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Review: Burch brings surreal touch to Hoffman LaChance

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 8, 2010 - Christopher Burch's "The Sleep of Reason" at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary represents new areas of exploration for the St. Louis-born artist.

While he's well known for his grotesque drawings and cartoon-style characters, "The Sleep of Reason" is more of an environment or installation. Burch has covered the gallery walls with flocked black wallpaper and hung three black-painted decorative serving trays.

Titled "Cheshire Black," the trays feature knots of twisting, grinning wormlike creatures in Burch's signature drawing style.

The center of the gallery is occupied by a group of empty bottles and jugs, all painted black; in a few of them, Burch has stuffed sticks wrapped in lace, ribbons and strips of brocade.

The effect is eerie and suggestive of fetish figures or luxury tourniquets. In fact, the entire installation has a distinctly surreal flavor, as if Burch were releasing the repressed eroticism and death drive of the Victorian spirit.

It also pays homage to Francesco Goya's 1799 etching cycle, "Los Caprichos," the most famous of which, titled "The Sleep of Reason," features a sleeping man surrounded by wild-eyed creatures that appear to emerge from the walls.

Burch translates Goya's blend of the real and the surreal, as well as the velvety black of Goya's etchings, into a truly haunting environment.

Ivy Cooper, a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon's art critic. 

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