Writing a Chrysanthemum: The Drawings of Rick Barton

June 10 through September 11, 2022
Line drawing of nude sitting male figure with plants on left and window to the right.

One day in Peking I was sitting on the main square drawing a chrysanthemum and a little boy stopped close, looked at what I was doing, and told his father: ‘Look, He is writing a chrysanthemum.’ He was right. I am a writer.
–Rick Barton, as told to Etel Adnan

Very little is known about Rick Barton (1928-1992), who, between 1958 and 1962, created hundreds of drawings of striking originality. His subjects range from the intimacy of his room to the architecture of Mexican cathedrals, and from the gathering places of Beat-era San Francisco to the sinuous contours of plants. Drawing almost exclusively in pen or brush and ink, he captured his subjects in a web of line that was sometimes simple and economical, but more often complex and kaleidoscopic. With the exception of small displays in cafés and bookshops in the 1950s and ‘60s, this exhibition of sixty drawings, two accordion-fold sketchbooks, and five printed works, is the first time Barton’s art is being seen by the public.

Writing a Chrysanthemum: The Drawings of Rick Barton is made possible by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Agnes Gund, the Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Research and Publications, and the Rita Markus Fund for Exhibitions, with support from The Lunder Foundation – Peter and Paula Lunder Family.

Untitled sketchbook, 1962
Brush and ink (black on recto, red and black on verso) on accordion-folded book
28 panels, 11 × approx. 231 in.
(28 × 586.7 cm) unfolded
Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Libraries, MS 95e. Photography by Tom O’Connell.