Paul Burlin – Transformation of Spirit to Pigment: Harmony in Chaos

Peyton Wright Gallery Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Vallarino Fine Art, New York, representing the estate of Paul Burlin and the Paul Burlin Art Trust, are pleased to announce an important exhibition of Burlin paintings Friday, October 6th through Friday, November 24th at Peyton Wright Gallery, accompanied by an exhibition catalog of 96 pages.

An opening reception will be held Friday, October 6th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Paul Burlin’s move to Santa Fe, subsequent his participation in the 1913 Armory Show in New York, would herald a new era of modernism in New Mexico.  The Armory Show, he later recalled, had little impact on his work and yet he was affected; simultaneously unsettled and yet galvanized by the event.  As time passed, the new ideas and inspirations Burlin experienced at the Armory Show and in other established galleries in cities across America began to appear in his paintings. 

Returning to the Southwest to live, he drew inspiration from the culture and the landscape. Like many modernists of the day, Burlin was fascinated by so-called “primitive” art, particularly the designs and palette of the Native cultures he encountered in New Mexico. In 1917 he met and married Natalie Curtis, a highly-regarded ethnomusicologist specializing in Native American music. 

In 1921, Paul and Natalie Burlin moved to Paris as part of an exodus of expatriate artists responding to the provincialism of America after World War I, exemplified by the hostile reaction to his abstract work and other modern art. In Paris, Burlin found himself in the cultural center of modern art.  He studied European abstract artists, working with the Cubist Albert Gleizes, and further developed some of the intellectual and symbolic elements that he had begun in the Southwest.

Later that year, Natalie was killed in an automobile accident. Burlin was devastated. He moved back to the Southwest, but found no solace there, and soon returned to Europe. He continued to live in Paris until 1932, when he moved back to the United States in the midst of the Great Depression to work for the WPA.

During this time, Burlin’s work tended toward social-realism, experimenting with political and urban themes. Throughout the war, Burlin employed themes of war and persecution, drawing much of his inspiration from Picasso’s war paintings.

Later years would see him visited by visual difficulties, undergoing early cornea transplants in the mid 1960’s, and at times legally blind but,. . . .still painting.

Endeavoring to calculate Burlin’s contributions to early modernism/expressionism in New Mexico one-hundred and ten years after the fact is challenging, but it can be said Burlin was not only the first Armory Show participant to arrive in New Mexico, but the earliest painter of Modernism in the region.

The exhibition and catalogue titled “Transformation of Spirit to Pigment: Harmony in Chaos” celebrates Paul Burlin’s mature works, ca. 1950 –1969; not only his most prolific and productive period but arguably his most poetic, with numerous canvases from the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art exhibitions. This publication is the most extensive biographic chronology of the artist to date including his exhibition history, literature and publications. 

We gratefully acknowledge the participation and support of the Paul Burlin Art Trust and the immediate and extended family of Paul Burlin.