An Exclusive Interview with June Harwood
The upcoming February 23, 2014 Modern Art & Design Auction features an early work from California Hard Edge painter June Harwood.
Last week, we sat down with the Los Angeles artist to discuss her beginnings in the Hard Edge Movement as well as Blue Orange (from Loop Series) (1966), an acrylic on canvas from her first major museum exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1967.
What were some major influences of yours in the 1960s? Can you recall any artists or trends that had significantly caught your attention?
June Harwood: I think I have to go back a little farther to when I was at Syracuse University. I had some very good instructors who were mainly interested in classical painting. Ben Nicholson to go way back, although he was sort of a realistic painter. And also someone who you would not expect was Bradley Walker Tomlin. He was the closest thing to a Hard Edge painter, but he was considered an Abstract Expressionist. I think you can tell by looking at his paintings and my earliest paintings.
The largest movement at the university was Abstract Expressionism, but the instructors I had were more concerned with the classical approach, which led me to Hard Edge painting. We did a lot of paper collages, and of course the concern was balance.
And you moved from Syracuse to Los Angeles. How did coming to LA help to develop your Hard Edge style?
JH: I just continued to do collages and paint. As a matter of fact, I worked at the Los Angeles Art Association as I was getting my teaching credential. Lorser Feitelson was a major influence at the LAAA. He was in charge of hanging all of the shows. He saw my paintings and told Jules Langsner, who called me up.
Blue Orange (from Loops Series) (1966), June Harwood
Can you tell us about your solo exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1967, where the painting “Blue Orange (from Loop Series)” was shown? Was this your first major museum exhibition?
JH: Yes it was. Very successfully in terms of criticism. My husband Jules Langsner, who had coined the term “hard edge” had just died that previous weekend, so I was not in the greatest of spirits.
He was very instrumental in promoting these painters.
JH: He helped to promote these original four painters, and then myself and Helen Lundeberg.
Were you aware of the importance of Hard Edge as a movement in the 60s and how did you foresee the future of the genre?
JH: I wasn’t, not at all. I’m sure that Lorser was, and perhaps the others. I was much younger than any of the others and I think I was more naïve to be honest. I was just painting.
I didn’t see a future in the movement at the time. Jules kept telling me, “Stop giving your paintings away!” I think I know where Fish [alternate title of Blue Orange (from Loops Series)] went. There were many other that disappeared and I have no idea where they went. Lorser on the other hand kept very good track of where his paintings were at all times.
We once heard you discussing the importance of kinetics in your works. What were some of the difficulties (if any) in portraying movement through a two-dimensional format?
JH: It has to do with movement. For the Loop Series, it developed from elliptical guides used by architects. I was doing some drawings, playing with those shapes, and that’s how the Loop Series developed. I suppose the kinetics came from the loops I drew, but I erased part of the loops. There was more of a kinetic feeling because you had to jump from one area to the next to complete the surface. In other words, I used partial loops. There isn’t a complete oval – none of those lines connect.
You had a show entitled “California Hard-Edge Painting” at the Pavilion Gallery in Balboa with the Four Abstract Classicists and Helen Lundeberg. Were you influenced by any of these artists?
JH: I wasn’t influenced by them, but I was most like Feitelson and his concerns about painting. I think he would agree that we had the same kind of aesthetic, more so than the other three or four, if you include Helen. Lorser stood out as the great master amongst the Hard Edge painters.
It’s a similar aesthetic, a similar attitude about color forms, as Jules calls them. Like yin and yang – neither is the positive nor the negative, but both are positive and negative. So that’s what Hard Edge painting was, where one color form would abut the other – one could be positive or the other could be positive. One could be negative, or the other could be negative. Couple (1966) and Rouge et Noir (1965) are more typical of this yin and yang.
We would like to thank June for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Blue Orange (from Loop Series)
Acrylic on canvas
Signed, titled, and dated verso; bears the inscription “B-10″ verso; retains Santa Barbara Museum of Art inventory label on canvas stretcher verso
Canvas: 40.125″ x 60.25”
Together with facsimile of exhibition brochure and exhibition checklist.
LAMA would like to thank the artist for her assistance in cataloguing this work
This painting has an alternate title Fish.
Exhibited: “June Harwood,” Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, October 3-November 12, 1967
Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000