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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

J. Brooks Joyner essay ...

VERTIGINOUS, 80"H X 96"W. 2009 © Harryn

VIEWS OF A SECRET No.5, 26"H X 30"W. 2009 © Harryn

Brooks Joyner on Paul Harryn …

When I experience the magnificent sunsets over the Wyoming landscape here in Casper, I am reminded instantly of the extraordinary paintings and visual expressions of Paul Harryn. His merging of art with nature and the essential ingredients of life is unique.

The brilliant solar colors on the surface of random wind-shaped clouds reflecting the migrant sun on the horizon combine with the churning blue waters of the Platte River, blowing sands, vagrant tumbleweed, and other natural phenomena mesmerize me, capture my consciousness, and transport me to a state of otherworldliness and spirituality – much the way Paul Harryn's paintings transfix and urge me to explore and discover my own subconsciousness.

About three years ago, when I met Paul Harryn at his studio and was introduced to his work for the first time, I was staggered by the subtle power and dynamic energy that his paintings express. I was immediately drawn to the conclusion that this man deserved an important solo exhibition at the newly reopened Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley. I believed that such an initiative would bring to the Art Museum an exhibition that would have appeal, impact, and importance for every visitor. It would create not simply walls with multiple abstract images but a space that would generate a physical, visual, and lasting emotional experience for everyone.

Based on my historical art research and obsession with Abstract Expressionism for many years – including an in-depth study of the legacy of Arshile Gorky, the Armenian-born American artist, and Jackson Pollock, the icon of American non-objective art – I felt that I had discovered another master descendant of abstraction in Paul Harryn, who had taken the ingredients and process of action painting to an entirely new and different level.

That remarkable level of imagination and discovery is brilliantly described in the catalog essay by my colleague and friend, Robert Metzger, who was also transformed by the amazing technique, vision, and experimentation that Paul Harryn's paintings embody and transmit to every beholder.

Through artistic expression, Paul Harryn's paintings capture the elements and process of change and evolution, whether these phenomena are atmospheric, cosmic, microscopic, or even psychic. His art is laced with the materials of nature and the dynamics of natural forces. His paintings reflect personal physical exercise as well as intellectual and emotional release, like a symphonic performance using special instruments and tonal punctuation.

I am honored and delighted to have been part of the initiative that has brought the great achievements of artist Paul Harryn to a broader public audience, and concurrently to recognize him personally for renewing our sense of joy and delight with natural phenomena and human creativity.

J. Brooks Joyner, Museum Director. Casper, Wyoming 2013
from Paul Harryn 'Essence of Nature' exhibition catalogue preface 2014

Paul Harryn & Brooks Joyner at Riegelsville Inn, 9.2013

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Michael Lally essay ...

TO RESOLUTE DECISION, 43"H x 60"W, pastel and paint on paper, 1988 © Harryn
Michael Lally on Paul 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

James F.L. Carroll essay ...

"On Stage', and 'Archetype I' in progress
ON STAGE, 9'H X 7'W, 2010 - 2013 © Harryn Studios

Paul Harryn by James F.L. Carroll …

For nearly four decades I have been privileged to know, see, and watch a number of individuals grow into exciting, mature, working artists. Paul Harryn is one of them – a highly motivated artist who has persistently forged his path through full-time dedication to art for more than thirty years.

Like life, his work is composed of one layer at a time – often including simultaneous and interactive elements that crescendo into richly layered objects of substance. Objects, whose images are selectively stratified as the result of experience.

For Harryn, location is very important. He integrates the Spirit of Place into his work. His home-studio is in the forests along the Delaware River between Bucks County and the Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania. But this is only one of his work places, as he has also been producing art along the Pacific Ocean and deserts of California for the past twenty years.

He works, as Nature does, in the transformation of seasonal changes. When he is unable to complete a work he waits until the cycle returns, causing some paintings to take years to complete.

Harryn's work is derived from circumstructure and happenstance - from serendipity and calculation - from a learned and intuitive affiliation with environment, materials, and relevant contemporary issues. Knowing how and when to mindfully respond is part of Harryn's alchemy and magic.

Essay from "NATURAL SELECTION",  September 2012, New Arts Program exhibition brochure.

James Carroll with "Selective Memory" and "Pacificus"
at Harryn's studio (9.2012)