Rudy Burckhardt, “The Poet’s Artist”

Rudy Burckhardt, “Chelseascape III, New York” (1947)

“Rarer than the artist’s artist is the poet’s artist, and Rudy Burckhardt was one,” Holland Cotter writes in a review in the New York Times today of the new retrospective of Burckhardt’s work showing at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery (which I wrote about here).  Cotter hails the show as “a small museum-ready survey” and discusses Burckhardt’s role as

a photographer to the artists and writers who became close to him, a multigenerational group that ranged from Willem de Kooning to the painter Yvonne Jacquette (Mr. Burckhardt’s second wife) and included John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch and Vincent Katz. Mr. Burckhardt painted portraits of many of them; that’s what a 1950 shot of Mr. de Kooning’s studio basically is. But the city itself was his great subject, often viewed from a great height or up from a pigeon’s-eye perspective on the street. His pictures of Manhattan in the 1940s are distinctive. He made the city look at once effervescent and evanescent, a grand, rambling, energy-spitting machine dissolving into dust.

Cotter praises Burckhardt for his “compositional rigor, with image after image as self-contained, balanced and resonant as a sonnet. Such subtleties are not big selling points in American art. They have long made Mr. Burckhardt, with his avid fan base and mainstream obscurity, the ‘subterranean monument’ of the show’s title. The phrase, by the way, is Mr. Ashbery’s description of Mr. Burckhardt, the words of a poet-artist describing an artist-poet who was also a cherished friend.”

The show will be at the Tibor de Nagy in New York through January 17.

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