July 2, 2012 at 5:02 AM
“The abstract illusionist works of James Havard...”
By Tom Maguire
Tom Maguire is a musician, arts supporter and a guy who travels the Southwest in a 13’ Scamp trailer, because he couldn’t figure out how the tent poles went together.
Staying Ahead of the Beast, the work of abstract illusionist artist James Havard, is showing at Zane Bennett Contemporary Art through July 20. The exhibition spans 40 years of painting with an emphasis on his "Abstract Illusionist" era, featuring paintings, archival boxes and sculptures dating from the late 1970s to 2012.
The 75-year-old renowned painter and sculptor, continues to explore the primitive impulses of what French artist Jean Dubuffet identified as "Art Brut." His sense of primitivism contrasts with many formulaic trends in the art world and breathes fresh energy and a raw power into his paintings. Today some would refer to this quality in work as outsider art, but Havard is far from being outside the hallowed halls of the art world.
Louis K. Meisel, the New York art dealer and collector, identified Havard as the leading light of the 1970's East Coast artistic movement, Abstract Illusionism. Havard's paintings from this period, while abstract and expressionistic, create the illusion of three dimensional space by mimicking artificial light sources that cast shadows from strokes of paint. This form of illusion, quite different than a traditional trompe-l'oeil perspective that draws the viewer into an interior scene, makes objects pop out of the flat canvas space with a dimensionality that surprises and delights the eye.
Havard redefined himself again in the 90s with his archival boxes, with their connections to Joseph Cornell and his dioramas. Havard's subject matter draws the viewer in with ancient symbols and figures of Pre-Colombian, African and Native American cultures, becoming immediately profound and filled with mystery, as if one has uncovered secrets from a long lost world.