|TO RESOLUTE DECISION, 43"H x 60"W, pastel and paint on paper, 1988 © Harryn|
When I first encountered Paul Harryn's paintings and drawings, I thought of the "scratching" and "sampling" in "rap" records – the noise behind the rap. When you first hear it, it can sound confusing, jarring, aggressive, deliberately abrasive sometimes – even crazy – and yet almost always familiar.
The same can be said for Harryn's artworks, on first viewing them.
Poet Ted Berrigan said: "No ideas but in juxtapositions" (his appropriation of Carlos William's famous dictum, at least to some poets, "No idea but in things"). "Scratching" – picking up sometimes a fraction of a bar of music from an already available record and playing it forwards and then backwards or at higher speeds – and "sampling" – using a musical phrase from an already existing recording as it was recorded, and then perhaps repeating it in ways that change its original intent – are used in juxtaposition to each other creating an entirely new language of 'musical" ideas.
It's like creating a new language from bits and pieces of various old languages. It's like creating new art from bits and pieces of old art. We've seen it done before, to some extent, throughout the history of art, to a greater extent throughout the history of 20th Century art, collage for example.
Now comes Paul Harryn with his unlikely choices and juxtapositions.
He seems to be playing the same kind of intellectual and technical game the d.j.'s are playing with their audiences and with themselves. And just as in early rap most of these games were about speed and virtuosity, so too the early work of Harryn's I saw. But as rap is becoming more refined and focused, and in so doing - more diverse, so too Paul Harryn's work.
I don't want to beat this rap analogy to death, but it seems appropriate, because the work has been created during and has been affected by the times; only whereas one reflects the impact of these times on young black men schooled in the vocabulary of the various traditions of black popular, and not so popular music, the other reflects that impact on a young white man schooled in the vocabulary of the various traditions of white popular, and not so popular, art.
And the "d.j.'s" bring to their art as well, their own interpretations and distortions of white culture, and so too does Harryn bring to his art his own distortions of non-white culture – from Aboriginal Australians to native Americans. In both instances I believe I can see a quest for spiritual recovery from the soul-destroying effects of so much of contemporary existence.
So, I guess I'm saying, Paul Harryn is a paintbrush/drawing pen "d.j." laying the groundwork for some overdue "new" ideas.
Michael Lally, September, 1989. Santa Monica, CA
From "SIGNALS & CELLS", 1988 - 1990. Series Catalogue.
|Michael Lally, Paul Harryn, Miles Lally, LA, CA 1988|
Harryn - Moon Tigers opening