Seeing Out Loud

Having an eye in criticism is as important as having an ear in music

One reason more young artists aren't familiar with this great American may have to do with Burchfield being yet another painter who is left out of the Museum of Modern Art's narrow-minded, mad march through modernism. Although he had three retrospectives at the Whitney, one at MOMA (way back in 1930), and one at the Met, Burchfield continues to be an odd man out of modern-art history.

In this patchy but occasionally stirring survey of 33 works on paper, you can track Burchfield in landscapes that have a Blakean spookiness. Like Hartley, Burchfield brings a mad I-see-everything- at-once spirituality to his work. Landscape With Rain, from 1917, looks both like a God's-eye view of a valley and God's half-closed eye. The 1917 Sun Setting in a Bank of Smoke is a modern-day Star of Bethlehem scene with five glowing extraterrestrial orbs hovering near an old house and another blazing above. Several late works, notably the electric-orange Butterfly Tree, from 1960, and a drawing from 1964–65 of a metaphysical tree that looks like an alien hairdo and a coxcomb, suggest that Burchfield wasn't only good early on but was one of the better American painters of the early '60s, as well.

Dangerous Minds: An Art Dealer in Motion

The critic, looking and learning
photo: Robin Holland
The critic, looking and learning


See also
  • Mystic Cryptic Revelations
    Transcendental landscapes, haunted houses, and trees with halos
    by Jerry Saltz
  • Getting Physical
    Jerry Saltz on the Andrea Rosen Gallery
  • For the last 15 years gallerist Andrea Rosen has offered a studious, restive, exuberant outlook about art. But also philosophic. Ask her something and she'll give you a "history of" answer. Lately, she seems to be expanding her vision to good effect. "Looking at Words," which features more than 300 works on paper hung salon-style, is her latest foray into exhibition-as-investigation. All the works have words in them, although, interestingly, you look through the letters and the words at the images themselves. Physicality trumps reading. Confronting this much material in one room is daunting. But it's worth it, if only to glean the mind of an art dealer in motion.

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