Magazine article Artforum International

Richmond Burton

Magazine article Artforum International

Richmond Burton

Article excerpt

CHEIM & READ

Whither abstract painting? Richmond Burton gives us one convincing answer: toward a richness of surface that is ironic while it is at the same time aggressively, even triumphantly, organic. The richness is ironic in at least two ways. First, for all its sensuous directness and Dionysian fluidity, Burton's surface is fragmented into forms that brake the painterly flow, forcing on us a certain Apollonian consciousness of "transcendent" shape. Second, his tricky flow is always intricate and never completely what it seems - at times his shapely gestures form a tense, tight weave, at others a more languid, looser one, and they may even verge on spinning utterly out of control. But "the return to the organic" - as idea, method, and source of emblematic forms - is regnant: Burton's paintings convey a feeling of rapid, forceful metamorphosis, one that is bizarrely natural. It is as though he has dissected the process of metamorphosis, capturing its spontaneity on the wing, and above all conveying the sense of undoing and redoing form that is its essence. Certainly the strange curvilinear shapes of Shivaesque, 1997, each with a kind of dark teardrop at the core, seem to be simultaneously making and unmaking themselves - an altogether appropriate process in a work that alludes to the Hindu deity who in the same breath destroys and restores worlds. Are Burton's shuddering shapes Shiva's dancing arms, bringing worlds of life into being even as they announce death to others?

Robert Motherwell once wrote that "abstract art is a form of mysticism." There is much here to convince us that Burton's goal is to renew those mystical roots of abstraction. The stars in View Behind the Curtain, 1996, suggest as much, as does the artist's marvelous integration of the extremes of black and white. …

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