The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College offers the first survey of June Harwood’s career. A key but underrecognized figure in the Los Angeles Hard-Edge movement, Harwood developed and refined her signature style of vivid colors and dynamic compositions in the 1960s. This exhibition showcases her paintings from this era and includes work from several of her series, including Sliver, Colorform, Loop, Jigsaw, and Rock.
Harwood was born in Middleton, New York, and graduated from Syracuse University in 1953. She then moved to Los Angeles and remained in the city until her death in 2015. After experimenting with collage, she transformed that medium’s rigidity and sharp lines into painted shapes on canvas, arriving at her version of Hard-Edge painting by the early 1960s. The style in general is characterized by abstract, flat shapes that abut and interlock with one another, precisely painted crisp lines, and smooth planes of color.
The term “Hard-Edge” was first coined by Jules Langsner, a prominent art critic and Harwood’s husband. He brought together the work of painters Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley, and John McLaughlin for the first exhibition of Hard-Edge painting, Four Abstract Classicists, in 1959. In 1964, Langsner curated a second exhibition, California Hard-Edge Painting, which included the work of Harwood along with that of several other artists. Many critics and scholars have juxtaposed Hard-Edge with the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York and posited it as a precursor to the Light and Space movement in southern California. Most of the original Hard-Edge artists have received retrospectives, but this exhibition is the first to acknowledge Harwood’s legacy and her role in the movement. The Hard-Edge movement is also linked to Pomona College; both Karl Benjamin and Frederick Hammersley taught at the school.
June Harwood: Paintings is the result of a partnership between the Benton Museum of Art and the June Harwood Charitable Trust. The exhibition marks the museum’s acquisition of ten paintings by Harwood, a gift of the Trust, which will come to the Benton in two phases. Accompanied by a publication, the exhibition will travel to the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art in 2024 and to other venues to be determined.