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Five Facinating Buffalo Art Shows in the Buffalo News

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Colin Dabkowski on Five fascinating Buffalo art shows: Step inside and chill while contemplating five fascinating art shows in the Buffalo News' Gusto.

As the culture-packed summer of 2013 drags into its dog days and the prospect of stepping into the stifling air to attend a free concert loses some of its perennial luster, it’s natural to seek out a bit of respite.

And for anyone inclined to look, few places provide a better opportunity to while away a sweltering afternoon than one of Western New York’s dozens of serene, white-walled and usually air-conditioned art spaces.

This summer, Buffalo’s sprawling visual arts scene offers almost limitless possibilities, from Charles Burchfield’s magnificent visions of the summer skyscape in the Burchfield Penney Art Center to a series of nature-inspired reveries on the walls of Allentown’s Indigo Art gallery.

Whatever your preference – be it painting or sculpture, abstraction or realism – there’s more than enough on view here to keep you busy until well after the chill of fall sets in. Here’s a look at just a few shows worth catching, some of which are in their final weeks.

Charles E. Burchfield: Oh My Heavens

The night sky was a source of endless wonder and intrigue for watercolor painter Burchfield, whose sketches and paintings are the focus of this extraordinary show in the museum that carries his name. It was organized by the Burchfield Penney’s Tullis Johnson and Alana Ryder along with Kevin Williams, director of the Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium at Buffalo State College.

Burchfield’s fascination with the cosmos and with questions of our place in the universe, a fact honored by the inclusion of the constellation Orion in the ceiling of the Burchfield Penney’s second-floor reception space, has never been the subject of a major exhibition. With ample grace, this show demonstrates the centrality of celestial bodies to Burchfield’s work, from his extraordinary 1917 painting “Orion and the Moon,” on temporary loan from a private collection, to his studies and sketches for works concerned with the placement of stars and planets.

Stargazers will love the information Williams provides about the specific constellations and moon phases Burchfield refers to in his paintings, while art fans will find plenty to love in Burchfield’s boundless curiosity about the universe that surrounds him. One of the biggest surprises is an undated graphite drawing called “Untitled (Harmony With God)” that shows a figure standing with his arms extended while the cosmos swirls around him. It’s as if this lonely figure was trying to absorb it all into his soul. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what Burchfield was trying to do.

“I feel that I could sense more of infinity and God,” he wrote in one representative journal entry, “through looking up into this night willow than if I sailed to Jupiter and beyond in a spaceship.” Through this excellent show, we can sense that wonder, too.