Critics’ Picks

Tom Burckhardt, STUDIO FLOOD (detail), 2017, cardboard, acrylic paint, dimensions variable.

Tom Burckhardt, STUDIO FLOOD (detail), 2017, cardboard, acrylic paint, dimensions variable.

New York

Tom Burckhardt

155 Suffolk St
September 6–October 8, 2017

Ashes, photographs, and an antique lamp were among the items that residents reported being relieved to find in their homes after Hurricane Harvey. Tom Burckhardt’s current installation, STUDIO FLOOD, 2017, was likely planned well in advance of the near-apocalyptic natural disasters of the past month, considering, at least, the production time that the show evidently required. Yet the disturbing synchronicity of the show and the floods themselves does not eclipse the resonance of the presentation, which composites elements of the artists’ studios Burckhardt saw destroyed by Hurricane Sandy into a life-size cardboard sculpture, installed upside down, with floodwater overhead. Complementing Burckhardt’s earlier work for an exhibition titled “A World in Cardboard,” what the artist investigates here is not the floods but the Flood, the end of all as we know it. “Climate deniers have [the] administration’s ear,” reads a faux newspaper clipping. A copy of An Inconvenient Truth (2006) sits on the shelf. Black paintings abound. The studio is for rent.

Still, Burckhardt seems just as interested in the damage as he is in the remains: the forms of the studio, its ornaments and textures, its spatial organization and precarity, even drawings-as-blueprints for the scene, a noteworthy series clustered outside the studio replica, in the second gallery. Indeed, what is rendered intact gestures toward the very subjects that Burckhardt has always engaged as a painter—surfaces, supports, illusions, and the history of painting (see his faux book collection). Burckhardt’s deluge feels most real not inside but outside the studio’s windows, in exterior dioramas where details are lost and the water still rises.