Hot City—Some Art

July 6, 2010 § 2 Comments

Charles Burchfield, American, (1898-1967)


Charles just left to go back to Florida, where it’s probably cooler than it is here. We had a lazy but culturally rich weekend; the highlight was the Charles Burchfield exhibit at the Whitney, titled Heatwaves in a Swamp. Burchfield’s watercolors of wooded landscapes and Depression-era houses are painted with a light yet sinister touch that reminds me of Edward Gorey—an Edward Gorey digesting Edward Hopper and Vincent Van Gogh. Yes, I know that’s hard to imagine.

As the painter aged, his visionary side dominated; the paintings of the 50’s and 60’s—woods unfolding to reveal their inner Fantasia—have some of the formal elements of Asian art but mostly resemble drug dreams of the most splendid sort. It brought me back to 1968: LSD, Peter Max, my introduction to the Impressionists at the Metropolitan Museum, Blake’s watercolors, and books like Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. Go see this exhibit, if you can. It will be up until October 17th.

Another exhibit I’ve seen recently is at the Cathedral of St. John The Divine. In Other People’s Skins, by Terry Flaxton, consists of a real table and chairs the viewer sit down at, while a video projection of hands and arms sharing meals plays over the surface—different meals, different hands, though I mostly remember the champagne and the ice cream with strawberries.

It brought the past back just shy of definition so I couldn’t tell you which dinner party or wedding feast I was remembering. The pleasures of those nights, the different eras of my youth, were intermingled and connected, as the artist intended, to the recognition of how those pleasures are happening everywhere, all the time, to people not me, but so much like me.

Meanwhile, I dine on Perrier and pineapple, and the cats are no longer being told hourly how beautiful they are.

Charles Burchfield, Backyards with Early Sunlight

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§ 2 Responses to Hot City—Some Art

  • Gina says:

    I got this wonderful post in my email, but it doesn’t show up on the WordPress site. I love the Gorey, Hopper, Van Gogh image.

  • charles carrico says:

    I used to wonder what you were aiming at when you painted in your sketchbooks. The liquid curves meandered with transparent yellows oranges and blues. They were undeveloped, but were endlessly searching. Now I see what they were hunting for.

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