Robert Xavier burden: relics
february 18–June 24, 2023
In Honor and Memory of Curator Bob Self
“In 2006 I began a series of large-scale oil paintings depicting the small action figures that I played with as a boy. Initially these figures were set against fabric, wallpaper, and rug patterns from my childhood home. Over the years the decorative motifs have become more complex and derived from historical references, often incorporating toys from various generations, but the motivation behind the work remains the same. I am inspired by the amorphous line that is drawn between imagination and reality, childhood wonder and adult practicality, and the ineffability of what can turn a piece of plastic into an almost talismanic object. There is an obvious irony in spending thousands of hours to create a single painting that glorifies a cheap, mass-produced toy. And while that irony could reflect issues of commodity fetishism, consumer addiction, Peter Pan Syndrome or even shallow idolatry, I want these paintings to represent something positive in my life. Although it was sheltered and naïve, there was a freedom in my childhood. It was free from the politics of race and sex and religion. It was free from the weight of history. It was free from rhetoric and paranoia, shame and regret, cynicism and despair. There is nothing profound about commenting on the minor tragedy of losing one's innocence, or the struggle to maintain one's idealism. I just want to renew my faded sense of awe.”
-Robert Xavier Burden
The Holy Batman, 2012. Oil on canvas, 85" x 145".
This piece took approximately 1200 hours spread out over 7 months, and depicts nearly 75 different Batman figurines, primarily from the 80's and 90's. The painting also includes iconography that influenced the creation and aesthetic of the Batman universe (a tiny Zorro figure in the top left, the pipe and magnifying glass of Sherlock Holmes near the bottom left, a Mad Hatter, a da Vinci ornithopter flying in the landscape in the background). The Twin Towers are depicted in the New York Gotham City skyline (my childhood Gotham included the Twin Towers). The frame is covered in over 360 Batman figures that were created using silicone moulds. The original toy of the central figure is encased in a shadowbox attached to the top of the frame.
Celebrate with us on March 18, 2023
Due to unforeseen circumstances, the celebration event for this exhibition has been changed from the originally scheduled date and will now be held on March 18, 2023.