Friday, March 5, 2010

International Intern

Yesterday I played hookey.
I also played the press card. Free sandwiches and hanging out with Robert Gober, a pretty alright Thursday.

A border hop away, and I arrived at the Burchfield Penney in Buffalo NY for the retrospective Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield. Quick lunch with the curator Gober, and then he drew us in from room to room. I fell in line, pen scribbling away, the academic in me collecting his facts. Pleased by the story, but barely even looking. And then, re-thinking what does it mean to be a part of a press preview tour.

So I looked.
Burchfield seemed interested in painting shifting moments of time. Transitons between seasons, hours of the day, weather conditions - the titles of his works reveal these instants. In these transitory times the paintings become kind of moments of decay, inherent for nature, in the normal day by day. The pieces contain a human quality of longing to understand time, without answer. Gober also described Burchfield's interest in displaying multiple moments in a single painting (The Four Seasons 1949-60), and his practise of revisting past paintings. The watercolours become layered, combining panels of paper into single images. He contexualizes himself. Vatrines, journal quotes, doodles, they all work to build a history, but the works themselves propel his life along.

Shuffling through the show, we are reminded that entire architectural features were inspired by Burchfield's life. The circular rooms a particular desire, as marked by his writings, for a round gallery space to display his paintings. Embedded into one of the ceilings is an orion constellation (Burchfield's favourite) created by gallery lights. Displaying the stars during the day, shifting between night and day, this was my favourite, and not even part of the exhibition.

And then back to Toronto we go. On the bus and wondering, critic or viewer, academia or asthetics. Journalist I ain't, but 47 Representative is something. It is interesting, the private side of the press world, to be guided and explained to. A free art trip is a free art trip, and to see behind the curating curtain was good enough for me.

Dear Art,
Thanks for the swag bag.

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