Los Angeles

Robert Harvey

David Stuart Gallery

Because he paints from family album photographs (circa World War I), nostalgia should spring immediately as this San Francisco artist’s goal. However, Harvey’s cool and sophisticated detachment, his edited but direct translation, and easily flowing, paint back technique suggest his figurative intentions lie in an anonymous Caravaggist tradition. A frozen romanticism (but not sentimentality) is the gripping force.

Bold value statements in white, brown, and black within white bordered formats adhere to Pop Art’s flat source premise; his severely stylized abstracting continually enforces a strict, straight-on view of a two-dimensional but figure-on-ground relationship. The wide variety of compositional devices stems (traditionally) from the second-hand source and these novel croppings serve to maintain a higher level of interest. Peculiar and arresting configurations mark his work: the black silhouetted, head of “Brother Home on Leave” is lost amidst the grand architecture of a vintage automobile, the three part totem of “On the Strand-Coronado,” or the ghostly Balcom Greene-esque fade of “Margaret and Es on the Norman-die.” Measured amounts of contrast and detail highlight these sure and graphic works—rendering high retention in the viewer’s mind. Particularly memorable are the small close-up heads, as “Bathing Hat,” “Birthday Present,” and “Four for a Quartet.”

Forced clarity, in the face of multitudinous ambiguities of emotional involvement and variety of sources and qualities, is Harvey’s ideal. Light pares volumes and dissolves edges, forms are lost in shadow and darkness yet all are clear and pulled into focus.

Consistent but minor, they are handsome, fashionable, and correct re-creations of an era, and excellent examples of a particular genre, in which Harvey has sensibly solved and/or avoided any number of problems or possibilities.

Fidel A. Danieli