Top Emerging Artists of 2009 | Gregory Frank Harris

By Norman Koplas

Contemporary landscapes in oil or acrylic by Gregory Frank Harris defy easy categorization, even by the artist himself. “I would say they’re minimalist,” he begins. “Still representational, of course, but up close they’re very abstract, with a total lack of detail. Maybe you could call them abstracted landscapes.” The artist credits that singularity to a wide variety of inspirations, from George Innes and other American tonalists of the late 19th century to the French Impressionists, and from the vibrant color-field landscapes of Wolf Kahn to the squeegee-blurred paintings of German abstractionist Gerhard Richter.

VIRGA, OIL, 46 X 42
VIRGA, OIL, 46 X 42

Indeed, the self-taught Harris, who’s been painting professionally for more than half of his 55 years, bought his own squeegees after seeing a Richter retrospective in 1998. He begins each work with reference photos he takes with his digital camera, deriving from them minimally detailed but still recognizably nature-inspired compositions that are distinguished by dramatically contrasting fields of light and dark color. Then, while the paint is still wet, he says, “I’ll run a 22-inch squeegee blade from left to right or top to bottom in two or three strokes, blurring all of it.”

That technique and style perfectly suit the sweeping, atmospheric grandeur of New Mexico, where Harris works in the garage studio of his home southeast of Santa Fe. They also offer a liberating change of pace from the works that first made his reputation, paintings painstakingly faithful to the style of the old masters and the Impressionists, which he also continues to produce. With this newest approach, he explains, “You never know what’s going to happen. And that’s what excites me.”

He is represented by Hunter Kirkland Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM.

Upcoming Show
Solo show, Hunter Kirkland Contemporary, June 19-July 13.

Featured in January 2009 in our “10 Artists to Watch” feature article