In honor of this week’s Art Book Fair at MOMA PS1, I thought I’d direct your attention to an artist who has done paintings on discarded book covers. A whole series, in fact.

His name is Tom Burckhardt and my favorite of his is titled The Church at Home (see below). The painting transforms an old book encasing (the metaphorical word, or logos?) into an ecstatic experience that many of us know all too well. For if you ever told your parents, as a teenager, that you’d had enough of church, then sat at home alone all day, face in a book… then this painting is for you.

On the bottom half, a grey amoeba shape hovers over a brown background, corrugated to resemble floorboards on a back porch or hardwood floors. From this subtle abstraction of domestic life Burckhardt then uses the top of the composition to suggest a mind-opening (if not mind-altering) experience. Two rainbow-colored, exploding shapes overlap, one on top of the other, recalling recent large-scale works by critics-darling Mark Grotjahn, though Burckhardt’s scale is the more relatable by far.

More recently the artist debuted an installation at the Weatherspoon Museum in Greensboro, NC (where Don Mattingly played single-A ball, for all you Yankees fans out there); it was a full-scale cardboard and paper replica of his studio in NYC, which seems another extension of Burckhardt’s obsession with interior life.

Tear Your Playhouse Down (above, 2012) is a painting on cast plastic that is like architecture gone haywire in the brain; Yellow Fog (2006), a small pen and ink illustration of stretched canvases enveloped by a thick golden cloud, is a vivid, self-depricating look at the proverbial quest for inspiration.

Fog sounds literal by its title, though, as in The Church at Home, the drawing is actually fantasy-like. The fog itself is rendered without shading or perspective, just solid color, which, because of its soft mustard hue, has the sense of being vaporous. Like so much of Burckhardt’s work, its materiality proves malleable the longer it lingers. (Brian Chidester)

"The Church at Home" (2008)

“The Church at Home” (2008)

"Vintage Synthesizers" (2012)

“Vintage Synthesizers” (2012)

Yellow Fog copy

“Yellow Fog” (2006)