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Cheim & Read
May 15 – August 29, 2014
New York

It was never intended for Mondrian— My linden tree.
Nor was it for Picasso or Braque
When they spent the summer in Céret!
It was the linden tree that taught me
How to hold my trunk upward and high
Without getting a burn.
Like Van Gogh’s cypresses,
They rise upward to the infinite constellation
With poise and finitude.
My cypresses are esteemed, transformed
Into spirit, effortlessly resisting
The gravity of earth’s proscenium,
Without regard for the foreboding council of the wind
And humidity in the midst of
A fair summer.
They keep just enough air for breathing and dancing in
The interval. The phthalo green has risen to carry out
Its greatest diplomatic mission to negotiate a truce with
Mars black and cobalt blue.
The explosive lyrical beauty of endless cypresses
That give the landscape its shape and character
Divide in half the untidiness of edges
And the light that
Blinds each member
Of the family.
The first cypress gave birth to
The universe. Something of a smear that opened
The void, which trembled with a primal cry like the holy fool
That inspired Andrei Rublev to paint a feast for the restoration of
His faith. It’s been nine years since I have left the family of cypresses
In Rue Frémicourt to tend to my father’s red tree in Vétheuil.

Life seems to have changed its tempo,
In spite of my neutral disposition.
Muscular articulation
Appears to be inarticulate for the moment.
We blush at the sight of fertile ground.
Emotion is unleashed, weighty contempt transformed
On its surface.
Red tree turns into green tree.
Orchestrated sounds meant to harmonize,
Please the collective ears of the elders in the
Tympanum at Abbaye St. Pierre de Moissac.
The trees danced without any rehearsal,
While bathing themselves in the sun. Trees that move
Without limps, without debts (to Hades or Apollo).
Trees that protect me from the rain.
Trees that refuse to be in another’s landscape, mine or yours.
Trees that are there to reassure you are here.
Trees that are an internal presence of being
Between places, here and there.

Phong Bui


Joan Mitchell, “Tilleul (Linden Tree),” 1978. Oil on canvas, 110 1/4 × 70 7/8 inches. Courtesy of Cheim & Read.

Joan Mitchell, “First Cypress,” 1964. Oil on canvas, 88 1/2 × 78 inches. Courtesy of Cheim & Read.


Phong Bui


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2014

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