Andrew Balkin has spent his artistic life aggressively igniting his geometries to create a dynamic dialectic between the “void” and meticulously drawn geometric spaces. “Personally, without my creative effort, space is nonexistent, a void of nothingness.” (1) His images thus come from a blank slate, a ‘Tabula Rasa’ that Balkin constructs and deconstructs intuitively to create space with new objects from positive lines and tones. He does this painstakingly, evolving his personal content-images, until he develops a supra-structure that defines a new visionary geometric realm.
He has embraced the traditions of non-objective art with roots in the Russian Suprematists, Latin American Constructionists, and American Geometric Abstractionists. From his early in-depth studies of 18th, 19th, and 20th Century philosophies, Balkin’s drawings and constructions emerge beyond, to reflect this ongoing dialectic in his work. The late curator of the Brooklyn Museum, Gene Baro, wrote in 1978: “Balkin’s imagery often depends upon the close interaction of abstract elements and forms that depict or allude to real objects. The tensions created can seem physical, the image aggressive and dynamic despite a harmonious deposition of apparently neutral forms.” (2) Balkin has written of his own work: “I rely on the active response of the observer, as functioning poet performing a process which gives the art content form. The art I create is the bridge, the mediation between the intellectual and the physical, between the organic and the inorganic.” (3) As Malevich had said in 1913 in his book The Non-Objective World, “…to free art from the burden of the object…the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth.” (4) Balkin’s new work has evolved with increased intricacies and exquisite geometries, which exemplifies his departure from any formal pictorial narrative. Thereby, the viewer is invited to awaken their sensibilities to a new heightened and joyful aesthetic experience.
Born in Niagara Falls, New York in 1947, Balkin enrolled in the University of Wisconsin- Madison in the 1960s, during the politically tumultuous events occurring on campus and in the nation. Often his classes were interrupted and stopped by sit-ins, riots and marches. During those influential years, he studied and completed multiple degrees, first in philosophy, and later in studio arts. Through these years, he studied especially with Professor Ivan Soll, exploring German Idealism, French Existentialism, and Aesthetics, among other topics. Afterwards, he gravitated toward the fine arts, where he concentrated his studio work on drawing, painting and printmaking. In particular, he delved into etching and studied with Warrington Colescott and Krishna Reddy. His drawings thus eventually incorporated the tactile qualities of plate-work in etching, which provided a physical platform to explore the tensions between two-dimensional and three-dimensional space. These tensions exploited the relationships between “the void” and the objects that create space through his abstracted geometries.
After leaving academia, Balkin established AGB Graphics Workshop, in Madison, Wisconsin, where he created his studio in the tradition of open European workshops, such as the former Atelier 17, in Paris. Artists including painters and sculptors arrived
from all over the globe to join Balkin. He promoted a stimulating studio experience in which artists could freely pursue their art, exchange ideas, and experiment through innovation and shared printmaking techniques. For ten years in the 1990s, along with his wife Renee, Balkin created Andrew Balkin Editions. They published three critical portfolio editions that included a total of thirty-seven etchings, by nationally and internationally recognized artists. As a master printer, Balkin’s portfolios provided a vehicle for creating provocative images unfettered by the pressures of time. He worked with artists such as Bruce Nauman, Ed Paschke, Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Roger Brown, Krishna Reddy, Martin Levine, Munio Makuuchi, David Becker, John Wilde, Alan Shields, William Wiley, and Michelle Grabner, to name but a few.
After 9/11, Balkin re-focused more on his own art, concentrating first and foremost on drawings, and later on creating three-dimensional constructions. Moving his studio to the edge of the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, he then had the opportunity to attend more single-mindedly to his own artistic endeavors. Balkin has always been inspired by philosophical concepts, which he works to operationalize into his fluid aesthetic and to apply a dialectical understanding to his artistic visions. Spending long hours with focused attention to his meticulous drawings, first on glass, then on paper, he began to create a variety of multi-dimensional constructions. Using the intrinsic elements of his drawings, Balkin has incorporated two-dimensional drawings on to three-dimensional planes, which ignites further the expansion of space. His finished constructions thus attempt to create a fourth-dimensional realm. He continues to work, through his drawing of tone and line, to develop new spatial and dynamic constructs, both on paper and in mixed media constructions.
Andrew Balkin’s work is in the collections of numerous institutions, both public and private, including the National Museum of American Art-Smithsonian Institution, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chicago Art Institute, Milwaukee Art Museum, and Palm Springs Art Museum. His work has been exhibited in numerous juried group shows, among them the Brooklyn Museum of Art, (curated by the late Gene Baro), The Chazen Museum (formerly The Elvehjem Museum of Art), 1980 Wisconsin Biennale (curated by the late Henry Geldzahler), and The Milwaukee Art Museum, among others.
1. Andrew Balkin, Discussions On My Art While Traveling. August 2017.
2. Gene Baro, Twenty-first National Print Exhibition. The Brooklyn Museum. (Brooklyn: New York, December 9, 1978-February 11, 1979), p. 25.
3. Gene Baro, Twenty-first National Print Exhibition. The Brooklyn Museum. (Brooklyn: New York, December 9, 1978-February 11, 1979), p. 182.
4. H. H. Arnason, History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. (New York: 1968) Harry N. Abrams, Inc., pp. 219-220.
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