A painting is a transformation: the conversion of base, raw materials into the exalted state of narrative (whether literal or emotional), concept, or impression, utilizing the principles of light, color and form. For New York-based artist Axel Har, this process of transformation acts as a central impetus for his bold, often-quirky and sometimes-poignant paintings.
Utilizing almost any material one might never think to paint with – chintzy contact paper, laundry detergent bottle caps, packing tape, milk crates – Har delves into the process of transforming the inelegant and overlooked, shaping cast-offs into communicative gestures in his own unique way of mark making. By rescuing insistently banal materials from their ordinariness, reworking and combining them in unexpected ways, he endows his paintings with a playfully unsettling sense that something is amiss, that there is more to the work than the sum of its parts.
As the artist cuts, shapes, and tools his materials, he both reveals and conceals the secrets of making. Milk crates are cut into sections, cleaned, sanded and polished to a machine-made gleam, then combined to form punchy, geometric compositions. Layers of clear packing tape are stretched over a steel frame, the artist’s fingerprint dipped in pigment pressed into the surface creating circular patterns, and giving a sense of tactility and humanity to a fabricated, otherwise inaccessible surface.
Har’s work is as concerned with accumulation as it is with transformation, a notion which finds its apex in the freestanding paintings created for the show. Constructed of hundreds of laundry detergent bottle caps and illuminated with an array of colored lightbulbs, they bring the artist’s unique painterly idiom into the viewers’ space, creating a multi-planar experience.
Axel Har received an MFA in painting from Yale University in 1985. His work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and Europe, and has works in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Fogg Museum at Harvard University. This is his first solo show with Elizabeth Cooper.