Reception Date: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Show Date: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 - Sat, 08/30/2014
Jamie Burmeister

Intelligent, Witty and Tasty

an essay about the exhibition

by Michael J. Krainak


     Multi-media artist Jamie Burmeister isn’t one to coast on his considerable laurels or dwell on the past. Even his most ardent followers and supporters are often pleasantly surprised as they anticipate each turn or twist the prolific Burmeister takes as he successfully attempts to keep it real.
     No one appreciates this more than Larry Roots, director of Modern Arts Midtown gallery, which is featuring the latest work from the artist this month. “Jamie is grounded in the present, “ Roots said. “His work is always current.”
     MAM is featuring in August, Burmeister’s new mechanical devices along with work from such kindred spirits as Scott Blake, Paul Chelstad, Troy Muller, Lynn Piper, Ben Pratt, Iggy Sumnik and Jordan Weber. This exhibit is consistent with the gallery’s overall mission, Root says “because it represents our ongoing relationship with exceptional artists who are evolving and maturing.”
     Burmeister’s “current” mechanical devices, the main attraction of his offering in August, could be described ironically as “contemporary Zoetropes. ” These are his take on pre-cinema animation devices, which produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion.
     Viewers are familiar with the artist’s experiments with historic, cinematic prototypes that animate static figures and objects. A key difference here is that his past variations on a theme of animation were primarily motion-activated and electronic, and thus at times, prone to repair and adjustment.
     Burmeister has simplified the viewer-activated process by relying on a hand-cranked mechanism that creates a similar, fascinating visual phenomenon. He further contemporizes his zoetropic devices by substituting his signature bronze and clay “vermin” with 3D laser printed models based on real people.
     This includes one zoetrope titled “Drum” that highlights the artist himself banging away on the titled instrument to strobic effect. Other similar pieces include “Bang” and “Polka Police,” along with a few strobe animations within cabinets and suitcases with titles such as “Chicken Dance” and “Tap” that feature an added audio effect. Whatever the form, it marks Burmeister’s ingenuity in bridging traditional principles of animation, light, space and time with modern technology, whether analog or digital.
     While this exhibit also features additional sculptural still lifes and an installation with vermin, similar to Burmeister’s last show a year ago at MAM, overall, Roots says the artist’s more dynamic work here has an added value to his oeuvre because “it reflects our dedication to helping him, as well as others, bring forward enduring, collectible art.”
     Static and still life or dynamic and mechanical, Burmeister considers himself a sculptor of simple, ordinary human drama created within a particular space and context. Inventive, witty and above all, humanistic, he is a virtual Renaissance artist for the 21st century.
     “My work is conceptually driven,” he says. “The technical aspects of making things interests me very much, whether it’s cutting edge digital processes or those thousands of years old, often combined in the same pieces.”
     Though his devices may interpret and comment on current cultural trends and behavior, he never judges, saying “my pieces that are absurd or humorous are usually my reaction to what does not make sense from a logical point of view. We humans do some funny things without giving them much thought.
     “Through my art, I have come to realize I can only understand myself. My work expresses my conscious experiences of the world.”