Sep 11th 2020

For his fourth solo show with Western Exhibitions, Until the beasts and all the mountain are wild with divinity, Elijah Burgher presents a series of photographs that are hand-manipulated with ink, bleach and other materials in Gallery 1, and a small group of recent portrait drawings alongside a multi-panel print installation, Nude Ghosts, in Gallery 2. The show will begin on September 11 and will run through October 31, 2020.

Continuing his interest in matching figuration to abstraction in a provocative tension, Burgher alters photographic prints with ink, bleach, alcohol, acrylic paint and other liquids, partially obscuring scenes of sexual and religious communion with streaking stains of color. His source imagery is largely derived from documentation of Aleister Crowley’s Gnostic Massperformance, done in collaboration with writer and historian Ben Miller at WHOLE United Queer Festival in Gräfenhainichen, Germany. Rituals conducted privately with friends in The Lover’s Labyrinth, a series of murals Burgher presented at Open Forum in Berlin, are also drawn upon as sources. Bits and pieces of bodies poke through veils of shattered shapes in these small jewel-like works, the surfaces of which fluctuate from transparent to opaque and from matte to shiny. Burgher’s manipulations bring to mind art historical precedents like 19thcentury hand-painted photography and the visual culture of psychedelia. The pictures ultimately transcend reference, evoking the ecstasy and immediacy of visionary experience, particularly its communal mode of Dionysian revelry.

Burgher creates structured, hieratic compositions in his new colored pencil portraits of friends and lovers, recalling Christian iconography of saints; however, in lieu of halos and hagiographic attributes, the figures are surrounded by floating sigils. These symbols—one of Burgher’s primary subjects for the past twelve years—surge forward and sprout oddly vegetal curling tendrils, populating the atmosphere like manifested thought-forms or celestial entities. A simplified approach to pencil technique and color along with a new attention to the paper as a source of light allow for heightened luminosity. The portraits will be accompanied by Nude Ghosts, a suite of eighteen red pressure prints, each emblazoned with a character from the artist’s evolving “alphabet of desire.”

Elijah Burgher (1978, Kingston, NY) was featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, the 2014 Gwangju Biennial (as part of AA Bronson’s “House of Shame”), and The Temptation of AA Bronson at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; had a solo show at Ivan Gallery in Romania in 2018; and was recently included in shows at Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva, Switzerland The Drawing Center in New York City, LAXART in Los Angeles and the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa. He has been a resident at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Fire Island Artist Residency. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, Art in America, Frieze, ArtReview, and was included in VITAMIN D2, the hardcover survey of contemporary drawing. He received a MFA from the School of the Art Institute, Chicago and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. Elijah Burgher is represented by Western Exhibitions in Chicago, Horton Gallery in Dallas, and P.P.O.W in New York City. He lives and works in Berlin.

The show will not have an opening reception and will be open by appointment, Tuesday through Saturday, 11am to 5pm. Please email or call (312) 480-8390 or visit Tock to schedule a visit.

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