“My paintings are grandchildren of the New York School.” What do I mean by that?
The 1950s were a time when I was most open to deeply absorbing the gestalt of that period, when young minds were able and also ambitious to be caught up in ideas larger than ourselves. Painting offered itself to fill that void, both rebellion and moral act. The model was found in the spirit and work of the New York School painters.
At that time the New York City art world was giving birth to its own apocalypse. Folks like John Canaday, Tom Hess, Greenberg, Rosenberg, the Black Mountain College milieu, and a cabal of painters, sculptors, dancers, etc. were dismantling existing criteria, establishing new parameters for each of their disciplines.
Every part in this evolving art world enterprise, except the media, was made jittery by the specter of Picasso and his strident, encyclopedic, monolithic, iconoclastic, unstoppable, in-your-face, glorious art making.
Into this upheaval appeared an eighteen-year-old Pratt Institute freshman from upstate New York, a recent winner of the Albany Halloween Window Painting contest, confident in the belief that art was illustration. He was ready! Or so he thought.
I remember walking for the first time up out of Brooklyn’s Dewitt-Clinton subway station, carrying suitcases and paint box – finding a tattered neighborhood, worrisome ethnic faces and odd-looking people I would soon find out were artists. In complete naiveté I had stumbled into perhaps the most turbulent place and period in the history of art.
The following six years in Brooklyn and Manhattan were madly wonderful. If the definition of learning is “to be changed by newly acquired knowledge,” I majored in learning.
My carrying forward the spirit of the 50s art world legacy into our time is the common thread for me in the studio. Continuing to believe, now as then, that making paintings is part of something larger than myself – and important. Thus my paintings today are grandchildren of the NYS.
Harry Rich, “Untitled Curves and Straight”, acrylic on canvas
Click here for more work from Harry Rich at The White Gallery.