Saturday 29 June 2013
Harry Carmean captured a true "meeting of the minds" in Los Angeles in this photo of art critic Jules Langsner and painters Karl Benjamin, John McLaughlin and Lorser Feitelson. It was at this meeting that the term "Hard Edge" was formulated Also involved in the movement was Feitelson's wife Helen Lundeburg whose paintings can be seen hanging on the wall in the background.
Monday 10 June 2013
Few people knew that Harry Carmean did the back cover of Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell album. Carmean's design for the album ended up getting a lot of attention and it used for Black Sabbath's national advertising campaign and as well as featured on a billboard towering over the Sunset Strip. Carmean lived for many years in Laurel Canyon which was the heart of the rock and roll industry at the time. He ended up becoming friends with some of rock and roll's finest including Carol King and Mark Volman (of the Turtles), both of whom were his neighbors.
Sunday 9 June 2013
At the age of 20 Harry Carmean joined the army and served in WW2, effectively ending a successful singing career. He was stationed in France and Germany for four years until the war's end. He then stayed on in France though the summer and studied art at the L'Ecole de Beaux Arts before returning to the United States. After he returned, while he tried to start up his singing again, he found himself drifting towards art. When he encountered the charismatic painting teacher Lorser Feitelson at Art Center he made the decision once and for all to become an artist.
Harry Carmean and Lorser Feitelson had similar aesthetic sensibilities as can be seen in these two unexpected classic Hard-Edge paintings by Carmean. They are a surprise because Carmean is known only for being a figurative artist. The paintings were done in the 1950's at the time the Hard-Edge movement was taking off. Feitelson and Carmean's work often followed parallel paths and these abstract paintings are just another example of how "great minds think alike".
Harry Carmean has drawn and painted himself throughout his long career, such as can be seen in these examples. The drawings were done in the 1950's and 60's and the painting of the artist drawing was done around 2010. Carmean follows a tradition of self portraiture which can be seen in artists like Rembrandt who painted themselves throughout the span of their careers.
Harry Carmean and Lorser Feitelson exhibited side by side at the LA Rising show at the Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara (Sept. - Oct 2011), and what a sight it was! The two artists tackled similar themes with equally successful results. Feitelson is more known to the public than Harry Carmean, but as can be seen here, Carmean holds his own when showing with Feitelson who was his close friend and contemporary for thirty years. In time, Harry Carmean will be more recognized, and like Feitelson, will be seen as one of California's best interpreters of the figure.
Photographer Greg Preston recently shot this great portrait of Harry Carmean in his Acton studio. Preston's photographs were the subject of the book "The Artist Within" which featured portraits of artists in their studios. Harry Carmean will be included in the upcoming second book by Preston of the same theme.
This comprehensive book covering the most important artists working in Los Angeles before 1980 has arrived. Those of you who collect Harry's work will be glad to know that he has been included in it which means that slowly but surely he is becoming more accepted in the mainstream art world.
Harry has two wonderful art studios, one large one that he designed and built himself in the high desert town of Acton, California, and a smaller sized studio in the beach community of Santa Barbara. The Acton studio shown here, was begun in the middle 1980's and completed by 1990. He divides his time between the two studios and does all his larger sized paintings in Acton which, as can be seen from the photos, is a quite a large space.
Noted interior designer Jarrett Hedborg of Jarrett Hedborg Interior Design and Harry Carmean have collaborated for years on various projects including murals, paintings and portraits for Hedborgs clients. (Carmean is seen working with wife Miriam Slater on the dining room landscape themed mural below, completed in the 1990's.) Hedborg has a large celebrity cliental including Jack Nicholson, Angelica Huston, Bette Midler, Jeff Bridges, Michelle Phillips, Quincy Jones, Jim Carrey and Joni Mitchell. Over the years Carmean's own paintings have ended up in the homes of many of Jarrett's clients as well alongside the commissioned pieces.
Harry Carmean's father was an engineer and a builder and so taught Harry from an early age how to design and build things. The family didn't have much money (being post Depression) so Harry made most of his own toys himself, including this beautiful gun that he carved out of wood, complete with a spinning cylinder. Carmean's attention to detail and keen observation is evident in this early hand carved object. Looking back, Harry has stated that he was always glad he didn't have a lot of toys because it forced him to make his own fun, and in that way fostered more creativity.
Few people know that Harry Carmean has done some commercial work over the span of his career. He did the back cover of the rock group Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell album in the late 1970's. Here is a job he did for Anaprox, a well known pain reliever, completed sometime in the late 1980’s. Its one of the classier medical ads I have seen in a long time. The drawings were done specifically for the advertisement and depict various areas of pain which Anaprox treats. One of Carmean's regular models, Joe Miller, can be seen in the large drawing.
Harry Carmean liked to sketch his friend and mentor, Lorser Feitelson whenever he got a chance. Here are a few sketches which really captures Feitelson's likeness with just a few strokes.
Harry Carmean has an expressionistic side that rivals the German Expressionists of the 1920’s and 1930’s. As can be seen in these drawings, he is quite comfortable using jagged and lively lines as well as distorted proportions in his drawings even though he is associated with more a classic approach. His most powerful expressionistic drawings were done in the late seventies through the 1980's.
Few people knew that Harry Carmean also painted landscapes. Here are a few of them, the bottom two are watercolors and were done early in his career in the late 1940's or early 1950's and the top painting (oil on canvas) was done in the 1990's in the Sequoia's while he was on vacation.
The drawings above are by Lorser Feitelson, a well known abstract and figurative Los Angeles artist. It was no wonder that after walking in on Feitelson life drawing class at Art Center, that Harry Carmean's life was forever changed. The above examples show Feitelson's incredible skills in drawing the figure and in them we can see the root of Carmean's development as an artist. For my mind, these drawings show a complete understanding of the techniques of the European old masters but they are unique because they were done by an American artist in modern times. Feitelson had a large collection of old master drawings which was published in a catalogue and is available online.
One of Harry Carmean's favorite people to draw was the mime Jack Albee, who modelled at Art Center where Carmean taught. Jack was a member of the famous Albee theater family and had a face that artist's love to draw - full of character, wit and personality. The photo of him in costume was taken by Harry Carmean in the later 1960's at a party at his home in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles. Jack Albee was an inspiring, upbeat person to be around and as can be seen here, he inspired some fantastic drawings and paintings from his friend Harry Carmean.