465 W 23rd Street
NEW YORK—The Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to present a one-person exhibition of drawings and paintings by Michael Hurson. The exhibition, on view at 465 West 23rd Street opening November 18, 2010, will bring together a selection of Hurson’s “Eyeglass” works, a whimsical series of works on canvas or paper from the late 1960s and early 1970s centering on the motif of a dancing or walking pair of eyeglasses.
Born in Chicago in 1942, Hurson moved to New York in the early 1970s and lived and worked there for most of his life until his untimely death in 2007. Regarded as “an artist’s artist,” Hurson used his considerable gift for figurative drawing and his elfin wit and humor to create works that seemed aimed at deflating the seriousness with which much painting was imbued up to that time. Working on an intimate scale and often taking inspiration from cartoon characters and puppetry, he drew or painted everyday objects and often turned them into animated characters captured at various points of an unrevealed narrative.
“The Eyeglass paintings represent three years’ work – 1969 to 1971. I had rented a studio in Chicago and sat uninspiredly in the studio for a month, and one day the image of the eyeglass loomed up. The image came from a joke book I had done for friends years before—I would think of an image and apply it to a story. One of the characters was an eyeglass, and I remember liking to draw the eyeglass—without any understanding of what it meant. Whatever image you attach yourself to, it is a vehicle to carry on some process of thinking.”
Created by superimposing silkscreened imagery over a brushy painted background, many of Hurson’s Eyeglass paintings are constructed like comic strips, some on multiple canvases. Hurson manipulated his subject much like a choreographer, putting it through a series of moves akin to a performer on stage. Several of the Eyeglass works were included in the Whitney Museum’s “New Image Painting” (1978)—along with works by Robert Moskowitz, Neil Jenney, Jennifer Bartlett and others—a show that heralded a return to figurative painting in the 1980s.
“There has to be a connection between who we are, and what we do, and who we are involved with,” notes Hurson. As a draftsman, painter, sculptor and playwright, Hurson’s practice for nearly four decades resulted in a broad range of works – from his miniaturized interiors in balsa wood, to a theatrical performance consisting of two lone light bulbs on a stage. His unconventional approach has been characterized as “artless in impulse while being terrifically artful in style.”
Michael Hurson’s work has been exhibited nationally since the 1970s and is represented in several important public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Two posthumous exhibitions have helped to provide a retrospective look at his oeuvre: “Remembering Michael Hurson – Paintings and Works on Paper,” at the Fisher Landau Center for Art (2007) and “Michael Hurson” at the PARC Foundation (2008), for which a catalogue of Hurson’s work in painting, drawing and sculpture was published. Hurson was the recipient of the NEA Fellowship Grant in 1974 and 1975, the John Simon Memorial Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1994 and the Pollock-Krasner Fellowship in 1999.