Curated by Judith F. Dolkart
Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia
September 19, 2015 – January 4, 2016
After visiting the Barnes Foundation for the first time in 2011, artist Ellen Harvey (b. 1967) found herself captivated by the wrought iron keyhole escutcheons, hasps, hinges, and latches that , showstopper paintings by the great modern masters: Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among many others.
For Harvey, Albert C. Barnes’s provocative decision to install these iron utensils and tools in his wall compositions to echo forms in the paintings and to create unified ensembles established him as an artist, as well as a collector and educator. His subversion of the ranking of the arts, which traditionally values painting above the decorative and industrial arts, particularly appealed to Harvey who has long been engaged with this hierarchy.
In response to Barnes’s unusual installation practice, Harvey has created a new kind of ensemble composed of life-size “portraits” of the wrought iron pieces in the Barnes collection. Painting the silhouette of each of the 997 wrought iron objects, Harvey remakes these works in the very medium that has long been privileged by visitors to and scholars of the Barnes holdings. Just as Barnes’s ensembles changed frequently during his lifetime as he acquired new works, this work may be rearranged as Harvey wishes.