Celebrating hard-edge painter June Harwood at Benton Musesum of Art, Pomona College

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Celebrating hard-edge painter June Harwood at Benton Musesum of Art, Pomona College
June Harwood, Untitled, Loop Series, 1966. Acrylic on canvas. 40 x 60 in. Pomona College Collection. A Gift from the June Harwood Charitable Trust.

CLAREMONT, CA.- The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College announced the first survey exhibition devoted to the California Hard-Edge painter June Harwood. June Harwood: Paintings, will be on view starting today. The exhibition, a collaboration with the June Harwood Charitable Trust, features more than 30 large-scale oil and acrylic paintings that span the length of Harwood’s decades-long career. It includes five paintings donated by the trust to the Benton.

“I believe that the Benton Museum of Art is the ideal venue to host a rediscovery of Harwood’s important contribution to painting,” said Dennis Reed, Harwood’s longtime friend and colleague who is Trustee of the June Harwood Charitable Trust. “Hard-Edge painters Karl Benjamin and Frederick Hammersley both taught at Pomona College, and the Benton Museum houses important examples of their art. I am so pleased that paintings by Harwood are now also included the Benton collection,” added Reed.

June Harwood was born in Middleton, New York, in 1933 and received a BFA from Syracuse University in 1953. She moved to Los Angeles, earning an MA from California State University, Los Angeles, in 1957. While working as a teacher at Hollywood High School and then a professor at Los Angeles Valley College, Harwood refined a style of abstraction and compositional rigor that she had started developing around 1960. This style eventually became known as “Hard-Edge,” a term coined in 1959 by critic and curator Jules Langsner (whom Harwood married in 1965), which is characterized by flat planes of color defined by sharp borders, uniform paint application, bold colors, and pure abstraction. Other artists recognized today as Hard-Edge painters include Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley, Helen Lundeberg, and John McLaughlin. Harwood retired from teaching in 1993 and continued to paint until her death in 2015.

Throughout her five-decade career, Harwood produced bodies of work defined by different permutations of color, shape, and energetic movement. Because she worked serially, one can see her ideas emerge and develop over time. From the angular Sliver and curvilinear Colorform paintings, which cemented her place in the California abstract art scene, to the dynamic Loop paintings that appear to pulse and dance, the exhibition captures the breadth of the artist’s vision. June Harwood: Paintings charts the evolution of her abstraction, chronicling her move to and away from organic forms, fragments and wholes, and bright to muted palettes.

“Female artists have played a foundational role in the arts at Pomona College, so we are especially grateful that Harwood’s paintings will find a home in our museum,” says McGrew. “We have organized exhibitions and made acquisitions with Karen Carson, Merion Estes, Marcia Hafif, Helen Pashgian, Alison Saar, and Barbara T. Smith, among others, and I am thrilled that Harwood’s paintings are joining their work.”

Following the presentation at the Benton, June Harwood: Paintings will travel to the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art in 2024, followed by other museums to be determined. A publication of the same title will be available for the first time at the exhibition and will include essays by curator and writer Daniell Cornell, art critic Christopher Knight, McGrew, and curator and trustee Dennis Reed.

The exhibition is accompanied by a concurrent presentation in the Benton’s galleries, Tracing the Edge, which links Hard-Edge painting with works by contemporary abstract painters.

June Harwood: Paintings is curated by senior curator Rebecca McGrew with curatorial assistant Li Machado and June Harwood Charitable Trust Curatorial Intern Frances Hayman Sutton ’22, in partnership with the June Harwood Charitable Trust.

Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College

Now housed in the new Benton Museum of Art designed by Machado Silvetti and Gensler, Pomona College’s collection of art numbers 18,000 objects, including Italian Renaissance paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation; works on paper, including a first edition print series by Francisco Goya given by Norton Simon; and works in various media produced in Southern California in the twentieth century. In keeping with Pomona College’s reputation as a leading center of the visual arts, the collection also includes works by such esteemed alumni as Chris Burden ’69, Marcia Hafif ’51, Helen Pashgian ’56, Peter Shelton ’73, and James Turrell ’65. Recognized globally for its commitment to contemporary art, the museum is the home of The Project Series, which has featured more than 50 contemporary Southern California artists since it began in 1999. Through its collaboration with students and faculty, the museum encourages active learning and creative exploration across all disciplines of study within the liberal arts context.

Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College
Museum’s Galleries Devoted to First Survey Exhibition of Harwood’s Work
August 23rd, 2023 - January 7th, 2024

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