Posted by on December 10, 2016



Rudy Burckhadt
Photo Credit – Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

by Simon Pettet
ISBN 0-931428-20-3
10 x 8 inches
72 pages

Available for purchase from
Printed in duotone offset in an edition of 2,000 copes by The Studley
Press, Dalton, Massachusetts. 22 photographs included. Text stock is Warren Lustro Dull and endpapers are Curtis Flannel. Text type is Frutiger. Edition is smyth sewn.

Conversations with Rudy Burckhardt includes an extensive interview with Simon Pettet and 22 photographs in duotone by the noted photographer, filmmaker and painter Rudy Burckhardt. The photographs, taken between 1930 and 1986, include his classic, much-admired image of the Flatiron Building, New York 1948, and photographs of rhapsodic beauty in Maine, gentle serenity in Naples, many humorous scenes (New York, Little Rock, Florence, etc.) and others. His images are all completely accessible and reflect his resolutely unpretentious style. The sprightly dialogue complements the photographs, with many discussed individually.

Rudy Burckhardt is, according to John Ashbery, “a subterranean monument.” Born in Basel, Switzerland in 1914, he came to New York City when he was 21. He soon established himself as a photographer and, in addition to his own photographic art, made a significant contribution documenting work for major galleries and art publications. His previous book, a memoir entitled Mobile Homes, was published by Z Press in1979, and photographs have been included in numerous volumes over the years, including the Complete Poems of Edwin Denby published by Random House in 1986. He died in August 1999 and is survived by his wife Yvonne Jacquette, his ex-wife Edith Schloss, his two sons Jacob and Tom Burckhardt and two grandsons.

Simon Pettet is a British poet living in New York City and is the author of several books (most recently, Hearth (Talisman, 2009)

The publication of Conversations with Rudy Burckhardt in 1987 honored the occasion of three significant events in New York City. After decades of relative obscurity, Rudy Burckhardt¹s devoted underground following was joined by many newfound admirers as a result of a major retrospective of 67 of his films at the Museum of Modern Art, and, concurrently, an exhibition of photographs at Brooke Alexander Gallery and a show of paintings at Blue Mountain Gallery.

As Phillip Lopate has remarked, “In the book, one is privileged to hear the artist¹s thoughts and doubts about living, making art, beauty, time, youth, aging, public acclaim, compositional techniques, Switzerland, parents, and the non-relationship between rapture and sorrow … The combination of beautiful, rarely-seen photographs and lively text make this an irresistible book.”

Rudy Burckhardt was a New York photographer, filmmaker and painter, whose work is currently enjoying great attention, with a Museum of Modern Art retrospective, and two shows at the Brooke Alexander and Blue Mountain galleries. These conversations with the poet Simon Pettet were held in New York City. They illuminate Burckhardt’s esthetic but also the general climate and philosophy of the New York School, particularly the part of it that included both artists and writers. Since the late 1950s painters and poets in New York have enjoyed the sort of friendships that define the entire atmosphere of an era. Among the most celebrated are the poet Frank O’Hara’s close ties to Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline, the poet Ted Berrigan’s intimacy with Joe Brainard and Alex Katz, and many others. Not coincidentally, this lovely book is dedicated to Edwin Denby, the late great New York poet and dance critic. “It’s true,” says Denby, “there is such a thing as real beauty, only it’s only a second that you see it. I mean, real beauty, in the sense of a fact. You look up and say ‘Oh’ and then it’s gone, because something else has happened….It isn’t an artifice, it’s just the way things are…. And Rudy sees so many of them.” Judging by the many photographs in this exquisitely made little book, Rudy Burckhardt certainly does. He sees something else too: the outlandish humor in the everyday. He is also remarkably free of the art-pretentious drivel one reads in the art magazines. “Haven’t you always had to deal with being underestimated?” Simon Pettet asks him.” I was never aware of that,” says Burckhardt, and he goes on to explain, “That’s a fiction…. Because, supposing a beautiful girl gives me a big smile. That’s enough. That can make my day. She’s not ‘underestimating.’ I don’t really feel the worth of achievement. You know, achieve a body of work and people have to admire it. That’s phony actually.” Rudy Burckhardt is anything but. What he is, is an artist, all the time, even when he talks.


“…rush-hour crowds in intricate choreography with rush-hour cars, the Flatiron building… a candy-striped barber’s pole… What they have in common is his enthusiasm for the odd detail, and his capricious way of making visual poetry out of the everyday… This is where his impertinence has gotten him… after decades of public obscurity and affectionate underground acclaim as one of the wittiest and more eccentric denizens of the unsung artistic avant-garde… (a month-long Burckhardt film retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, an exhibition of his paintings and another exhibition of his photographs occurring concurrently, and Conversations with Rudy Burckhardt which was published on the occasion of these events in 1987).”
– Amei Wallach, Newsday

“Conversations with Rudy Burckhardt is genuine, beautiful and honest, without guile or cant… The book fashions a body of work, with the conversations a kind of braided ribbon that joins the portfolio of visual subject matter. Pettet and Burckhardt dot about the artistic, physical and emotional map, conversationally tinkering with ideas in much the same way that Burckhardt turns a camera. There are many sublimely articular exchanges… Burckhardt’s marvelous eye for signs and visual language is a constant delight… the retrospective quality of the work selected glides across the polarities of youth and aging, rapture and sorrow, isolation and publicness… Conversations with Rudy Burckhardt will become a valued holding for all libraries and individuals choosing to buy it.”
– Joel Lipman, University of Toledo Small Press

“This delightful book serves as an excellent introduction to Rudy Burckhardt, his manner, mind, and photography. Twenty-two duotone prints, nicely set-off by the choice of Warren Lustro Dull text paper, present Burckhardt’s images of bustling city life; however, some of the exceptions to that generalization are the book’s most memorable photographs… Rudy Burckhardt as writer, photographer and movie maker is a paragon of understated fun and sly, pervasive poetry. And how well he knows New York!”
– John Russell, The New York Times

“Conversations with Rudy Burckhardt is a sumptuous book with over twenty photo reproductions and a fascinating, fragmented interview of poet Simon Pettet… Burckhardt is a master…”
– Peter Bushyeager, The New Manhattan Review

“Rudy Burckhardt, whose 51-year career will be honored by a film retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art… is finally coming above ground.”
– Nina Darnton, The New York Times

“Rudy Burckhardt has built a stunning reputation as an individualistic, offbeat, gifted, irreverent writer, painter, photographer, moviemaker…”
– Jerry Tallmer, The New York Post

“Photographer, painter and film artist Rudy Burckhardt discusses the wonderful mix of ideas that has earned him the admiration of generations of New Yorkers. In conversations with Simon Pettet, Burckhardt muses over various facets of his life and his feelings about his works and achievements. More than conversation, this book includes Burckhardt’s powerful black and white images of New York and its people.”
– The Bloomsbury Review

“I love the book, a fine pose, a delicate touch. Bravo!”
– Dore Ashton

“Quite handsome — a marvelous production.”
– Elsa Dorfman

“The reproductions look very good. I also like the text. Pettet’s low-key questions… set the tone for an interesting response and the way Burckhardt’s remarks counterpoint the images is very finely done.”
– Andrew Crozier

“What a beautiful book.”
– Joanne Kyger

“I love it!”
– Joe Brainard

“I have the feeling that Pettet is an unusually careful and sensitive interviewer and that everything came together, as sometimes things do in life, just right for this book. I find it interesting to read the thoughts and memories of a person who’s led what Neil Welliver once said was a rather free-wheeling’ soft of life… Coming back from New York on the plane… I thought, ŒGosh if this plane crashes at least I’ll go down in a flsh of fiery plastic reading Rudy’s immortal words.’ There aren’t too many books you feel that way about. The plane didn’t crash and I kept on reading this book. So should you.”
– Mickey Walker, The Waldo (Maine) Independent

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