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Ron Burkhardt - The Multiple Dimensions of Artistic Impulse

The enigmatic creative force that is Ron Burkhardt has produced artistic excitement stretching from the hallowed halls of Madison Avenue to the canvas-filled corridors of Sotheby’s.

Born in the serene, small-town landscape of the American Midwest, and bred in the urban cauldron of New York City, Ron’s art  has been notable for conceptual impact and unconventional breakthroughs. Over his 21-year career, he has worked in Three Dimensions, having founded three genres of contemporary American art. He is also a filmmaker, has been interviewed on the major tv networks and designed homes as “architectural art.”

A fusion of adman and artist, Burkhardt had a high-flying ad career in Manhattan, winning over 200 creative awards and writing national ad campaigns for world-class agencies Young & Rubicam, Lowe and DDB. He later opened his own branding agency, Burkhardt & Christy, creating storied campaigns for blue-chip clients like BMW, Sony, the New York Yankees, Paramount, Falcon Jet, Time-Warner, and Sephora, up until 9/11.

After living through the city’s carnage and despair from his home in the east 60’s, Ron made a sweeping life change. Suddenly his witty ads and Super Bowl commercials felt frivolous, so he decided to engage in art full-time, feeling that painting had more intrinsic value.

In the spring of 2001, Burkhardt had just opened his first art exhibit in SoHo, launching his Notism series. But the transcendent events of that tragic day impacted his plans, and he found a more meaningful vision-the pursuit of a full-time art career. As Ron puts it, “Art allows you to leave behind something of enduring value and beauty compared to fast-fleeting ads and short-lived commercials. “

He then shifted gears and embarked on a 21-year odyssey that has witnessed the creation of hundreds of powerful paintings, scores of collectors and over 100 art exhibitions worldwide.

This iconic art form grew out of Ron’s intense, multi-tasking New York ad world. Since his late teens, Ron has carried hastily scrawled notes in his pocket to remind him of all his meetings, ideas, projects, phone numbers and things he had to do each day of the week. It was ADD-chaos well organized. As he finished a task, he would cross it out with whatever color pen he had on him. The result was a fascinating series of stream-of-consciousness memory fragments, calligraphic scribbles that manifest a unique pictorial language, reflecting the urgency to preserve our rapidly fleeting histories. And it honors the fading values of intimate, human handwriting.

Notism heralds the Beauty of Memory. It is primitive and symbolic of inevitable loss but helps us value the personal connection of communicating through hand-written notes, exalting the power of private thoughts. It manifests a unique method for storing memories, through multi-faceted, richly complex surfaces, grounded by semiotics and text, that bring layers of nostalgia to life before one’s eyes.

Notism’s hieroglyphic scrawls document the style, texture, and primal exuberance of our precious memories recorded on paper. Once harnessed, Ron’s relentless notes explode with energy, honoring the beauty found amid chaos. Abstract symbols collide in searing layers of paint and passion, startling in their power to transform language into emotional energy. 

Capturing the inherent power and abstract language of calligraphy, his work is an antidote to society’s multi-tasking conflicts. This strikingly original art form is impressionistic from a distance yet yields endless fruits of fascinating discovery when viewed up close.

Burkhardt’s Notism work draws on early Mesopotamia cave paintings and is an attempt to preserve the elusive memory fragments of our fast-fleeting lives. It fuses frantic scrawls with organic gesture; a free-spirited conglomeration of obsessive design, linear rhythms and high-voltage colors moving in all directions. 

Working in his idiosyncratic system of “notes as substrate” for decades, Burkhardt’s art is both primitive and evolved. The spontaneous, high-voltage images are a testament to the complexity and speed of modern urban life, with the disparate impacts on one’s soul.

Earth Art: Nature’s Ground Breaking Palette

It was in 2009 that Ron created his second significant genre: Earth Art paintings. Forged out of nature’s own materials and organic textures, it was a startling counterpoint to Notism, though it shared a common bond with his obsession for bold, soothing colors and high-intensity abstractions.

Ron’s Earth Art  takes us back to life’s most basic foundations. Rooted in earth’s gritty reality, this dramatic art form reveals intriguing depths and layers of color substrates. Heralding the complexity, beauty and power of our planet, these canvases fuse acrylic and enamel paint, rain water, indigenous soil, and intense sun over a period of weeks to create otherworldly shapes, dimensions, and color forms.

From Ron’s Artist’s Statement: “Working with earth, paint and water on unprimed canvases is a rugged discipline that instills newfound respect for the planet’s elements. I have to travel to find intense heat and a lawn or desert floor to work on. After soaking a canvas in water, I work with my hands, flinging acrylic and enamel paint in all directions. Then I seek out random, emerging designs and cover them with mounds of indigenous soil, pebbles, even leaves, add more water, and let the paint leach through.

Finally, I bleach the confluence of paint and debris in the heat of day, fusing the primal pulls of earth’s elements onto canvas as colors take root in the hot sun. It’s exciting to see unexpected juxtapositions of color emerge as nature paints the canvas, and forms its own rich palettes. Then I repeat the process, creating dozens of layers and startling colorations that create a unique, weather-worn look.”

When finished, Ron blasts debris and loose dirt off the canvas with a high-pressure hose, then scrubs it all with a horse brush and hangs it out in the sun to dry. Whatever remains becomes fused into the canvas. Earth canvases are each signed and dated on the back, identifying the city in which the art was originally formed, creating a legacy that enables others to share these intrinsic emotional energies.


Geometric Word Portraits

The Ultimate Minimalist. Evolving out of his break-through work as the originator of Notism, Ron’s LetterScapes exalt letters by forming potent, geometric color blocks that spell names, cities, emotions, schools, virtually any word in any language can be captured via Burkhardt’s unique abstract alphabet. These word portraits range in size from 30 x 15” up to monumental 6 x 10’ paintings.

In winter of 2013, Ron experienced a detached retina and macula in Palm Desert that required five hours of intensive surgery. After a two-month recuperation period where he had to keep his head down, he started doodling shapes and forms on small papers as there were few outlets for his time and creativity. He could no longer stand outdoors for long hours throwing paint on huge canvases. Emerging out of these frustrated musings, he inadvertently discovered his third genre of work, LetterScapes, a blend of word portraits executed in precise letterforms.

While easily traced to his pursuits in Notism, these new LetterScapes broke the executional mold, no longer relying on thrown paint or frantic scribbles to communicate, but incredibly his series of bold, linear designs form actual abstract words, often undecipherable until one knows the title. These oil and acrylic on canvas paintings evidence a startling, new visual language.

Without the trauma of his eye injury, now healed, it is unlikely he would have explored this new form of communication; looking down forced him to confront a more focused, and ultimately loftier form of artistic expression.

As his compelling career evolves, Burkhardt spins enchanting webs of stimulating artistry, entrapping viewers in thought-provoking, vividly colorful art forms as he works between Palm Beach, New York and California.


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