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DIRK DE BRUYCKER Memorial Exhibition


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Dirk de Bruycker Memorial Exhibition

LewAllenGalleries Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 www.lewallengalleries.com | info@lewallengalleries.com cover: Lunule, 2009, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in


Dirk de Bruycker: Memorial Exhibition At age twenty, Dirk de Bruycker (1955-2015) made a pilgrimage to India, a place he felt was his spiritual homeland. Instead of finding enlightenment there, de Bruycker was struck by the suffering he saw and, upon returning to Belgium, he committed himself to a “life without self-delusion.” This rejection of artifice is a thread that unites de Bruycker’s life with his art. The occasion of this memorial exhibition at LewAllen Galleries, coming a few months after his untimely passing, affords an opportunity to reflect upon and reassess the varied and complex career of this extraordinary artist, particularly in light of understanding how his asserted dedication to authenticity can be seen to have been a driving influence in his work. After a life and career that included nearly 50 solo shows of his work, this memorial exhibition brings together wide-ranging examples illustrating that there was always significantly more to de Bruycker’s art than its mere appearance as exquisite color field. Each work is an important milestone to a better understanding of a career spent exploring deep and authentic meaning. A highly introspective, contemplative man, he drew inspiration mainly from within himself, acutely aware of the creative possibilities within contrasts between the beauty in life and its tragedies. The career of this remarkable artist might be viewed as an enduring and highly personal pursuit of the exalted, an ever-evolving and often acetic allegiance to discovering the absolute truth of experience and emotion, manifesting a poignant sense of the sublime in his work. Considered in this light, his choice, for example, of asphaltum—a material derived from decomposed prehistoric life forms—attains striking meaning in the context of his interest in mementi mori. His often enigmatic choice of imagery—collaged icons, de-contextualized cultural symbols and, later, allusions to fragility and the beautiful—offer clues to the mystery of de Bruycker’s creative alchemy that sought to transform observation and feeling into enduring works of art. In this regard, de Bruycker’s work might now be viewed as a paradigm of what the Roman-era author Longinus identified when he first wrote about the sublime in art, that its true nobility lies in confronting the unfamiliar and the terrible in order to “transcend humans out of themselves.” In his work de Bruycker can be seen as making art resolutely anchored in wonder. It evolves from a personal willingness to confront the harsh realities of life and the ineffable in order to make lasting imprints of his engagement with life and death, light and darkness, the obscurities of existence, and the sacred and profane.

Early Life Born in Ghent, Belgium in 1955, de Bruycker was immersed in art from an early age, making his first painting at age four and his first etching at twelve. He grew up among Baroque and Northern Renaissance paintings by Rembrandt, Brueghel and Vermeer and was aware of the culturally-specific visual language that defined representations of the spiritual from that time. Though ideas presented in this art would influence de Bruycker throughout his career, they would also inspire a life spent questioning the presuppositions and mandates they represented. 1


He spent much of his boyhood with his grandfather apprenticing in his printing studio. Thinking that printmaking would be his life’s pursuit, he earned a masters in printmaking and later traveled to New Mexico to study lithography at the Tamarind Institute. In 1981, he returned to Ghent to teach lithography but was drawn back to the American Southwest. He moved his entire lithography studio to Utah but in 1986 stopped printing. He reflected, “It took me 10 years of work to master the technical kitchen of lithography…. I needed to get away from the technical slavery.” Upon abandoning printmaking, de Bruycker relocated to Santa Fe in 1987 and began experimenting with collage and painting.

Between Two Lives: 1985-1991 The use by de Bruycker of appropriated symbols was a playful and sometimes sardonic examination by him of the interplay between image and representation. The two most prominent images that appear during this period are Magritte’s pipe and the Pillsbury Doughboy. In his work both are disconnected from their previous meanings and he uses this dislocation as metaphor of broader cultural dislocations (including his own from Northern Europe) and as an impetus to provoke new meanings.

Burning Icons: 1992-1998 De Bruycker did not begin painting until 1986 and said that he found his true voice as an artist in 1991. He began a process of experimentation in painting that would lead to the technical and conceptual undertones that are iconic of his later oeuvre. De Bruycker’s work from this period was inspired by two events: his pilgrimage to India as a young man and later a trip to Morocco. With his commitment to a life without “self-delusion,” de Bruycker was struck by the otherness he experienced in Morocco. From his own upbringing in Belgium, he presumed that all spirituality was captured in the Northern European tradition with grand altarpieces, lamenting saints and with an abundance of pathos. In Morocco he experienced repetition of patterns and lyrical text devoid of specific image in order to represent ideas of the spiritual defining the Islamic tradition. In response to these experiences, de Bruycker said, “I have tried to reach and grab more directly from the subconscious. For that reason, the paintings are not easily explained.” In 1991, de Bruycker began projecting watermarks inherited from his grandfather onto canvases and through pouring, painting and technical mastery, would create striking and haunting “burning icons.” He wrote that “The idea [behind this series of paintings] is based on the memento mori or the moralistic contemplation of death … like dangling a skeleton in front of your nose so that you would contemplate the fleetingness of life.” With these paintings he explored the fragility of existence and the idea of death as the natural completion of the transitory cycle of life. 2


The watermarks depict European royal family and religious symbols. They function both as an homage to de Bruycker’s personal biography but, like the pipe and the Doughboy in his earlier work, they are also icons he uses out of usual context in order to force reinvention of meaning. About them de Bruycker wrote: The world of cultural iconography becomes important to me only if I can displace it. For when you displace it, or corrupt it, its psychological weight shifts and the previous symbolic associations becomes obscured.... What I’m doing in a painterly way is to displace the imagery from its symbolic notions. The process that emerged during this period has its origins in the printmaking techniques de Bruycker learned as a child. Asphaltum is derived from tar used to protect the engraving plate from acid. Reflecting on its use for his under-drawing de Bruycker remarked “It bleeds like no other material. It’s metaphorical, the bleeding is something that resonates with the human condition, the fleetingness and fragility of it.” As a biomorphic substance composed from ancient lifeforms, asphaltum has a poetic resonance with de Bruycker’s concerns with memento mori.

Floating and Fleeting and Liquid: 1999-2015 In 1999 de Bruycker relocated to Nicaragua. He abandoned obvious figuration and shifts in his approach were ignited by a single event: I entered my studio in Nicaragua and on the tile floor lay a dead splendid Cocoa Mort Blue butterfly, her body consumed by ants. I gasped, overwhelmed by both the beauty and the tragedy of the event…. I think I’ve been trying to capture the moment of gasping ever since in my paintings. Symbolizing the transitory nature of life, the butterfly and its beautiful but short life cycle became a poignant inspiration for de Bruycker’s later work. He evolved a process that started by creating an underpainting in asphaltum of butterfly wings, reminiscent of the watermarks from his earlier work. This is the only stage at which a brush was used. He then applied oil paint and cobalt drier to deconstruct the original underpainting. Next, he coated the piece with gesso. “The result the next morning is that I have a ghostly, delicate, light, instant painting,” he wrote, “far removed from the explicit original asphalt drawing.” Next, layers of oil pigments of varying viscosities were poured one color at a time onto the canvas and spread with cardboard. “The process,” he wrote, “is largely intuitive and allows for a measure of chance, coaxed to an extent.” His mastery of color became a language of passion, the contrasting translucency and opacity, vivacious color and dark areas, conferring what the artist called a sense that the paintings were “dangerously alive.” 3


From his experience of the poverty, suffering, disease, and displacement he encountered in India, Morocco and Nicaragua—as well as the breath-taking beauty of the colors and nature there—de Bruycker could not help but be influenced by the sense of melancholy inevitably residing in the contrast. By refusing the temptation to ignore it and, instead, embracing his experience of melancholy’s wrench, he transformed it into an honesty of abstraction that endures as sublime. Abstract Expressionist painter Barnett Newman could have been describing the artistic ethos of de Bruycker when he wrote in 1948 about American artists that they have freed themselves “of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend [and] myth.... Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man, or ‘life’, we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings.” Through his own resolve to deny the self-delusion of myths and conventions he saw, to be contravened by the suffering and injustice in the world, de Bruycker evolved an abstraction of honesty, true to his own feelings. His paintings are direct responses to both the terrible and the beautiful in life, the integrity of his art an emanation of the intense emotional resonance of each. They stand as complex and enduringly engaging as the artist who created them.

Between our Lives, 1990, Mixed media collage, 48 x 68 in

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Big Pipe, 1988, Mixed media collage, 32 x 68 in

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The Overflow, 1988, Mixed media collage, 50 x 64 in

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Fin de Siecle I, 1991, Mixed media collage, 52 x 52 in

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Pitch (Blue), 1992, Mixed media collage, 68 x 52 in

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Luster IV, 1993, Mixed media collage, 62 x 40 in

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Untitled I (Flood), 1993, Mixed media collage, 38 x 32 in

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Untitled II (Flood), 1993, Mixed media collage, 40 x 32 in

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Torrent of Kedron, 1995, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 79 x 67 in

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Untitled (Requiem), 1995, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in

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Burning Icon III, 1996, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in

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Epiloque V, 1997, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 84 x 72 in

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Anatomy of a River, 1999, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in

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Granada IV, 2001, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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8 MM, 2000, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 28 x 22 in

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10 MM, 2000, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 28 x 22 in

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Confluence (Small) III, 2001, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 28 x 22 in

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Vermillion Run I, 2001, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Solentiname II, 2003, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in

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Orange Flash I, 2006, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in

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Small Red I, 2004, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Small Red II, 2004, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Salto Rojo II, 2005, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Maroon Tip, 2007, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Iolas Blue, 2008, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 84 x 72 in

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Shudder II, 2008, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 84 x 72 in

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Pool II, 2009, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Eyespot, 2009, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Flux II, 2009, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Crescent Spot, 2010, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in

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Tache I, 2011, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Eclipse (Crimson), 2010, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in

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Figure of Two, 2011, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 84 x 72 in

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Purple Streak, 2011, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in

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Yellow II, 2012, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 84 x 72 in

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Crimson, 2013, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Scarlet, 2013, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Animations, 2014, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 71.75 x 60 in

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Spring, 2014, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Fall, 2014, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in

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Of the Soul, 2014, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in

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Encroachment, 2014, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 84 x 72 in

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Fractal Five, 2015, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in

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Fractal Four, 2015, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in

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Pentade, Broken, 2015, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 84 x 72 in

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Predator, 2015, Asphalt, gesso, cobalt drier and oil on canvas, 84 x 72 in

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Dirk de Bruycker

born

Ghent, Belgium, 1955

died

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, 2015

EDUCATION 1980-81 1979-80 1973-77 1964- 73

2001 2000 1999 1998 1995 1994 1992 1990 1989 1986 1985

Graduate Program Printmaking, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM Tamarind Institute, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM M.A. St Lucas Institute of Visual Arts, Ghent, Belgium City Academy of Fine Arts, Sint Niklaas, Belgium

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2016 2015 2014 2011 2010 2008 2005 2004

“Memorial Exhibition”, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM FP Contemporary, Culver City, CA LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM Gebert Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM (also in 2009, 2007) Gebert Gallery, Venice, CA (also in 2010, 2008) Lucas de Bruycker Fine Art, Gent Belgium (also in 2003, 2000, 1999) Mariam Diehl Gallery in Jackson, WY Rule Gallery, Denver, CO (also in 2005) Scott White Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA Caemersklooster Provinciaal Centrum voor Kunst en Kultuur, Gent, Belgium Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM (also in 2003) Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, AZ Buschlen/Mowatt Galleries, Palm Desert, CA Jan Weiner Gallery, Kansas City, MO (also in 1998, 1991) Lemmons Contemporary, New York, NY The Lowe Gallery and Space, Atlanta, GA (also in 2001, 1992)

Peyton Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, NM Linda Durham Contemporary Art, Galisteo, NM (also in 1998, 1996) Jan Maiden Fine Art, Columbus, OH (also in 1997, 1996) Soma Gallery, La Jolla, CA Galerie Hom’Art, Antwerp, Belgium Hand Graphics Gallery, Santa Fe, NM Kay Garvey Gallery, Chicago, IL (also in 1992, 1990) Galerie S. and H. de Buck, Ghent, Belgium (also in 1991, 1989) Linda Durham Gallery, Santa Fe, NM Galerie S. and H. de Buck at Casino Oostende, Belgium Conlon Gallery, Santa Fe, NM Lewallen/Butler Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM Gallery XXI, Antwerp, Belgium Gallery ADG, Ghent, Belgium (also in 1983)

AWARDS 1991 1989 1988 1982

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Vlaamse Executieve, Dienst Musea en Beeldende Kunst: Visual Artist Work Grant National Endowment for the Arts, Visual Artist Fellowship Grant Laureate, Visions of Excellence, Albuquerque United Artists, NM Printmaking Laureate, Province of East Flanders Award of Fine Arts, Belgium


Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 www.lewallengalleries.com | info@lewallengalleries.com Š 2016 LewAllen Contemporary LLC Artwork Š Estate of Dirk de Bruycker

Dirk de Bruycker: Memorial exhibition  
Dirk de Bruycker: Memorial exhibition