Oceanside museum invites public to watch artist create one painting over four months
As part of his solo exhibit, North Park’s Robert Xavier Burden expects to spend nearly 3,000 hours on his 12-by-8-foot ‘Alien Painting’
For nearly 18 years, Robert Xavier Burden has dedicated his life to creating what he calls the world’s most ambitious paintings of the past 150 years.
Some of Burden’s large-format oils have taken more than 2,500 hours and up to three years to complete. Thirty-three of his multilayered, intricately detailed works can be seen this spring in the solo exhibition “Relics” at the Oceanside Museum of Art. As a special feature to the exhibit, Burden is letting museum visitors inside his process with a live-painting event.
Visitors can watch Burden gradually create his latest canvas on a wall inside the “Relics” exhibition. He’s been working on the canvas since the exhibit opened Feb. 18 and hopes to finish it by the time it closes June 4. He believes this painting will require from 2,700 to 3,000 hours of work. It’s a 12-by-8-foot piece called “The Alien Painting.” When complete, it will feature depictions of more than 180 space alien toys from pop culture history, ranging from Superman to E.T. to the Predator.
In his early 20s, Burden found a box of old Star Wars and other plastic toys from his childhood in his parents’ garage. Remembering how precious the items were to him as a boy and how insignificant they seemed from an adult perspective fueled his “Relics” painting project.
Because Burden has several other paintings under way at his apartment-studio in North Park, he won’t be painting full time at the museum this spring. The best time to find him in action is in the mid- to late afternoons Thursdays through Sundays.
This is the second time Burden has painted live in San Diego. He also worked on his 12-foot-tall “Dinosaur Toys” painting at the 2016 Comic-Con convention. The dinosaur painting is featured in the “Relics” exhibit.
“That was three to four days of live painting, but realistically I spent four days talking to 100,000 people. It was not the most productive kind of painting,” he said.
He hopes and expects to get a lot more work done at the less-crowded Oceanside Museum of Art.
Burden paints behind a small stanchion and wears headphones to reduce distractions. But he said he appreciates museum visitors who come to watch him work and he doesn’t mind the occasional tap on the shoulder from people with questions about his work.
“That’s the point of doing this ... to describe the process of these hyper-hyper-labor-intensive paintings,” he said.
‘Robert Xavier Burden: Relics’
Exhibit hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays. Through June 4.
Live-painting hours: Times vary, but usually in the afternoons Thursdays through Sundays
Where: Oceanside Museum of Art, 704 Pier View Way, Oceanside
Admission: $10 adults; $5 ages 65 and over; free for children 17 and under
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.