Lois Lambert Gallery, Suite E3
Exhibition Dates: March 16 - May 4, 2019
Opening Reception March 16, 6-9 pm
Lois Lambert presents recent work by the painter Allen Harrison. In this exhibition, Harrison continues to deconstruct the imagery of Tibetan Thangka paintings, and transform them into oil paintings of evocative skyscapes.
Although Harrison maintains that his interest is strictly aesthetic, Thangka paintings are religious paintings, and adhere to a strict set of Buddhist principles in their depictions. These are typically displayed only on religious festivals to inspire and educate, and as meditation tools to guide one towards enlightenment. When not displayed, they are kept rolled up, and out of sight. Harrison’s process is also deliberate, and it eventually obscures these paintings. However, it also allows them to transcend any predetermined role or purpose.
Harrison collages images of these works, and then traces the characteristic spiralling clouds, wavy tongues of ame, arcing bands of color, and the entwining limbs and sinuous bodies of deities. The resulting tracings are adhered to his panels, their outlines delineating the areas that Harrison will later ll with color. Each generous brushstroke of paint is dictated by the forms of the Thangka tracing. Harrison regularly takes photographs of the sky from the roof of his studio, and these images are what dictates the colors that Harrison uses, as he reinterprets the sky according to the demarcations of his tracings.
Harrison’s intention is not to denigrate a religious tradition: he is drawn to the active visual forms and compositional possibilities that this imagery offers, just as he is to the skyscapes that they become. The Thangka imagery is never completely lost or ultimately obliterated, it remains a swirling palimpsest beneath the cloudscapes. These charged skies echo the turbulent skies of JMW Turner, and the romantic sublime, wherein nature readily inspires awe and terror.
Harrison’s artistic practice is ever-evolving, and has encompassed several 1 (more) distinct bodies of work. Prior to these Thangka-based skyscapes, Harrison used hard-edged geometric forms in visual situations in which colors and shapes laid against each other created the sensation of depth and movement. Harrison discovered that his chief interest lay in the juxtaposition of texture and color, rather than his typically rectangular forms, which
had become increasingly fractured until they dissolved into architectural compositions.
In another body of work, Harrison used found objects to create assemblages. Once again, he revoked the objects’ utilitarian identity and instead focused on their formal visual qualities, positioning them to obscure and reveal new qualities and relationships.
Harrison’s various bodies of work have been, and continue to be, governed by strictly de ned processes, under which Harrison pushes the limits until
he feels that he has exhausted creative possibility. Rather than working mechanically under nite systems, Harrison stresses that it is the unexpected outcomes of his structures that spark his interest. Intentionally disparate imagery, objects and techniques create unexpected combinations, and unintentional outcomes.
In this way, Allen Harrison captures the mystery of artistic inspiration, and the forces that allow us to create and experience what is beyond our expectations. The proscribed and the formal dissolve into the infinite, the unknown, but one that is present and visible and looms above us all- the sky.
Allen Harrison has shown his work extensively, with over 25 exhibitions throughout the United States. Most recently he has exhibited at the Portland Art Museum. Harrison is included in both the private and public collections such as those of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Architectural Digest Publishing Corporation, General Electric, 20th Century Fox, Lowes Corporation, BankAmerica Corporation, the Arco Collection and Goldman- Sachs in Los Angeles. In addition, Harrison’s work has also been seen San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Byer Museum of Art. Publications include Art In America, Artnews and the Los Angeles Times. In addition to his career as a painter, Harrison taught painting and drawing at several California colleges over the past 39 years.