Wednesday, July 11, 2012

James Havard Santa Fe

 Circumstances led us to a Santa Fe day trip yesterday. An appointment with my cardiologist for a stress test 3 months after I suffered a series of 4 heart attacks over the course of 9 days. The tests went quite well and from the Doctor's point of view I should live another 30 years or so with the 3 stents he placed in me on April 15. This by the way is my round about way of writing something about this whole unexpected dilemma. Holly was with me to disseminate the rapid fire descriptions of what was and is currently going on with my heart. After 3 hours of tests we were able to take a bit of time to stop in to see the James Havard exhibit at the vast Zane-Bennett Contemporary Art Gallery at 435 South Guadalupe St. 
We spent almost an hour there as it was difficult to tear ourselves away from viewing these master works. This is a 'survey' of Havard artwork, that is to say Mr. Havard's work through the years. Most artists prefer to exhibit the most current work, and I'm certain if he was up to it there would have been mostly new work here. Yet, he too has had recent health scares and thus the Gallery is exhibiting a bit of work from different time periods. Thank you to the ZaneBennett owners and staff for doing so. As far as I'm concerned this is the exhibition of the year in Santa Fe you should be very proud and I hope that people are turning out to see it.
Southwestern Galleries and Art have the stigma of having to show and be about "landscape paintings" it's a rare treat to see real Contemporary Art and in a gallery that is all about viewing the art.
 Much of the work is presented in shadow box frames due to the layering of artifacts/items onto the surface of his base, whether it be a cardboard box or a heavy artist paper. Most of you will not have the opportunity to view this exhibit, it's only up for 2 more weeks, but there is a lovely 20. catalogue which you can purchase through Z/B. There is also a "James Havard" monogram book in 2 editions a pricey limited edition which comes w a print and the regular hardback by Hudson Hills Press 2006. Pricing of original art begins at 5,000. for masterworks such as these they may be the last bargain to be found in any Santa Fe art gallery! There are also large stretched canvas works, which I did hesitate to investigate pricing of, (the last image here is one of the large early pieces).
 Pages from books with images of masks, pre-Columbian figures or any survey of art history images may adorn the surface. There's also a wonderful 3 dimensional effect he's able to create sometimes with a spray painted shadow below a thick straight from the tube line drawn in space. The series of assemblage boxes with thick paint and artifacts is not like traditional assemblage box art at all, you'd never think of it when viewing these, we viewed them as complete paintings. He seems to stay away from kitsch as a natural instinct, even with the repetitiousness of some of the imagery using words, paintbrushes, picture postcards and even Navajo medicine bundles these never become quaint and ordinary, they are every one extraordinary.
 Although it is never touted as such, Mr. Havard is of Native American descent, of which tribe and to what percentage seems to make no difference to anyone who loves his artwork, (his bio lacks this information). This makes him more endearing to me, he's just James, like him or not. Author Jamake Highwater includes an early work in his book "Arts of the Indian Americas North Central South Leaves from the Sacred Tree" 1983 Harper & Row
 I first saw a few of Mr. Havard's paintings in the office of Ray Trotter of R.B. Ravens Gallery in Ranchos de Taos (although he does not have any of them on the website). Inquiring minds would love to know more and from speaking with Ray about this artwork I learned more. Mr. Trotter has a knack of acquiring art that he loves by people that he loves, it just seems to go hand in hand with him. A few years later we had dinner at Trattoria Nostrani a wonderful Italian Restaurant in Santa Fe, there adorning the walls are a few of the paintings of James Havard, (these with a definite food theme, probably purchased in trade for a tab), worth a look and worth a reservation to visit, or choose to sit at the bar. 
When I look at this artwork I see a kindred spirit someone who loves and respects world culture, but also someone who was more than likely influenced by an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC "Primitivism in 20th Century Art" 1985. Seek out the catalogue of the same title it's well worth owning (we do currently have a copy available at Two Graces) In the catalogue you'll find comparisons of Modern Art to the arts and crafts of world cultures, the influences of world culture on a wide range of artists.
 Often times words and writing on paintings bring to mind the artwork of Jean Michel Basquiat, when you actually explore a bit more of art history you'll find early David Hockney and Andy Warhol using writing, go back further and you'll learn about Illuminated Manuscripts. So is James doing his version of Basquiat? The answer is a definitive no, James is doing James and what he loves best and he obviously loves 'Primitivism' and how that has influenced art through the years. With the image below you may notice more of a Bill Traylor style of work, the strong Cobalt color, the primitive style of drawing as in the look of an 'Outsider Artist'. Mr. Havard's paintings are very colorful from his use of Cadmium Red, Yellow and Orange along with the Cobalts of Blue and Green. He doesn't scrimp on his art supplies whether he's using oils, acrylics or pigments and tearing pages out of art books can get very expensive as well.
 The newest work is reminiscent of figures by Romare Bearden, again this is not a bad influence the paintings are very much James Havard paintings. The one major disappointment to this exhibit is the lackluster sales, I noticed one 'red dot' on a description card signaling a sold painting, that's not a whole lot of sales for a High End Art Gallery. Z/B has a top notch sales staff, Christian Cheneau, Mark DiPrima and the ever present Nancy Boshers will always speak to you, even if you are just visiting to see the art and not make a purchase, (who knows perhaps someday you'll want to return and make a purchase when you are feeling flush, and no please don't use the old 'when I win the lottery' excuse).
Introduce yourself, tell them I sent you.
The James Havard exhibit "Staying Ahead of the Beast Paintings, Works on Paper, Archive Boxes" is on view at Zanebennett Contemporary Art in Santa Fe June 29-July 20, 2012
It would have been nice to attend the opening and finally meet Mr. Havard, but I feel fortunate and exhilarated that we were able to take a moment while in Santa Fe to see it, thus this post (normally I don't write posts about other people's galleries).
This is a collection of masterworks by a more than talented artist, a rare treat, try not to miss it, (the clock is ticking).

Update: Sadly I noticed on my last trip to Santa Fe that ZaneBennett Contemporary Art is now closed.