In the LA Times, Christopher Knight calls the Hammer Museum’s Charles Burchfield show, organized by artist Robert Gober, breathtaking. In ArtNews, Hilarie M. Sheets reports that Gober started by plumbing the artist’s vast archives—some 30,000 works, including paintings, drawings, journals, doodles, and scrapbooks—at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo. “This museum, devoted to Burchfield and other western New York artists, reopened last November in a spacious new Gwathmey Siegel–designed building after being housed since its opening, in 1966, at Buffalo State College. Up now at the center (through the 29th of next month) is ‘The Architecture of Painting,’ which features little-known Burchfield works from 1920. The show was organized by Nannette Maciejunes, executive director of Ohio’s Columbus Museum of Art, where it was previously on view. It also traveled to New York’s DC Moore Gallery, which represents the Charles Burchfield Foundation.
“When Gober found a 1966 newspaper report of a break-in at Burchfield’s studio on the night of the Burchfield Penney’s grand opening, he decided to put it on the back cover of the Hammer exhibition catalogue. He thought the headline, ‘Artist Honored, Home Robbed,’ was a “metaphor about the risk you take when you put something very personal of yourself out to the public.’
“He recognizes that he and Burchfield may seem an odd pair, but Gober wants to keep the focus on his subject. ‘Of course people are free to bring their connections to it, because there are connections—I’ve made wallpaper and depict the American Scene to a certain degree,’ he says. ‘But I’m much more removed and mediated about nature than Burchfield was. His favorite thing was to go out painting with his easel, stand knee-deep in a swamp, and get stung by mosquitoes.'”
“It feels very much like an artist’s show, one that springs from an empathy for working studio process.” Knight reports in his LA Times review. “Each room includes vitrines with fascinating adjunct material — magazines, tools, sketches, correspondence, catalogs, etc. None is more poignant than the final display, featuring two precarious stacks of more than 60 manila folders carefully cataloging a selection of Burchfield’s voluminous annotated journals. We can’t look inside them, sheltered beneath their plexiglass cover. But the display is an eloquent testament to the fact that, with an artist of Burchfield’s deep and prodigious gifts, we will never get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, we have his paintings.”
The exhibition is accompanied by a 184-page, fully-illustrated catalogue, Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield, edited by Cynthia Burlingham and Robert Gober with essays by Robert Gober, critic Dave Hickey, Hammer Deputy Director Cynthia Burlingham, Burchfield Penney Art Center Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator Nancy Weekly, and Burchfield Penney Art Center Research Assistant Tullis Johnson.
“Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield,” organized by Robert Gober with help from Cynthia Burlingham, UCLA Hammer Museum, Westwood, CA. Through January 3, 2010. Traveling to the Whitney Museum and the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo.
“The Architecture of Painting: Charles Burchfield, 1920,” Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY. Through November 29, 2009