David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce Studies for 20/20, an exhibition of new work by Zach Harris. The show opens on May 11 and remains on view through June 15, 2019. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, May 11 from 6:00pm until 8:00pm.
Zach Harris is the author of highly original works rooted in multiple traditions of painting, sculpture, and architecture. The results of long periods of preliminary planning and many preparatory studies in numerous media, the paintings synthesise his interests while suggesting that the histories of painting in particular, and visual culture in general, are narratives about how societies imagine the structure of time, the divine, and other mystical categories of experience. In Studies for 20/20 Harris employs recurring mathematical motifs, like the Golden Ratio and the 12-month calendar, to generate a unified body of work in which painting and architecture co-relate like the twin strands of a double helix.
The meticulously inventive qualities of Harris's paintings are exemplified in his use of carved and inlaid wood, which, alongside linen and other materials, acts as a substrate and structure for the improvisatory use of paint (mostly stain-like, water-based pigments). He elaborates intricate laser cut forms, uses a router to create undulating reliefs in dialogue with narrative images, and builds networks of frames within frames and paintings within paintings, synthesising 'fine art' and 'craft' in a constantly evolving, self-reflexive meta-narrative. His work refers to the domestic objects and spaces that, though they have traditionally surrounded painting, have been considered as separate from it.
More than ever, Harris opens his paintings to these systems from design, furniture, and architecture, exploring their functional tropes from a sci-fi inflected perspective and bathing them in otherworldly light. Drawers, mantles, pianos, windows, and clocks are just some of the archetypes that appear in Studies for 20/20. As if to emphasise the presence of these forms and the labor that goes into making them, Harris has even embedded actual levels in some paintings; the notions of perfection and balance that the level promises pick up a theme already present in the exhibition's title, which refers to eyesight in both its literal and figurative manifestations ('hindsight is always 20/20'), and to the symmetrical and evocative number of the upcoming calendar year, with all it might portend for the future of the world as we know it.
Shifting and alternate perspectives on history, whether art-related or more global in scope, are some of the major thematic engines of Harris's project. His work's connection to specifically Californian aesthetic traditions, for instance, traces unlikely parallels between the late-19th—and early-20th-centurty Arts and Crafts movement, responsible for some of the region's most distinctive architecture and design, and cultural expressions of psychedelia that emerged in the 1960s. In so doing, he sheds light on the spiritual tendencies that run through many phases of West Coast creative life, which animate the imagery in his newest works and their high degree of craftsmanship alike. His compositions juxtapose teeming, virtuoso graphite drawings of humans, animals, and fantastic creatures with experiments in geometry and colour theory, as well as with the visual textures inherent to his materials. Wood-grain patterning plays an important compositional role, reflecting a sensitivity to the natural world and an attention to detail that feel indebted to a previous age, even though the paintings' subjects often tend towards the futuristic and vibrate with quasi-apocalyptic overtones.
Harris depicts—and embodies—time in a variety of different ways. His techniques range from age-old, hands-on acts of carving to unmistakably contemporary, digitally-driven processes by which forms are cut by laser. The painted images themselves, meanwhile, gradually emerge over long periods as he harmonises them with the sculpted elements that surround them. Furthermore, he increasingly establishes formal links that weave together numerous works, like the elaborate curve based on the Golden Ratio (a foundational mathematical principle in Western art and architecture) that appears throughout Studies for 20/20, expanding the terrain of looking beyond the limits of a single painting.
Harris takes the long view, both in terms of the phenomenology of making and perceiving art and the transformations in consciousness wrought by the passage of time. As such, forms based on calendars have been a consistent theme in his work, a tendency that reaches its highest expression to date in this exhibition. The division of the year into units of months, and the division of months into weeks and days, generates a variety of torqued grids; in addition, he has begun to augment his calendars by including the signs of the zodiac, whose mythical figures provide opportunities for painterly invention and esoteric speculation. Harris's combinations of fact and vision represent a kind of perception in which the imagination co-exists on equal terms with material reality. His studies for 2020 are studies for the world to come: versions of the future as seen from the present, and dreams of the present becoming the past—but as seen from the future.
Zach Harris (b. 1976, Santa Rosa, California) has presented solo exhibitions of his work at Galerie Perrotin, Paris and Seoul (2017 and 2018); David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2013); Max Protetch Gallery, New York (2009); and Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, Oregon (2009). Recent group exhibitions include Unorthodox, Jewish Museum, New York (2016); Left Coast: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California (2014); Tapping the Third Realm, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design, and Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles (2013); and Made in L.A. 2012, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2012). His work is represented in the public collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey; and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
Press release courtesy David Kordansky Gallery.