Toy Box

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Toy Box
Curated by: Justin Giarla

886 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
May 11th, 2013 - June 1st, 2013
Opening: May 11th, 2013 7:00 PM - 11:00 PM

Union Square/Civic Center
Tue-Sat 12-7pm
Superheros, Toys, figurative


Shooting Gallery is pleased to present Toy Box, a solo show by Robert Xavier Burden. Join us for the opening reception Saturday, May 11, from 7-11pm. The exhibit will be open to the public for viewing through June 1st, 2013.

Toy Box will consist of 16 oil paintings both on canvas and on panel, all of which place childhood icons into compositions of reverence and majesty. Backdrops that appear like ecclesiastical stained glass or elaborately woven rugs from afar reveal something different at closer view; characters once only at home in comics and cartoons are crossing over into the realms of oil portraits with the help of Burden’s imaginative eye and deft detailing.

But Burden isn’t simply a nostalgia merchant; his work deliberately re-imbues childhood icons with the magic they once possessed. Though Burden’s larger-than-life size representations of what are commonly mass-produced action figures naturally opens a dialogue on commodity fetishism, Burden’s pieces ultimately affect the viewer on a more visceral than conceptual level, with an honest evocation of the wonderment that children see radiating from their favorite toys.



From the artist:


In 2006 I began a series of large-scale oil paintings based upon the small action figures that I played with as a boy. I remember these figures as being magnificent. They represented power, beauty, good and evil, and they captured every aspect of my imagination. As a young adult, these toys are wonderfully nostalgic, but they're no longer amazing to me. The patterns that adorn many of the canvases are often taken from fabric, rug or wallpaper patterns from my childhood home. The original toy is often framed in a shadowbox attached to the painting, acting as a modern reliquary for these figurines. The ineffability of what can turn a cheap yet coveted piece of plastic into an almost talismanic object was the original inspiration for this work. I am also motivated by the amorphous line that is drawn between imagination and reality, childhood wonder and adult practicality. There is an obvious irony in spending hundreds of hours to create a single painting that glorifies a cheap, mass-produced toy. And while that irony could reflect issues of commodity fetishism, consumer addiction, Peter Pan Syndrome or even shallow idolatry, I want these paintings to represent something positive in my life. There is nothing profound about commenting on the minor tragedy of losing one's innocence, or the struggle to maintain one's idealism. I just want to renew my faded sense of awe.


Robert Xavier Burden lives and works in San Francisco and has exhibited extensively throughout North America. He has received honors such as the Irene Pijoan Memorial Painting Award from the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Murphy and Cadogan Fellowship Award from the San Francisco Foundation.