Art Commentary: "Destrukto" at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller
With Marion Wolberg Weiss

Photographer Bill Burke is one of those idiosyncratic artists whose body of work, which includes maquettes and notebooks, is not only stimulating for critics, but also calls into question certain aesthetic and even metaphysical issues, not to mention cinematic tenets that have always fascinated this critic in particular.

Most essential is Burke's idea that the camera is not an objective recorder of reality, although film theorist Siegfried Kracauer insisted that "photography has an outspoken affinity for unstaged reality." Of course, we know this is simply not true. No art form can truly "show/tell it like it is."

Burke's use of photography as a "tool of scientific inquiry" in his current series at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller recalls another photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, who studied how motion is implemented during a horse race. His documentation of men engaged in various sporting activities also added to his knowledge of motion and energy.

This legacy of motion is made apparent in Burke's freeze-frame images featuring exploding objects, shots that remind us of Antonioni's film Zabriski Point. The movie's theme suggests that the objects were a metaphor for American consumerism.

We wonder if Burke's message is similar. For example, there's a flying tomato soup can, along with other separate images of mushroom and chicken noodle soups. Even so, we don't think these homages to Warhol are salient. Rather, it's the explosion of common food items that becomes the point: Is this a comment, then, on our taste for the banal or our dependence on marketing? Whatever the answer, the images are at once familiar and beautiful, the tomato soup being a particularly lyrical abstraction.

Other food items explode in similar ways, including spam and hamburger wrappers. These objects are triptychs and add another dimension to Burke's possible theme. Such a three-image display becomes a process over time, suggesting perhaps that consumerism is slow, yet lethal.

Other items play a part in Burke's frustration. A triptych featuring a TV monitor is also about process, as it goes from a blank screen to an explosion. A single image of an exploding camera is another variation on the theme, although this time, perhaps Burke is inferring that a camera is just as frustrating in its inability to capture reality.

A display in Glenn Horowitz's window carries this theme further with a group of outdated cameras. While they also give credence to their limitations, there's a strong sense that a camera is still a powerful tool. Burke makes that idea plausible when he uses the camera as both subject and object, as well as a metaphor and pop culture object.

"Destrukto" is on view at East Hampton's Glenn Horowitz Bookseller until June 23.

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