Burchfield Penney Art Center
Buffalo, New York
Highly detailed in range and scope is this season's show of Charles Burchfield's artwork called "Blistering Vision" at The Burchfield Penney Art Center, and it was the main draw for this viewer. Also, Charles Burchfield, should he be alive today, would look on the drawings of Joan Linder in her show at the Albright-Knox titled: " Operation Sunshine" with a very appreciative eye.
Joan Linder at the Albright - Knox Art Gallery
As I have written before, I grew up in a family of artists, and my father was a big fan of both Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield - and I inherited that same orientation. Both these men were great with watercolors but more than that they caught a view of America - not necessarily the hot spots - but more along the lanes and alleys in towns and countryside. There is a very solitary aspect to Burchfield's artwork, and I can't remember a single image with a memorable person in one of his compositions.
Charles Burchfield at work in his
Charles Burchfield's "Roadside Stream", 1939
What the viewer can see in Charles Burchfield's art is someone who can animate nature, and someone who is in awe of it's power. There is also a reverence for the products of an able work force, and a sense of capitalist progress in the machine age. Burchfield was not the first to paint a picture of a steam engine or a bridge, but he may have been the first to not make them look so artsy - seeing his subjects for what they are.
Charles Burchfield's "Snow Patterns"
Not that his work is without drama, but Charles Burchfield's art stands on its own very well now, more than half a century since the paintings and drawings were made. The gallery visitor is also given a sense of the artist's milieu through another show that accompanies "Blistering Vision"
and it features a group of artists gathered for a birthday party in August 1956.
A Community of Artists: Birthday Party, 1956
The Burchfield Penney Center is a beautiful space, and the curators give us a thorough dose of what drove Burchfield to paint images of factories, the aftermath of storms, and a poetic documentary of life in early 20th century America. Also, on view at this time is a curious installation by Babe Reingold called: "The Last Tree", and upstairs are large colorful cut felt sculptures by Josef Bajus made out of what looks like industrial textile discards.
Felt sculptures by Josef Bajus
The Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Across the boulevard is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and they have great paintings on view including classics from artists like Arshile Gorky ( "The Liver Is The Cock's Comb" ).
Arshile Gorky at The Albright-Knox
Downstairs,in her first museum show are the drawings of a friend, Joan Linder. In a way, Joan's drawings expand on the vision of Charles Burchfield, and I must say it is uncanny - because Charles Burchfield was known to design wallpaper, and I at first, upon seeing Joan's drawing in green ink of plants - thought it was wallpaper at first, but then I realized that it was really a meticulous drawing of little green plantain weeds done inch by inch - and I thought what patience she must have!
Joan Linder's sketchbooks on view
at Albright - Knox Art Gallery
I also felt a kinship with Joan because of her artwork, and because I am attracted to the same kinds of industrial spots, though I don't often get the chance to draw and paint them. Joan's installation consists of 91 elements including drawings in her Moleskine sketchbooks that she makes on site with remarks including one by a state trooper telling her that it will be alright if she sits and draws at that spot, as long as no one calls in to report her. Was she sitting at "Love Canal"?