by Frank Turrisi
Take part in the silence of "Silent Africa"! What do you mean, what do I mean? I'm talking about checking out the "Silent Africa" exhibit in PCC's Center For The Arts, Gallery V, that is also a silent auction to benefit the college’s Galleries' Programming. Still confused? Well, that's because right from the time you step into “Silent Africa”, you'll suspect this isn't the typical student exhibit. Instead, it looks more like something you would find in a museum than a college art gallery. None of the distinctly cultural pieces display the names of the artists, era, origin, or any other detail almost always included in a gallery or museum show. Interesting...? Well, that’s because the original owner of the collection, the late (and generally regarded as the last original Hard-edge painter) June Harwood, was not an expert collector, and the collection was provided to by her trust for the college to sell. Still confused? Well, if we were producing this thing from the giddy-up as a movie, maybe (not) it'd go something like this:
PCC Galleries Programming #1: I've got a guy over at the June Harwood Charitable Trust that holds the last original Hard-edge artist's collection of all kinds of African Artifacts. Masks, sculptures, everything! Really fascinating stuff!
PCC Galleries Programming #2: Amazing! Sounds like a great exhibit for Gallery V in the Center For The Arts! I've got a space for it from August 28th-October 20, 2017. Let's set it up! Get on the horn...
(Cut to swanky office. Phone rings)
June Harwood Charitable Trust: (picks up phone) Dennis Reed here. Go ahead PCC...
PCC Galleries Programming #1: I talked to my people, and they said it's a go!
June Harwood Charitable Trust: Whoa, whoa! Slow down PCC. Here's how it's gotta be. June Harwood was one of the most important Hard-edge painters of all time. We have to respect her legacy, echo her dedication to the arts. We'll only extend this opportunity where we can maximize the cultural enrichment of the lives it touches. You get what I'm saying? It's really gotta benefit the arts!
PCC Galleries Programming #1: Uh, lemme think here...I GOT IT! We'll curate her collection as impressively as we possibly can. Then we can sell everything in a "silent" auction and all the scratch can go to the college's Galleries’ Programming fund! Don't you worry, Mr. Reed! You just give us the collection, and we do the rest. Here at PCC we'll make sure we continue our dedicated efforts to support the arts.
June Harwood Charitable Trust: I like it...I LIKE IT! June would be proud! We'll call it..."SILENT AFRICA!" (Sighs, then takes a moment of wistful silence before quickly resuming) Looks like you've got yourself a partner PCC! (Quickly hangs up the phone)
PCC Galleries Programming #1: Yippy-yea!!! We're so grateful Mr. Reed! Uh...Mr. Reed? (Audible dial tone)
Let me fill in the blanks. The show will be going on just as PCC Galleries Programmer #2 said, in Gallery V of PCC's Center For The Arts until October 20, 2017. For details of the show without fictional embellishment, the Curatorial Statement and June Harwood's Bio (issued by the real Mr. Dennis Reed, Co-trustee of The June Harwood Charitable Trust) are available at the show or by clicking here. Now, a little bit about how the show hit me.
"Silent Africa" is unique in the way it exposes another side of the late Harwood, a fixture in every important show of the Hard-edge Movement. The Hard-edge movement, which emerged in California in the 1960’s as a reaction to the more painterly or gestural forms of Abstract Expressionism, is distinctly known for its purposely impersonal paint application and delineated areas of color with particular sharpness and clarity. Today, this aesthetic is particularly associated with the mid-century era, and especially complementary to this design. Yet, the “Silent Africa” exhibit features a slideshow of rare Harwood paintings titled "Africa Series" and "Sky Islands”, in which both series of paintings (that Harwood produced in the early 90’s) could hardly be associated with anything mid-century, and are very different in style from June's best-known work.
The slides begged the question, how do these works relate to June's interest in African artifacts? And, in this way, the exhibit forced me as a viewer into my own interpretations of how June's interest as a collector of the artifacts may have somehow influenced the alternative style she used in these pieces. The energetic paintings may be akin to Hard-edge in their geometric configurations, but with color schemes that often streak across, if not burst to overlap one another, the images hardly hold the clarity and sharpness of the form she embraced for the most notable portion of her artistic life. Reed speculates, "the paintings may have been meant to evoke the spirit, emotion, or form of these masks" while admitting, “June particularly liked works that were crudely crafted - rough with little details.” Certainly the paintings, though spirited, are by comparison far more crudely crafted than any piece that could be considered Hard-edge. Yet, it is the fact that nobody can be sure about the connection between all of the elements that compose "Silent Africa", that adds to its allure, contemplative effect, and mystery - especially as it relates to Harwood. Only one of the works of the “Sky Island” and “Africa Series” is still known to exist today.
Now back to what I was originally saying about taking part in the silence...."Silent Africa"....silent auction...get it? Perhaps the funnest part about the show, is that if you are intrigued by any of the African Artifacts, there is a very accessible chance to take home your piece of this unique cultural event!
All pieces are being sold as decorative, as June did not record any details of authentication for any of the objects. The starting bid for anything in the collection will be $75, with all subsequent bids to be increased in $25 increments. There is also a very reasonable $150 "buy it now" type option that allows you to skip bidding and purchase any of the pieces outright. The only caveat there, if you were to buy a piece, you won't get to make it part of your own curatorial plans until everybody is done enjoying it. That’s right, the show must go on, and you will have to wait until the exhibit closes to pick up your piece. If you really want to get the conversations going around these started, attend the Pasadena Art Night reception this in PCC's Center For The Arts, this Friday October 13, from 6-10p.m.
Don’t miss this unique chance to soak up some culture and stake your claim on that cool sculpture, wall art, or conversation piece that you've been looking for. Hurry up though, "Silent Africa" has been running since the beginning of the semester, and I noticed many of the pieces have bids placed on them already. All interested bidders will have the chance to sneak in their last offer right until the show’s close on October 20th.
All in all, "Silent Africa" is a great way to contribute to the Pasadena Galleries Programming, familiarize yourself with the last original Hard-edge painter June Harwood, and perhaps follow in her footsteps by cultivating that collection of African artifacts of your very own.