Monday, February 26, 2018

painting music ...

NEGEV VISIONS, Painting Music, 2017. Volume I, CD

angel trails ...

NEGEV EARTH DRAWING, No. 3,  Angel Trails,  2017.  
5.25"H x 8.75"W.  Ink and earth on paper.

Solar Bouquets ...

SOLAR BOUQUET, No. 1, Wadi Zin Convergence, 2017-18.  6"H x 6"W

SOLAR BOUQUET, No. 16, As Stars In Heaven, 2017-18.  12"H x 12"W

Saturday, February 24, 2018

years ago, today ...

Mom, Nurse, Me, & Dad
Forever grateful ...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Saturday, March 11, 2017

'Earth Drawing' in the Negev Desert ...

Harryn 'Earth Drawing' in the Negev Desert,  3.2017
Earth Drawing No. 1
Earth Drawing No. 6

Earth Drawing No.  9
Makhtesh Ramon No. 1


'Earth Drawing' has been part of my repertoire since the 1970s – inspired in part by the early works of Robert Smithson but more often by economic and mobility concerns. A pen, tablet, and bottle of water is all I need to capture the essence or Spirit of Place at any given location.

During the early part of March 2017 I had the opportunity to investigate the Negev Desert in southern Israel – a profoundly inspiring expedition that becomes the cornerstone of a new series of paintings I'm about to embark upon …

Above are a few samplings from the many studies accomplished over a few weeks ...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Gerrit Henry essay … Pt. 1

A MIRROR'S FACE, 1989 © Harryn

MOTHER EARTH,  1990 © Harryn

Gerrit Henry on Art and Paul Harryn …

"Where there is no vision," it says in the Bible, "the people perish." The author of Proverbs was, of course, speaking about the lack of prophets among the Israeli people some 2,500 years ago, but this injunction might just as well apply to the contemporary New York art scene, desolate and devoid of inspiration – and enlightenment – as it is.

Our visionless-ness hasn't been long in coming. After the last great American avant-garde movement of the 70s, Conceptualism – which prophetically advised the elimination of the art object completely in favor of written matter, or even just ideas, about the impossibility of making art at all – "something," as the title of the Joseph Heller novel of around that same time had it, "happened" to American art. In the early 1980s, There was "New Image" painting, with its systems of inscrutable figures designed to titilate, and ultimately disappoint, the viewer's imagination, the mid-'80's were designated and age of "pluralism" or "post modern" art, during which the artist was encouraged to do, as one painter described to me, "anything he wants to do." The most authentically visionary art of the 80s was Neo-Expressionism, with its attempted return to the expressive ideals and technical freedoms of both the classic German Expressionists and America's Abstract Expressionists. Sadly – and perhaps inevitably, given the artistic energy level Neo-Expressionists were expected to maintain – the movement died, fairly recently, of a kind of collective nervous breakdown, aggravated by the closing of one East Village gallery after another and emblematized by the death last year, of a drug overdose, of Jean-Michel Basquiat at 28. Whatever the Neo-Expressionist vision was – and, at times, it was explicitly, extraordinarily exciting – it has, in effect, passed from the scene, to be replaced by the bland and formal proprieties of a movement called, unhappily enough, Neo-Geo.

Artistic vision in New York, in short – outside of the broad painterly ironies of a Clemente or the near-Wagnerian visual broodings of a Kiefer – seems to have gone the way of a drive-in movie. It has always been difficult to maintain a personal vision in the art scene; corporate identities such as Pop or Minimalism or even Neo-Expressionism have always, and continue to, damp down the fires of individual inspiration and expression. Perhaps an aesthetic pluralism should still be the ideal for a new American art, in the absence of any viable single school or movement – a pluralism demanding that we keep our eye open and remain sensitive, somehow, toward young artists of a singular vision.
One such artist, it seems to me, is Paul Harryn.
Harryn has lived and worked in New York in the past; over the last few years, this painter has seen fit to work out of his hometown, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the moment, avoiding the sort of New York limelight that can build up, in a moment's turning, to destroy an artist's career.

Harryn has been wise in his choice; it has allowed him to pursue his vision privately, but with full vigor. As with any contemporary artist, though, Harryn's vision was not born sui generis. If we are to think of him as a part of any "Neo" movement, that movement would have to be called Neo-Surrealism. It's a difficult appellation. Think "Surrealism" and at best you may think of Joan Miro or Yves Tanguy – at worst, the late Salvador Dali. But was Miro really a Surrealist? Was, for that matter, the commercially-oriented Dali? And isn't all great art of the 20th century in some essential way Surrealist?

To answer those questions even partially, we have to first look to modern art history – to the predominance of classical Surrealism 1919 to, roughly, 1939, in post-World-War-Europe generally, and in Paris specifically. The movement was the brainchild of poet Andre Breton, who became intrigued by those odd voices we hear or vivid hallucinations we see at the moment we're close to falling asleep. They're called "hypnogogic images," or, as painter Max Ernst labeled them, "the visions of half-sleep." Out of such cryptic, cosmic material, Breton and Ernst hoped to postulate a new art movement, whose mission was to efface "the borderline between dream and reality," as Gaetan Picon put it in his tome Surrealists and Surrealism, "between conscious and unconscious."

It was 1924 when Breton's first Surrealist Manifesto was published. By then, Surrealism had moved from the mere imaging of dream states into a frontal attack on the fabled bourgeoisie. Poets and painters  rallied to the call, inspired, haunted, and driven by psychic demons that had been let loose by World War I, the first truly global crisis the world had known, which had left Europe in a state of cultural and spiritual disrepair. The increasingly aggressive and bumptious Surrealists sought to bring the European spirit back to life through the twin devices of shock and outrage. Giorgio de Chirico's dreamlike assemblages of painted objects in darkly classical settings, Max Ernst's junk collages, Man Ray's psychedelically underexposed "Rayographs", Joan Miro's febrile fantasies, and Yves Tanguy's stain-painted canvases of biomorphic and ectoplasmic beings – all took early 20th century art  to the psycho-perceptual limit. And, as culture-journalist Roger Shattuck put it in his introduction to Maurice Nadeau's classic The History of Surrealism, the surrealists formed the first important group of artists since the romantics to attempt political action in order to improve society."

Like vinegar and water, though, Surrealism and Communism never really mixed, and the movement entered its European decline around the start of the Second World War – not surprisingly, given the necessary decentralizing of the art capital of the world from Paris toNew York. Still, Surrealism gained a kind of underground momentum. In the Surrealist spirit of the autonomy of the unconscious are Jackson Pollock's early, harrowing "psychoanalytic drawings," and Arshile Gorky's paintings of the late '40s, which – with their dancing biomorphic figures, overheated pastel shades, and the broad hints of a reality both grave and more buoyant than the world of facts – were profoundly influenced by Tanguy and Andre Masson. A little later, the Abstract Expressionists hijacked something of their psychological dynamism from Surrealism: de Kooning's half-crazed "women," Robert Beauchamp's loony, wild concatenations of figures both human and animal, and even Adplph Gottlieb's post nuclear sun-scapes inhabited a psychic space made possible almost solely by the earlier incursions of the Surrealists into the realm of the fantastic.

And the spirit lives on.
If the Puritan austerities of what is called Neo-Geo painting have been, for the past year or so, the great hope of formalist moderns, something like a Neo-Surrealism might just be their perfect foil – a new exhumation of and repository for the fabulous, but absolutely genuine, imaginings from the "animal brain," the part of our brain that was rigorously excluded from the severe Minimalist geometries or sere Conceptual "think tank" art of the '60s and '70s. And, insofar as he is an adept explorer of just such realms – of the hidden mental ways of perceiving, knowing, and interpreting deeper psychic realities than those that present themselves on the surface – Harryn is decidedly a Surrealist, or Neo-Surrealist, if you like. Given that, we must ask – what are the distinguishing characteristics of a "Neo-" Surrealism? "For one thing, it is more about hyper-psychic states," says Harryn, "than the half-sleep that Breton and Ernst were talking about – a hyper-awareness of existence as the condition for making art. The atrocities that confront our civilizations are greater and potentially much more devastating, than those of Wold Wars I and II, but also more subversive and ambiguous – as are the solutions."

Happily for us, Harryn has taken on, in his new series of black-and-white canvases measuring a typical 72 x 60", the task of defining the new conditions of a new Surrealism – a "solution" to the aesthetic exploration of the current human dilemma that constitutes his particular vision. Rule out "style for style's sake," says Harryn; "rule out, too, a mindless aping of classic Surrealism. "As a movement," Harryn continues, "Surrealism became an inappropriate language, uniformed, and myopic – time moves on." But, he adds, "as a method, it became a tool to transform outrage into expression and image."

continued  on next entry …

Reprinted from "Paul Harryn: SIGNALS and CELLS, 1988 - 1990" Harryn © 1990

Harryn painting, 1989