new-york

Robert Birmelin

Sherry French Gallery

What I like about Robert Birmelin’s pictures is their perspective and scale. Both are ironically precise and explode the picturesque. For example, in Dominance and Submission (with Yellow Bus), 1985, our eyes follow the orthogonal projection of an arm to an upright green signpost, only to be brought up short by a yellow bus after leaping across an indeterminate space. An infinite vista is projected as we move down the street; but again we are stopped, this time by the excruciating complexity and clutter of detail.

Birrnelin’s paintings are brilliant in the way they confront us with a variety of urban spaces and surfaces, including human surfaces. His is a toughminded realism—these are not a tourist’s pictures. They flatter no one, and are full of psychological as well as material detail. Indeed, for Birmelin, the Trash, 1986, on a city street has as much “character” as his figures. Physiology

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