Sydney Butchkes

Alt text: Geometric abstract painting
Alt text: Verso of abstract painting with two canvases attached in nontraditional shapes
Alt text: Detail of verso, signed

Sydney Butchkes (American, 1920-2015)
Geometric Shaped Painting, ca. 1975
Oil on canvas, 33 H. x 39 1/4 W. inches
Signed Verso: Butchkes

Artist Description

Sydney Butchkes was celebrated as an artist, graphic designer, and art director. Settled in Sagaponack since the 1960s, Butchkes became deeply embedded in the art scene of the Hamptons where he continued to work out of his converted barn throughout his life. Concerned with art at a young age, he came to New York and studied at the Art Students League and the New School before fighting in World War II. After returning from the war, Butchkes first made a name for himself working for Columbia Records as a designer and illustrating iconic book covers, gaining prestige and eventually becoming the Art Director of Craft Horizons. Involved with the Avant-Garde scene in New York, Butchkes experimented across a variety of media, even participating in Monday, May 2, 1960: A Program of Happenings? Events! & Situations at The Pratt Institute alongside George Brecht, Alan Kaprow, and others.

As a visual artist, Butchkes’ work was marked by a deep understanding of composition and form, often working with modular canvases characterized by either crisp geometric forms in three dimensions or hazy gradients. Reacting to Abstract Expressionism, Butchkes was focused on getting away from illusionistic space and working with physical three dimensionality in painting.

His success was marked by participation in significant shows such as Painting Without a Brush (1965) at the ICA Boston with an impressive roster including Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis, and Andy Warhol and the historic Listening to Pictures (1968) at the Brooklyn Museum of Art with other contemporary artists of the museum’s permanent collection including Tony Smith and Yayoi Kusama. During his career, Butchkes regularly showed with Arlene Bujese and Elaine Benson Gallery in the Hamptons to much critical acclaim. In addition to his inclusion in important gallery and museum shows, Butchkes’ work is held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and many other prominent institutions and museums.

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