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'The Likeness Of Being: Portraits By Philip Burke' Opens April 10

'The Likeness Of Being: Portraits By Philip Burke' Opens April 10

Posted: April 9, 2015

Philip Burke has been capturing the imaginations of musical divas, film and sports enthusiasts, politicos and the general public through his paintings for over three decades. His unique style—part caricature, part abstract expression—utilizes vibrant colors, sparing brushstrokes and sharp lines to set his work apart from that of all other contemporary artists.

The Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State presents The Likeness of Being: Portraits by Philip Burke, an exhibition of more than 75 of Burke’s most iconic paintings and drawings, on view Friday, April 10—Sunday, September 13, 2015.

Widely published, Burke’s work serves as a chronicle of the cultural, political and social undercurrent, appearing on the covers and pages of Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Time, Vogue, The New Yorker,Newsweek, GQ, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, New York Times, TV Guide, and many others.

“People from around the world recognize Burke’s work…everybody, in some way, has a personal connection to it. But, few know the artist behind the portraits. As a portraitist, Philip expresses his own understanding of the subject,” said Scott Propeack, Burchfield Penney associate director and chief curator. “Each one of his paintings suspends a moment in time. It’s a portrait of someone we’ve come to know through news stories or popular culture, but as Burke paints, the figure warps and abstracts, and something deeper shines through.”

Co-curator Brian Grunert notes that exhibiting a comprehensive selection of Burke’s portraits in a museum setting will provide visitors a unique opportunity to explore these connections. “On the surface, Philip’s work can be appreciated for its stylistic and technical craftsmanship. But when you experience these portraits together, subtler possibilities emerge,” said Grunert, partner at White Bicycle design studio. “Burke’s abstractions are deliberate. He’s amplifying the essence of the subject, exposing the inspiration and volatility of celebrity, and ultimately revealing something of our shared humanity.”

For Likeness of Being, Burke will be painting a new portrait of the late Charles E. Burchfield based on a survey of photographs, journal entries, sketchbooks and watercolors. “For Burke to reference The Center’s collection and archives to create a portrait of Burchfield is really exciting,” said Grunert. “We will exhibit Philip’s sketches for the painting, to reveal the process of creating the Burchfield portrait. Visitors have gained a biographical sense of Charles Burchfield through exhibitions over the years, but to see Burke’s interpretation will be special.”

About Philip Burke

Philip Burke is an American artist born in Tonawanda, N.Y. in 1956. By the age of 15, as a student at Calasanctius Preparatory School, he was doodling and beginning to draw. As he puts it, “When I was a teen, I wanted to be a rock star, but I couldn’t play any instruments and I was too shy to sing. So, I put my dream into painting and drawing rock stars.” In 1974, while attending the University of Toronto, he contributed caricatures to the student paper. Though he had no formal art training, his early influences included the celebrated New York Review of Books illustrator David Levine and Ralph Steadman.

After two years of college, Burke relocated to New York City, where he soon started creating illustrations for the Village Voice and other publications. By 1982, he had transitioned from pen and ink to oil paints and working on a larger scale. A multi-year exclusive contract with Vanity Fair enabled the artist to return home to Buffalo, where he married and started a family.

In successive years, Burke became a featured artist at Rolling Stone (1989–96) and his work appeared in such publications as Time, Newsweek, the New Yorker, GQ, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and Slate, among many others. His artwork has been seen in several books, including The Savage Mirror (1993) and Rolling Stone: The Illustrated Portraits (2000), and in a touring Rock & Roll Hall of Fame exhibition.

Burke is best known for portraits of musicians and politicians. His primary subject is the human figure, its features warped and exaggerated and its surface saturated with intense expressionist color to suggest complex psychological states. On several occasions, the artist has staged “live paintings” in which he creates new works or embellishes existing canvases in front of an audience.

Burke has been honored by professional groups including the Society of Illustrators, the Society of Publication Design, and the Society of Newspaper Design. In 2013 he was recognized by the Living Legacy Project at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Media Contact:
Kathleen McMorrow Heyworth, Burchfield Penney Art Center Head of Marketing and Public Relations | (716) 878-4529 |
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