November 21 - 27, 2003
June Hardwood

By Peter Frank

The renewal of interest in hard-edge abstraction, the late-1950s geometric response to abstract expressionism that began right here in Southern California, has not only returned the spotlight to painters such as Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg, but has renewed interest in the work of still-living artists such as Karl Benjamin and Frederick Hammersley — and is beginning to bring to light their less prominent compeers. June Harwood is one such fellow “abstract classicist,” also alive and kicking, and also responsible for a notable, even stunning, body of work from the 1960s. To judge from what has been unearthed of this buried treasure, Harwood was no also-ran; she took the relatively simple abstract-classicist formula — flat, intensely colored shapes with crisp contours and a sense of coincident movement and stillness, contemplation and flow — and made it her own, painting paintings in a way no one else quite painted them. Oh, the resemblances are there, but they are so numerous, and yet so oblique, that they affirm rather than compromise Harwood's distinctiveness. This reintroductory exhibition shows Harwood's stylistic progress through abstract-classicist methods and tropes, moving from the off-kilter architectonic structures of her early-‘60s canvases into the curvilinear, even orbital paintings of mid-decade, then into more purely linear circles and orbits, which in turn morph into webbed and crystalline compositions. These last images, coming at the end of the decade, are clearly derived from scientific sources, whether astronomical or subatomic; they also speak to such ‘60s aesthetic concerns as Op Art and geodesic domes — and they anticipate the pattern painting of the following decade. Harwood is certainly fascinating as an artist symptomatic of her times, but she is worthy of our continuing attention because she has evidently fashioned an oeuvre engaging in its own right. Let's now see what she's done since — and let's also keep looking in the shadows for other worthy artists of the recent past. At Noho Modern, 11225 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; thru Dec. 1. (818) 505-1297.