Simmons & Burke: Dutch Masters

Kohn Gallery is pleased to announce Simmons & Burke’s third solo exhibition with the gallery, Dutch Masters, consisting of 8 monumental collages that were developed after being given full access to the entire digital archive of paintings in the Rijksmuseum (Netherlands). Rather than building works that reflect ostensibly on the collection as a whole--or simply appropriating the subject matter of old Dutch masterworks--the artists chose to use a careful selection of the incredibly high-resolution images they gained access to as templates. These templates were then used to construct abstract, fragmented landscapes that are simultaneously repellent and sublime.  Facetiously titled after flavors of cheap cigars, the works illuminate issues of authorship, obscure source material and find balance between beauty and perversion.  

While creating the work for Dutch Masters, Simmons & Burke embarked on a nearly year-long exploration of this major museum’s archive before deciding on background elements such as parts of bushes and trees as templates to fill with a combination of imagery.  Although many genres of paintings (maritime, still-life, portraiture, etc) were available to them in the archive, landscape proved the ideal structure with which to present their definitive style of fragmented imagery and immersive space. The archival photographs of Dutch landscape paintings Simmons & Burke used as templates were so detailed the artists were able to break down individual brushstrokes into shapes (or cells) that were then filled with a chaotic collection of imagery.  Some of the more obscure material holdings of the Rijksmuseum (porcelain, manuscript, clothes, etc) are present in this collection, but their potency is diminished when integrated with an eclectic array of other high-resolution imagery. These new structures create a sublime landscape from afar, while simultaneously creating a position of challenge for the viewer to interact with the quantity and diversity of images at close proximity. Although these works clearly reflect Simmons & Burke’s own infatuation with the material they appropriate, they also express the artists' fondness for irreverence and embody questions of artificiality, access and value.