New York

Harrison Burns

E.M. Donahue Gallery

Harrison Burns has succeeded in breathing fresh life into the tradition-bound genre of flower painting. While it was indeed possible to consider the examples shown here as simple still-life genre paintings, they are more than merely decorative. For all their electrifying colors and sensual good looks, these are intellectually rigorous pictures that bring together visuals and ideas in endlessly fascinating combinations.

The likenesses of the individual flowers and the vases and bowls in which they are contained lit up the surface with an intense spectral glow. For example, in Tulips 3, 1990, by repeating the outline of each of the three tulips in its vase, Burns creates a ghostlike effect. As in earlier series, the vibrating forms have their starting point in video images that Burns takes directly off the tube. Freeze-framing a particular image, he photographs it, and then uses a stencil to actually paint the image. In examples like Mums 3, 1989, and Daffodils 8, 1990, the stencil ended up as part of the painting, seamlessly collaged into the body of the image and the sizing of the surface. The paintings that resulted are characterized by a high-keyed opticality that transcends their ostensible subject matter.

Ronny Cohen