Tom Hackney: Corresponding Squares: Painting the Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp, a show comprised of 17 paintings will open at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art on March 18, 2016, and run through April 29, 2016. It will then travel to the World Chess Hall of Fame in Saint Louis, where it will be shown from May 9 through September 11, 2016.
This is Tom Hackney’s first solo show in the United States. Hackney is a young British painter who has created geometric abstractions based on the movement of pieces in games of chess. In the case of the present exhibition, they are games played by the celebrated French artist and chess player, Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp once remarked that playing a game of chess was like making a drawing. “The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts,” he explained, “and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem.” In Hackney’s pictures, the beauty in those games is captured and made visible in a single static image. It was Duchamp’s goal to elevate art from a purely visual experience to something more cerebral, an aspiration that Hackney unquestionably accomplishes in these paintings whose beauty is generated entirely by ideas that took place on the 64 squares of a chessboard.
In having called his exhibition Corresponding Squares, Hackney subtly alludes to the book on endgame strategy that Duchamp wrote in 1932 with the Russian-born chess master Vitaly Halberstadt: Opposition and Sister Squares Reconciled. Hackney chose the word “corresponding” to suggest that he has entered into a conversation with Duchamp’s games, an exchange that continues as chess players contemplate and attempt to decipher the moves that generated the rectilinear and diagonal patterns he has so skillfully and gracefully recorded. The paintings are in black and white (like opposing chess pieces) or in color, based on a color-coded chess set that Duchamp designed in 1920.
This show presents the second opportunity for a collaboration between the Chess Campus in Saint Louis, and Francis M. Naumann Fine Art in New York. Marcel Duchamp: Chess Master (2009)—a show that focused in on the artist’s involvement with the game—was shown at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art. That show was organized by Dr. Bradley Bailey, Associate Professor of Art History at Saint Louis University. Francis M. Naumann and Bailey wrote the accompanying catalogue (with chess analysis by Chess Champion and author Jennifer Shahade), Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess. The exhibition traveled from Saint Louis to Francis M. Naumann Fine Art in New York.