A master of appropriation-based art and an influential member of the “Pictures Generation,” Troy Brauntuch studied at the California Institute of the Arts (B.F.A., 1975) with Conceptualist artist John Baldessari, and like other of Baldessari’s students such as Matt Mullican, Jack Goldstein, and Barbara Bloom, moved East to New York City after graduation. His first exhibition, at Hallwalls at Buffalo, New York, not only gave him important exposure but introduced him to the galleries’ owners, Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman, who like Brauntuch became major figures in the new art movement.
In 1977 the now-famous exhibition entitled Pictures was mounted at Artist’s Space in SoHo. It featured the works of only five artists: Brauntuch, Longo, Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, and Philip Smith. It was from this exhibition that Brauntuch and these other artists were dubbed the Pictures Generation. A major retrospective by that name was mounted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009. In his review of that show for the New York Times (April 24, 2009), Holland Carter described one of Brauntuch’s contributions as the “dim, dark photographic image of Hitler stamped onto a one-color ground like a spot of acid eating into a modernist abstraction.”
That work was among those in the original Pictures exhibition, and is characteristic of Brauntuch’s frequent manipulation of found images ranging from the fascist (including his silk-screened prints based on drawings by Hitler himself), to the ordinary (a picture of a hand or a coat hung over a chair), to the tragic (photos of the 1990 Pan Am bombing). Using dark cotton cloth as the canvas and appropriated images as his jumping-off point, he transforms both with Conté crayon or charcoal or his handmade rubber stamps to produce his own grisaille interpretations that challenge the viewer to look and look again. As described in Douglas Eklund and Johanna Burton’s Troy Brauntuch (JPR/Ringier, 2010), the first overview of his oeuvre, the result is a “semiotic standoff between innocuous artwork and not-so-innocuous author [that] compels the viewer to ponder the constructions of significance one so often unthinkingly performs when looking at art—constructions that Brauntuch has consistently sabotaged throughout his 30-year career.”
Troy Brauntuch’s works have also been included in many other important exhibitions, including the 2006 Whitney Biennial entitled Day for Night, a major retrospective of his work from 1990 to 2007 at the Magasin-Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble (2007), and a solo exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York City in the autumn of 2009 where pages of his notes, sketches, and source materials were juxtaposed with the art he created from them. In her review of this latter show of “penumbral paintings” for The New Yorker (October 12, 2009), Andrea K. Scott describes the “mood [as] both capital-‘R’ Romantic and coolly detached—Warhol’s ‘Death and Disaster’ series as a figment of Caspar David Friedrich’s imagination. Calamity and banality blur. An empty shopping bag emanates menace; a corpse becomes Sleeping Beauty; the Branch Davidian compound is bathed in moonlight. A strange magic occurs in the process.”
In addition to his Guggenheim Fellowship, his honors include grants from the NEA (1981, 1983) and the Joan Mitchell Foundation (1999), and a Creative Research Grant (2009) from the University of Texas, where he has been an Associate Professor of Art and Art History since 2004. In 2005, the students in that department voted him the Outstanding Professor of the year.
Troy Brauntuch divides his time between New York City and Austin, Texas.
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