Adam Harrison makes landscape paintings in a kind of hybrid space of observation augmented by memory. While his aesthetic and process pay a certain amount of homage to the conventions of historical plein air landscape painting, he subverts pictorial space with his penchant for complexifying what might otherwise be called realism with both content and technique devised of his imagination. An exhibition of new and recent work is currently on view at the Long Beach Museum of Art, where he will lead a gallery talk of his show on Saturday, November 16.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
ADAM HARRISON: The artist’s consciousness was (and is) like this little mental cavern I could retreat to from the uncertainties a young boy experiences growing up. Simply put, when I was 11 or 12.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
In general, I paint big landscapes from an amalgamation of observation and imagination. I will typically spend 50 percent of my time working outdoors in one location, and the other 50 percent in studio working from written notes from my on-site experiences.
More specifically, I busy myself looking for the structural patterns underneath nature’s skin; or the inherent complexities that help establish a truer relationship between myself and what’s immediately recognizable in an environment, and what is not. This is how I feel, ultimately — that accuracy provides the bedrock for the inexplicable passions of nature (the Sublime) to express itself through the fragile and temporal medium which is the artist, more so than the art we make. We’re lucky when it happens to be both.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Leading groups of young adults in maintaining trails, forestry, and ecological restoration projects with the Open Space and Mountain Parks Department of Boulder, Colorado (my home city).
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes. Understanding that it would open opportunities for me to live as an artist. Though I narrowly missed the window of time for art school due to an immature decision to join the armed forces; which ultimately failed, being rejected on the grounds of injuries sustained from a car accident.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I’ve thought of living in other places such as New York, but I find myself more attracted to the expansive, almost horizontal feeling you get from living in Southern California, as opposed to the much more compact and vertical feeling one gets in a big city.
When was your first show?
My first one-person show was at the George Billis Gallery in the Spring of 2015.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
Currently I have a one-person show at the Long Beach Museum of Art (LBMA). The show is titled Place and is open to the public now until the second week of January 2020.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Well, If the impossible were possible, it would be to have a naturally-lit two-person show with Agnes Martin in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence, designed by favorite Renaissance architect, Michelozzo di Bartolomeo.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
I do. In fact, I generally listen to only one or two artists for months at a time. Currently I’ve been listening to Thom Yorke and Chopin.
My social media handle is: @adamharrisonpaints