James C. Harrison: "Goya" (1989)
Created in the eighties during a period when Harrison made several works in tribute to musical, literary, and artistic virtuosos, “Goya” pays homage to the renowned Spanish Old Master - Francisco Goya. This work is immediately striking, with primal splashes of bold elemental colors, drawing your eye to the central portrait, a representation of Goya’s 1796 “Self-Portrait”. Harrison intuitively balances a vivid yellow ochre used to highlight the intensity of Goya expression, with a somber blue shadowing that conveys the ruminative nature of his gaze. Rough sketches of two figures, paused mid-battle, emanate from his head almost as an expression of thought. The image is grounded by another rendition of Goya’s work - Plate 79 “Truth has Died” from The Disasters of War series. In contrast with the colorful, organic depiction above, this image portrays a monochromatic woman lying prostrate in death with arms folded below her bare breasts. Cleverly cross-hatched beams of light radiate from her body, bearing a hasty semblance to Goya’s distinctly etched lines. Goya’s Disasters of War, an 82 print series produced using etching, aquatint and engraving techniques between 1810 and 1820, is hailed as the sacrosanct graphic emblem of anti-war conviction. “Truth has Died” and the subsequent plate “Will She Live Again?” present the illuminated female form as an allegorical lesson illustrating the loss of truth and justice during the perversity of war. Existential questions of renascence, whether personal or cultural, are artistically ubiquitous and Harrison is not exempt. Totems and symbols suggesting themes of rebirth and personal rejuvenation are prevalent throughout his work. Francisco Goya is also notorious for unapologetic, often satirical, critiques on the events and culture of his day. Similarly, Harrison also artistically explored his personal rancor against the rise of American post-war conformity, affluence, and consumerism. Like the Old Master, Harrison was unafraid to explore the darkest realms of the human condition. However, he preferred to turn the focus inward, conducting conscious introspection with the same intrepid bravery. In “Goya”, Harrison creates an impactful marriage of artistic reverence and visual story telling. He masterfully blurs the lines between ‘the artist’ and ‘the art’, bringing an Old World master into to the contemporary realm of abstract-expressionism.
"Goya", 1989. Mixed media on Fabriano paper. Exhibited at Ledis Flam Gallery, New York in 1989, with Gallery label verso. Signed in monogram "J. H." and dated "May 29,1989" center left. Image 27 1/2 x 39", framed 31 1/4 x 43" overall. $1250