From Jed Perl's review, "New York Stories," New Criterion
Birmelin's people are blinkered, looking down or to the side or resolutely forward. They hurtle along, heedless of one another. Yet Birmelin brings to this chaotic situation a sensibility that is essentially liberal: he wants to find kindness amidst the numbing chaos. In some of the recent paintings, two hands--hands that seem detached from anything around them--come close, and there's a little rain of coins, one or two falling from one hand to another, an offering to a panhandler. And then the feet shoot on...if one can be sure (one can't) that those are the feet attached to the hand that gave. In response to a city that's coming apart at the seams, Robert Birmelin has painted paintings that are coming apart at the seams. The paintings, despite all their elaborate contrivance, are believable. Robert Birmelin is the magical realist of our mean streets.