New American Paintings/Blog

Pew Center for Arts & Heritage presents Charles Burwell (Video) by New American Paintings
October 17, 2011, 10:29 am
Filed under: Art World, Video

I ran into this video interview of Philadelphia’s Charles Burwell (NAP #8 and #51) in his studio while researching his work. In 2008 the Pew Fellowship granted Burwell a fellowship for his paintings that are “..large scale formally rigorous and visually stimulating.” All true.

His abstractions are grounded by layers. Repeated images, often with strong outlines, form open ended icons that, depending on the canvas, can thrust forward or retreat. His interest to sequential rows of strong colors means his canvases are an energetic space. Their dynamic interactions contradict how slowly each layer is settled. They turn into tangles of historic visions, none overly dominant and none neglected.

The numerous blank forms Burwell uses as templets allow him unlimited variations. The resulting visual constructions are like architectural layouts. Each perceptive space sketches a different state of mind but also a different structure that forms the final facade. His mention of how slowly buildings are constructed, points to this reading of his work. Rather than building a living room in one motion, he builds the infrastructure that supports the space that will become a living room, but not before arranging the supports for the later work he will need to finish. Just like how a complete building can’t be seen from one room, Burwell’s entire composition cannot be seen from one brush stroke. You have to walk around to see what form each space takes. – John Pyper, MA Contributor

John Pyper is an art nerd, writer, and intermittent curator based in Cambridge MA, He is a contributor to,, and


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