I've written about Elijah Burgher's work several times over, and with good reason: he is one of the finest artists working today, esoteric or otherwise. His drawings have a rare sensitivity to them, and his juxtaposition of sigils and portraiture speak volumes about the place for ritual in the contemporary world, while honoring the magickal tension (and interrelation) between the immaterial and the bodied experience.
Elijah Burgher: Bachelors May 26 – Jun 20, 2015
OPENING RECEPTION: THURSDAY MAY 28, 6-8PM
The gallery is pleased to present the New York solo debut of Chicago-based artist Elijah Burgher. The exhibition entitled Bachelors features a series of seven colored pencil portraits, several large-scale paintings on drop cloths, and a group of unique pressure prints. An essay entitled Gay Death Cult by Allan Doyle will accompany the exhibition.
Continuing his exploration of the intersections between desire, fantasy, and daily life, the artist employs ideas from magick and the occult to address sexuality, sub-cultural formation, and the history of abstraction. A central idea in Burgher's work is that of a "sigil" – an emblem to which magical power is imputed. By recombining the letters of a written wish into a new symbol, Burgher’s pictures, or sigils, literally encode desire while embodying it abstractly through shape, color, and composition. The resulting abstract forms combine solar, anal, mechanical and sexual elements in constellations or diagrams that serve as ritual artifacts, devotional tools, and Gnostic riddles.
This most recent series, relating to an imaginary cult alternately called Bachelors of the Dawn (BotD) and Children of the Black Sun (CotBS), focuses on portraits of the cult members and the symbols used by the cult that relate esoterically to their philosophy or world-view. The artist states; "The figure of the bachelor is crucial, embodying a refusal to marry and repeat the structures of the nuclear family and the patterns of personhood it perpetuates.
As Doyle observes: Burgher’s nudes exhibit a rigidity that seems equal parts neoclassical statue and rigor mortis. Standing or lying in hermetic spaces lit by an even, sourceless fluorescence, they do nothing. Their lack of affect heightens their physical presence. With their cool flesh, stiff comportment, and slightly averted gazes, the Bachelors appear as purely external beings, devoid of interiority. They withhold nothing. Made available to our gaze, they signal an awareness of the viewer’s presence without capitulating their self-possession. What are we to make of them? Like the sigils that surround them, the Bachelors frustrate the viewer’s interpretive instincts. Despite their display of skin, they resist appropriation for erotic fantasy.
Elijah Burgher (b. 1978, Kingston, NY) lives and works in Chicago, IL. He received a MFA from the School of the Art Institute, Chicago and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. He was recently a resident at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Fire Island Artist Residency. The artist was featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial (selected by Anthony Elms), the 2014 Gwangju Biennial (as part of AA Bronson's "House of Shame"), The Nothing That Is at the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh, North Carolina, and The Temptation of AA Bronson at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, among others. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, Art in America, ArtReview, Artforum.com and was included in VITAMIN D2, the hardcover survey of contemporary drawing. The artist is also represented by Western Exhibitions, Chicago, IL.