Tom Volkaert

Tom Volkaert

Almost Good Enough

October 25, 2018 – December 16, 2018

In this very space, right where you stand, a 9-year-old Tom Volkaert walked into The Fritchle Garage and secured a job as a breaker boy in 1898. It was the glory years of the “Automotive Age” and car parts for makers like Nash, Hudson, and American Motors were arriving daily in Atlanta via a 16-car train that would arrive from Milledgeville. These were rumbling, bumbling, bone-jarring contraptions; four-cylinders, standing seven feet tall, with 20-horsepower that allowed a breakneck speed of 25 miles per hour. They were glorious and hot damn, Tom wanted to be a part.

Old Man Fritchle warned with some uppity gibberish that it wouldn’t be easy. For $1.15 a day, Tom would arrive in the deep dark of the early morning and leave after sun went down for the night. Being below ground the light would only spill down the chute in the seconds between the manhole cover being pried up and impenetrable cloud of stale black dust hitting his eyes and nostrils like a brick of fire. His job was never ending. As soon as it would spill at his feet, Tom had to grade the coal based on its impurities (sulfur), removing the undesirable slate pieces, and putting the rest in clean coal bins. For better agility he worked without gloves.

The opposite of upstairs, this basement is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Fritchle was a germaphobe who demanded hot water from the sinks, meaning Tom had to continuously hustle shoveling the coal into the furnace. Tall for his age, he stayed hunched over all day long. He covered his mouth with a dirty handkerchief, but still had respiratory issues. Everyday was backbreaking. Attempting to wash himself clean would create a thin layer of sulfuric acid that burned his freckles off. Yet, Tom loved every minute of the job, unlike most of his young friends who worked in large, noisy breaker rooms, stacked to the brim with kids missing fingers that had been amputated by fast moving belts and sharp shards of slate.

Here Tom was alone. This was his office. The furnace was his desk. The shovel his pen. Barely visible through the dust he proudly hung a photo of his mother. Surrounded by bottomless concrete he was able to escape. He is a zealous provider of his family, a patriot helping build the cars that make America move. Tom wanted wind-burned eyeballs, the dull sound of wind, the type of speed that would take him and his anywhere but here.

This exhibition has been a collaboration with Good Enough, Atlanta.

This exhibition has been funded by Flanders State of the Art.


Tom Volkaert

Tom Volkaert (b. 1989, Antwerp, Belgium) Lives and works in Antwerp. Previous exhibitions include, ‘Neighbours 7’ Jan Collection Gallery, ’Dream Art Fair Basel, Rod Barton, UK ’Never The Same Face Thrice’, Base-Aplha Gallery Antwerp, ‘Cart Wheels & Accessories’, Ciap Hasselt, Antwerp, ‘Very Very Very Very Very Very Very Very Good Times’ Hole Of The Fox, Antwerp, B 2015; T.O.O.N, Groepsproject Het Bos, Antwerp, B; True Beliver, The Pony Club Project Space, 2016; Art In The Park, Beersel, 2016; For Granted, Hole Of The Fox, Antwerp, 2016; Koninklijke academie voor schone kunsten Antwerp, 2016; Ten Dans, Lieven Segers nodigt uit, CC Maasmechelen, 2016; Paradise Lost, Base-Alpha Gallery 2016.

Good Enough

Good Enough is an artist-run gallery space currently located in Atlanta, GA with an emphasis on alternative spaces of interaction and viewing art.


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