Activating the Surface: Art by Paul Harris
On view January 7 through February 24, 2024 in the main gallery the Carbon County Arts Guild & Depot Gallery will show Activating the Surface: Art by Paul Harris. This exhibition is organized by the Bozeman Art Museum and traveling to venues in the state of Montana through the Montana Art Gallery Directors Association (MAGDA).
Through the years, Paul Harris returned to his wax and pigment drawings with subjects ranging from still life to abstracts, from figures to landscapes and many more in between. In fact, although known as a sculptor, his go-to medium remained the art crayon. The presence of color is almost more important that his subjects. Harris seems to adhere to Matisse’s rule of still life painting: color is the first element. However, the method in which that color is applied comes from the teachings of Hans Hofmann, who Harris studied with in the 1949.
Hofmann taught his students to activate the surface and balance the composition with idea of push and pull, where bold color planes emerge from and recede into energetic surfaces of intersecting shapes. Harris’ drawings pulsate with energy as the movement he put into the pieces, etched into the composition, can be felt as much today as the moment they were created. The lines, nearly frantic with color, keep the eye traveling, yes, but they also keep the mind engaged in the images, searching, reaching, in continuous dialog with the viewer. Harris, always concerned with pattern and texture, understands the spatial relationship inherent in a finite drawing. These pieces, intimate and compelling, relay an accessible, inspirational narrative. As one artist noted, “they make me feel like I can do this.”
In this exhibition we can see why Harris never put aside his crayons. As Harris noted in a 2000 radio interview, “I remember in sixth grade the teacher wanted a lot of things made that she would use the next year and the next, I didn’t do much work in her class except make these big drawings. I became very accustomed to crayons, and I’ve never been able to let them go. Crayons are still my best friends in making drawings. I don’t think it will ever end.”
And it never did.
Paul Harris (1925-2018) BFA University of New Mexico/New School for Social Research. Ed.D Columbia University. Studied with Hans Hofmann, Agnes Martin, Johannes Molzahn. Taught as Fulbright Professor in Chile, Sculpture Professor at College of Arts and Craft Oakland, among other art institutions. Exhibited extensively across the country including MoMA, LACMA, Berkeley Museum of Art, Poindexter Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago, 1965 New York World’s Fair, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, San Francisco Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institute, and various shows in Europe.
This exhibition is sponsored by MAGDA and the Carbon County Arts Guild & Depot Gallery which are organizations supported in part by grants from the Montana Arts Council, the Coal Tax Trust Fund for Cultural and Aesthetic Projects, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Carbon County Arts Guild & Depot Gallery provides access to art, supports artistic expression, and encourages creative experiences for the enrichment of our communities.
For more information visit www.carboncountydepotgallery.org or call the Guild at (406) 446-1370.