Hard-Edge Painting Revisited: 1959 – 1969
October 18 – December 1, 2003
Out of the abstraction of Mondrian, Malevich and Albers, a pure abstraction emerged in the 1950s that was uniquely Californian in composition and color. Dubbed the “Abstract Classicists” by critic Jules Langsner in connection with the seminal Los Angeles County Museum 1959 exhibition of the same title, the California painters were distinct from the historical abstraction of New York in the 1940s.
They were not focused on their role in the struggle between representation and abstraction, the literal and the figurative. Their emphasis lay with the coherence of color and form in creating the whole, and the power and centrality of oppositions within a single work, rather than the gesture of the artist and the creative process. June Harwood, whose work was shown in the second large-scale California Hard-Edge Painting exhibit (Newport Beach Pavilion Gallery, 1964) alongside that of John McLaughlin and Lorser Feitelson, developed a remarkable language of abstraction during the pivotal decade of the 1960s. Not content to simply reduce the canvas to a flat surface of color-forms and negatives and positives, Ms. Harwood’s work from this period included both open forms and interlocking structures, while injecting a sense of energy and movement into the often static and contemplative world of the hard-edge.
The current exhibition explores four major themes within Ms. Harwood’s work from this period, including: the earliest “sliver” paintings, whose consistent and neutral palate allowed for experimentation in form and geometry; the “colorform” paintings, which show Ms. Harwood’s mastery of the mature language of the hard-edge and the opposition of color; the “loop” paintings, which demonstrate the artist’s development of open, kinetic forms within the confines of her geometric abstraction; and finally the “network” and “grid” paintings, which represent the evolution of the loops into a fully-formed, complex structure.