Ian Harvey hasn’t invented a new language for painting; he’s just taken all of the existing languages of post-WWII abstraction and stretched them to the point of parody in grand, eye-dazzling smash-ups of dissonant colors, gestures, geometries and textures that walk us to the edge of Something New without quite breaking the earth-bound pull of abstraction’s tried-and-true tropes. In fact, if there’s a basis in reality to what Harvey does it’s landscape; but it’s not a landscape we’ve ever seen. His works on paper (which include codex “books” that stretch out accordion-style for 10 feet) look like hyper-colorized visions of geological processes viewed from the inside out at warp speed. They’re deep, but they have no meaning — they are solely about form, surface and the extremes to which paint can be pushed. The product of pure process and big-league virtuosity, they occasionally fail. But in exchange for risking everything, the works that do succeed give us real rewards. Perhaps that’s why the critic Donald Kuspit gave Harvey his stamp of approval back in ’97, and why, a few years back, Sac State brought him onboard to teach painting. Watch Harvey and his student offspring to see what comes next.
– David M. Roth
David M. Roth is a contributing editor to ARTWEEK.