New York

James Harrison


At its best, James Harrison’s work possesses a wonderful edgy psychosis; at its worst, it looks like unedited art brut. Even at their worst, the paintings still show evidence of Harrison working out a powerful inner vision. Although he has been painting for 45 years, Harrison never created a successful career for himself. His ambivalence about exposure is very much inscribed in the introspective quality of the work. Sometimes the paintings seem to be refusing a dialogue with anything but themselves, and this intense turning inward can produce some spectacular effects.

Harrison’s most successful works, such as Take 1, 1960, are marked by a distinctive, intoxicated, Beat esthetic. In this piece, a thick black frame is drawn on a jagged piece of paper: In the middle of the frame is a bull’s eye of three wide, different-colored concentric circles. A misspelling of the work’s title is stenciled

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