Friday, June 25, 2010

Nature, Up Close and Personal

In summer, it can be difficult in the city, could be heaven for the painter Charles Burchfield, the 20th century mystic light of America. Because he spent most of his time in a suburb of Buffalo, which marked the tree aura season midday sun, sky brightness as cool as the song thrush and gardens of a pulse with music from the shackles the moon.

Even nature was tense and anxious. From the beginning, Burchfield concluded, as God he once had, meant that people were not Paradise, and rarely painted throughout. He also learned that hell was a society of one: himself. A natural ecstasy, was also a chronic depression: not a stop passive case, but a grieving and yearner. "Oh God - How to get there!" He wrote in his diary, "not" be childhood innocence, the home.

A dynamic mood seems to swing sharply in the survey called "heat waves in a swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield" at the Whitney Museum of American Art, perhaps in part because the show was organized by Robert Gober, the artist American contemporary whose work mines neurotic at the bottom of the American psyche. However, even with an emphasis on certain aspects of Burchfield's career, Mr. Gober gives us nothing more than himself Burchfield. The peaks and valleys are all right there in the art.

Born in Ohio in 1893, Burchfield, since I could remember, was highly sensitive to the nature, partly as a substitute for a lost religious faith. His father, the son of a Methodist minister, had resigned to orthodoxy in anger. And when later Burchfield mother felt excluded from a local congregation, rejected religion altogether.

He spent four years at art school in Cleveland, absorbed in thought of the artist and philosopher Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922), who taught that nature should not be represented realistically, but as graphic patterns. In 1916 Burchfield left New York City on a scholarship to study at the National Academy of Design, but once there, balked and withdrew after a single afternoon. He managed to get a solo show in a bookstore-gallery in Manhattan before heading desperately nostalgia, back to Ohio.

By then he was already doing interesting things.

He had settled in watercolor - technically demanding, almost in its entirety on the light - as their primary medium and in the landscape, both observed and imagined, as its theme. Aesthetic stimuli was pulling from all sides: nature of children's books, Japanese prints, Chinese scrolls, illustrations by Arthur Rackham Wagner, Léon Bakst of games for the Ballets Russes, and the painting of the Romantic artists like William Blake and, surely, Samuel Palmer.

In 1917, which Burchfield called his "golden years", this eclectic hodgepodge generated some of his most famous images.

In one entitled "The Chorus of Insects" the plant world becomes an anthropomorphic force made up, with trees represented as a bumblebee jazz swirls of yellow and black, and the buzzing of cicadas groups symbolized as dashed lines .

It becomes natural energy and funeral crushing "Church bells, rainy winter evening," a picture of a bell tower looms like a big eyed bird squatting over a black population as rain pours. To Burchfield, at that point while agnostic and terror of damnation, the painting expresses the fear that the religion instilled in him.