September 30, 2010

Today we went to the Whitney to see the Charles Burchfield exhibit, after which we kicked around Central park for several hours and then rode the bus home.

I’d never heard of Burchfield until I read about his retrospective in the New Yorker this summer. I was drawn to his work, in part because it seemed unexpected for the time and place, that being Ohio in the early 1900’s, but also because I like his execution, especially in his later years. The Whitney’s staging really delivered. It was arranged chronologically and included excerpts from his journal, a room dedicated almost soley to his doodles (which he saw as form of subconscious thinking), and displays of press coverage, some of commercial work and commissioned work. There was both depth and breadth. For me, he created his most moving work in his later years, reinterpreting and expanding on the work that made him famous around 1917. In these later pieces it was as though he was painting his experience of nature. It was as though he said I’m not just going to paint what I see, but I’m going to paint what it sounds like and how it feels and what it makes me think about and amazingly he was able to capture on canvas something transcendental.

It was also inspiring to get a sense of a life time of artistic practice and a glimpse of an artist challenging himself. He painted right up to the end of his life, which was when he was creating these big, mystical and ambitious pieces.

When were walking through the park afterwards, I saw all these tree limbs, dark huge, bent and twsting out over the walkway – like Charles Burchfield come to life.

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one response to “mystical”

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