the 64 squares of a chessboard.

The exhibition’s title is a subtle allusion to the book on endgame strategy, Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled, that Duchamp wrote in 1932 with Russian-born chess master Vitaly Halberstadt.

Hackney chose the word “corresponding” to suggest that, through his work, he has entered into a dialogue with Duchamp’s games. This exchange continues as viewers attempt to decipher the moves that generated the patterns Hackney has so skillfully and gracefully recorded.

Some paintings are in black and white, like opposing chess pieces in a traditional chess game, while others are derived from a color-coded chess set that Duchamp designed in 1920.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to exhibit at the World Chess Hall of Fame and to be part of a wonderful program examining the intersection between art and chess,” Hackney said. “As well as being a beautiful game, chess impresses a metaphorical model and mode of thinking that has been ever-present in my life and art since I first learnt to play as a child.”

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