The Reverse Sell Out From Commercial Art to Real Art.

Musing with Ron Burkhardt in
Southampton, NY.
Ron Burkhardt was a big kahuna in the advertising world, who gave it all up in hopes of emerging as an artist. He made a real name for himself in the ad business back in the 1980s as the creative force behind Burkhardt & Partners.The agency created famous ads for BMW, Sony and Falcon Business Jets.

I've been described as an an object of inspiration for my artist friends. I prefer to think of myself as an art coach and connector for emerging artists and collectors. A case in point is how I've been able to help Ron find his artistic oeuvre - or direction, then encouraging his career as an artist.
Burkhardt's "Final Destination" 
2005 Medici Medal Winner

In 2001 Ron began his journey into the world of fine art. His first efforts were a simple evolution of the notes he took in business meetings and his personal to-do lists. He called it "Notism" - Ron's hieroglyphic scribbles and scrawls in multiple colors became multi-media collages. Ron would describe his work as Twombly like - an artist known for his own freely scribbled, calligraphy-styled paintings.

Burkhardt's "Opposing Planets" 2006. Acrylics, enamel, 
indigenous soil fused w/water and bleached in sun.
Burkhardt's "Manhattan" Notism Letterscape

The next evolution in Ron's artistic work was coined "EarthScapes" where he used found natural materials and various techniques including bleaching works in the sun to change their colors. 

Ron would describe his work as
Rauschenberg-like, who produced "combies" in the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were 
used in innovative combinations.

Ron’s professional forte was always copywriting, and it is not without a sense of irony that I viewed his exhibit at the Leonard Tourne Gallery at 46 East 65th St NYC. “Notism Letterscapes” features highly stylized graphic representations of letters and words.

Ron described his latest evolution as literally and figuratively "waiting for paint to dry." Each piece involves applying 20-30 layers of paint with painstaking precision and patience. Ron explained that he finally feels that this newest body of work is giving his career positive momentum and traction after more then a dozen years of hard work and what felt like a lifetime in the advertising business.

One of Ron's heroes in the art world is Gerhard Richter whose work he describes as bold and colorful yet precise and modern. Coming from the vantage point of a muse I would definitely hang my GR and RB works right next to each other.

Greenberg's "Lion and Frog"
35" X 47" Commissioned Piece
Another friend I encouraged is artist Robert S. Greenberg, whom I have collected. Rob started as a commercial graphic designer and transitioned into a fine art illustrator, painter and mobile sculptor. 
Greenberg's Marilyn Inspired 
5 X 5 inch bar napkin.

I was originally taken by his whimsical napkin collection drawn with a Pilot Razor Point pen.He’s best known for his crocodiles, conceived at the NY Hard Rock CafĂ© when an important patron questioned him about "reptiles reportedly living under the city." 

Iconic Warhol portrait of Monroe.
What's next for these commercial artists?
During Sotheby's and Christie's preview last weekend 
I was once again astounded by the prices that a former legend in advertising and a living legend commanded. 
At Sotheby's for example,Warhol's "Car crash" is expected to command $ 80 million at auction.
Andy Warhol  began his career in advertising and magazine illustration in the1940s. In the 1960s Warhol became a very successful commercial illustrator and began to make paintings of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, leading the visual art movement, becoming known as the “Prince of Pop.”

Prince's "Untitled (Cowboy)" listed at the Christie's
auction for $ 600-800,000
Still alive and kicking - Richard Prince was influenced by advertisements and transitioned into what I like to call "branded art" - since most everyone recognizes and/or can connect. Prince began his career in the Time Magazine's tear sheet department. At the end of each day he was left with nothing but torn our advertising images from the Time-Life publications, creating the inspiration for his unique approach to art, appropriating photographs back in 1975. His now famous Untitled (Cowboy) a "rephotograph" came from a cigarette ad. 

Ron Burkhardt  moved his career ahead by opening his eyes to new possibilities and finding what I like to call "soul strokes."  I encouraged him to create art that came organically and was expressed authentically. It is wonderful to see Ron make such great strides to this end. At his most recent show, I was pleased to hear he sold several pieces in addition to numerous commissions.

All of these artists provide inspiration for me - as I evolve my efforts to support emerging artists and gallery owners in our quest to find innovative places to display their art.

Real Art Muse invites you to comment below.

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Anonymous said...

Well written article with excellent combination of written an visual content.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Loved reading about the Burkhardt's transformation from corporate america to the art world. Also did not know Warhol was in advertising in his early life. Good read.

giuseppe said...

Very good post, excellent.

Christopher Abelt said...

Great to see Ron's professional evolution, and to be written about in such esteemed company.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating insights into a rich and storied career...

David Kemp said...

Good luck at Art Basel and enjoy! Look forward to your report.

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