Rudy Burckhardt

Phillip Lopate, Author, Vincent Katz, Essay by
Phillip Lopate, Author, Vincent Katz, Essay by ABRAMS $65 (223p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4347-6
Reviewed on: 07/01/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
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This handsome and long-awaited 10 1/4"" x 12 1/4"" monograph is, surprisingly, the first to be devoted to the work of Swiss-born photographer, filmmaker and painter Rudy Burckhardt (1914-1999). While his name may not be known to many outside of that loose agglomeration of downtown artists, poets, dancers and filmmakers usually referred to as the New York School, many of Burckhardt's photographs--particularly his stunning shots of New York buildings in the 1940s--have become iconic images, appearing on posters and postcards worldwide. The 300 or so photographs presented here, including New York street scenes, European cities, artists in their studios (DeKooning, Guston, Pollock and Rothko among them), still lifes and nudes, are linked by Burckhardt's eye for the subtle, his writerly sense of indirection and a gentle mischief. Burckhardt immigrated to the U.S. in 1935 in search of adventure, quickly forming a lifelong friendship with the writer and art critic Edwin Denby, who introduced him to his many friends in the worlds of music and theater, including Paul Bowles, Virgil Thomson and Orson Welles. As Lopate points out in a warm and insightful essay, Burckhardt's own artistic strategy was to""hide in plain sight"" by quietly attaching himself to New York's most progressive artistic circles. Indeed, it was probably the relative insularity of the then avant-garde that, combined with Burckhardt's own lack of interest in self-promotion, has resulted in his being so unknown outside of a tiny, if luminous, circle: writing in 1980, the poet John Ashbery described Burckhardt as a""subterranean monument."" Happily, this book should go a long way towards bringing his work above ground.
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