Ann Harithas @ Deborah Colton Gallery, Houston TX

Ann Harithas: The Domain of Images, Contemporary Art Gallery, Houston Baptist University,

Houston, Texas, January 30-March 4, 2016, Curated by Jim Edwards

“Collage has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. My great aunt had her own glue for pasting the images she cut out of magazines into scrapbooks. I used these scrapbooks to learn my first words, and from this point I was hooked. For me collage is a language, the medium I use to express my thoughts, hopes and dreams…"  Ann Harithas Artist statement 

 

The invention of collage and photo montage in the early part of the 20th Century has had a profound influence upon Modernism, both in its technical capacity as applied to the physical manipulation of art materials and processes and to the poetic possibilities in its manipulation of images. In 1931, in writing about photomontage from Cologne, Germany, Raoul Hausmann wrote, “Photomontage in particular with its opposing structures and dimensions (such as rough versus smooth, aerial view versus close-up, perspective versus flat plane) allows the clearest working out of the dialectical problems of form” The source materials for collages have been supplied by all sorts of printed matter, old illustrated prints in books, newspapers and especially photographic images from magazines. How artists have manipulated these found images, juxtaposing divergent images, has in essence created a visual poetry that has profoundly altered the context and denotation of their art. As a contemporary collage artist, Ann Harithas has uniquely extended our understanding of collage, especially as a medium ideally suited to an art form that responds to life and how the mind accesses the conflicting information that it registers.  

 

 

 Harithas was raised in South Texas and as a mature artist has made collage her exclusive mode of expression. She selects her images from hundreds of magazine illustrations and family photographs, including photographic self-portraits and brain scans in her series of collages titled Memory. Social, political and religious imagery are prevalent in her collages that are exquisitely crafted, executed images seamlessly adjoined, one next to the other. In viewing Harithas’ art we may be reminded of the Dada or Surrealist collage, the cut up collages of political protest or psychological disturbance made famous By Hannah Hock, John Heartfield and Max Ernst in the early part of the 20th century. But there are distinct differences between the collages by these masters and Harithas’ art. Harithas cuts out and superimposes relatively complete images of people or objects. She does not stress the exaggerated distortions that were popular with the Dada and Surrealist artists. Harithas’ collages of the 1990’s and early 2000’s are modest in scale, a result of using the images directly from the magazine illustrations, but the later collages from this exhibition make use of images that have been enlarged as digital prints. She also makes use of canvas and plexiglass as support for the digital enlargements, and solid color backgrounds that enhance the overlay of images. The bright red background in the beautiful work Oil Slick and the Hunter Green of Over Our Heads give these works Pop Art-like clarity.

 

 

By thematically tying her images to contemporary issues of disasters, wars, and puns on advertising, Harithas’ collages chronicle mass culture while also giving her collages the statues of visual icons. Once one sees a work like Katrina, it is hard to get the image out of your head of the golden horse flying across the composition of  a boat load of people paddling away in the wake of the storm. As a collage artist, Harithas is a very good editor. She knows instinctively when there has been enough said. In her work Iron Horse Cowboy there are just the figure of the man in a cowboy hat and a Renaissance angel driving a military tank. We the viewers can come up with all kinds of narratives based upon our contemplation of the cowboy, angel and tank. Deities are often pictured in Harithas’ collages, such as the stone cat statue in Feline Shrine and the kachina in Oil Slick, or even the golden horse of Katrina. The presence of these Deities adds a sense of the spiritual to the urgency and crassness of modern day life.

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In her exhibition Ann Harithas: Memory, held at Dan Allison’s Gallery on Colquitt in Houston in May of 2014, she exhibited the work that she had completed following her stroke. In the case of working on these new collages, that included photographs from her childhood to her present self and the inclusions of her own brain scans, she literally used her own art as an act of recovery. Of that time and these self portraits she has written,“ Upon waking up one morning last year, everything seemed different. I was told that I had suffered a stroke several months before and could not remember much before the stroke and very little after it. I began working with my photographs from the past - not simply looking at them, but also putting them together with images related to my art and images based on scans of my injured brain. The artistic elements excited the brain imaging-and putting new images with my old photos my memory came alive”.  

 

 

Recently I came across a short essay by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke titled Works of Art. Rilke was making a case that modern works of art were “things of the future, things whose time has not yet come”, He said that in the past art was very much of its own time, and that “tomorrow was itself part of a remote unknown…” He further argued that in contemporary time, “ Science has unfolded like a long road with no discernible end; the hard and painful progress of mankind, both of individuals and the masses, fills the coming millennia like some endless, laborious task”. He ended his essay with this sentence, “ And, far,far beyond all that lies the home of works of art, those strangely secretive and patient objects, which have their existence among the things of everyday use, among busy human beings, working beasts and playing children”.  Ann Harithas has captured the history and mystery of that sentiment in her own collages.

 

 

Jim Edwards
Director, Contemporary Art Gallery
Houston Baptist University          

click on image at left to view and purchase the cataloge from this show

"MEMORY" May 3 - 31, 2014 @ d. m. allison gallery

The ability to communicate what is in the minds eye onto the cave wall or more recently to the "big screen" is the primary characteristic that makes us human. The entire species has this ability to visualize, not just those individuals communicating through unconventional means generally described as artistic. Through images, and the evolution of the written word, we have been able to record the past, communicate with one another in the present, and project our plans into the future. Recently scientists have discovered that our brain scans are identical whether the subject is actually seeing an event or object, or just recalling an event or object. In other words, visualization is the essence of how we think, and the very thing that makes humanity unique.

 

In this exhibition Ann Harithas offers us a first hand account, almost a diary of her recovery from a brain trauma that had robbed her of her humanity. We are all certainly empty vessels without our personal history, our experiences, and the recollection of our loved ones. Primarily a collage artist, Harithas was in physical possession of plenty of pictures and clippings over the years, and as she started to try and work again something wonderful happened. By sorting through the images from her early childhood to the present the artist was able to recover her faculties and sense of self.

 

"Upon waking up one morning last year, everything seemed different. I was told that I had suffered a stroke several months before and could not remember much before the stroke and very little after it.I began working with my photographs from the past – not simply looking at them, but also putting them together with images related to my art and images based on scans of my injured brain. The artistic elements excited the brain imaging – and by putting new images with my old photos my memory came alive."

 

The art she had used to communicate her ideas has now become her conduit for healing. This exhibition is a brave testament to our will to survive as well as the evidence of this artists' personal journey out of darkness.

 

- d. m. a. 04/19/2014

Other Works and Legacy Collection 2014

"Urban Frountiers" Nau-haus  Gallery - 2011

Ann Harithas's images bounce between a dreamy Texas surrealism and a national American culture shock pop, floating on brightly painted color field backdrops. The juxtaposed images speak to local, national, and international concerns in a cross cultural language gleaned from a mix of Madison Avenue, Carlos Castaneda, and the evening news. Stylistically, Harithas simplifies much, boiling things down to their essence, and is more prone reciently to a Southern neo-pop version of things than in her earlier works dating back  to the late 1970's, as she blures the boundaries between high and low art appropriating images in her collection of hard copy print materials. The results are slightly suspended scaned images printed on the back side of her plexiglass palet which is then laid over painted backgrounds with simple framing holding it all together in her latest departure galloping across the Urban Frontier.

 

dma, Nau-haus cataloge forward , 04/01/ 2011

Ann Harithas Cataloge

click on image at left to view and purchase the cataloge from this show