Critics' Picks: Charles Harlan at The Ice House
February 21, 2019
The Ice House belongs to a brood of service quarters set back, uphill, from a parent estate on the Hudson River. The building is perched on the lip of its own pond, where large blocks of ice were once extracted and hauled indoors to create a refrigerated storage space. It has since been converted into a white-walled gallery, and to see the art, one must first drive along an icy gravel path, through the complex of buildings, to find the warm and welcoming curator Jayne Drost Johnson, who devotedly waits. Her current show features work by three artists: Yuji Agematsu, Charles Harlan, and Nari Ward.
Charles Harlan, Eleanor Ray, and Ree Morton in Athens, GA
September 14, 2018
The work of artist Charles Harlan, a native of Smyrna, GA, now based in Brooklyn, often provokes a quizzical response from viewers. By sculpturally combining industrial materials or reorienting objects to defy their logical function, Harlan poses philosophical riddles through a series of precarious conceptual balancing acts. (In the case of his work Birdbath, on view at Atlanta Contemporary through December 15 in his solo exhibition “Language of the Birds,” this balancing act is also quite literal: a stone birdbath tips a massive, fiberglass baptismal pool to one side, pinning it to the ground.) Despite the potential headiness of such acts of appropriation, the materials’ humble familiarity saves Harlan’s sculptures from being overly cold or self-referential, instead creating a playful opportunity for the viewer to wonder how and why they were made.
Charles Harlan at Tif Sigfrids
August 26 - October 6, 2018
As with the summer swelling of Kudzu that blankets much of the roadside landscape of the Southeastern United States, the physical world is layered and writhing with evidence of the passing of time. In the colder months, the plant goes dormant in retreat, allowing a withered view of the hidden mysteries where few people tramp around. And for all the efforts of herbicide manufacturers and users of landscaping equipment, the vine enthusiastically grows back again with warm seasons, stirring controversy along the paved lines of highways and roadways – the flat, human counterpart to the shapely contours of form Kudzu billows into. The Kudzu plant, a legume prolific in its intricate, rhizomatic system of growth, has been banned by some countries for its invasive tendencies, suggesting a very mixed historical relationship between itself and those humans who have variously propagated it for its beneficial qualities - such as its medicinal and culinary use, potential for soil improvement and so forth - and those who have slashed feverishly at its vigorous new shoots of green in attempts to quell the lush sprawl. Identifying it as a vile weed or a miracle vine might be a question of perspective or semantics, but it does seem the plant illustrates a taut and tightly interwoven link between humankind and the surrounding natural world.
Charles Harlan at Atlanta Contemporary
August 25 - December 15, 2018
For “People of the Book” an act of obedience is of the utmost importance: to wash away or bury an old life of sin. Followers descend one stair case as a sign of admission, of fallibility; in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the believer is immersed in the cleansing water, they then ascend the other side clean, born again. With Birdbath (2018) Charles Harlan portrays two moments of transformational baptisms: the grand: represented by a brilliant blue fiberglass baptism pool, slanted toward the sky; and the traditional: handmade bird bath. Despite its size the synthetic pool feels manageably light, while the density of the stone birdbath acts as an anchor, grounding the would-be flight.
Harlan’s practice is psychical. Mining found and industrial materials, Harlan’s sculptures highlight the grandeur of the everyday. Be it barbed wire or bricks, stones or trees plucked directly from the ground, by scaling up these utilitarian artifacts they command a new reverence. He fuses old and new, abstraction and fragmentation, personal narratives and moments too important, too pure to communicate. The ritual and experience collapse his past with our present, each symbiotic of the other.
This exhibition is sponsored by Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles and Vickery Hardware, Smyrna.
Charles Harlan: Amid the Bloat at Frieze, Art Worth Seeking Out
New York Times
May 3, 2018
The best use of large scale: Charles Harlan’s booth, presented by JTT and Kayne Griffin Corcoran, in the Focus section. His “Birdbath” is a bright blue fiberglass baptism pool, tilted downward, as if toward hell, by an old-fashioned, handmade bird bath.
Charles Harlan Brings A Baptistry To Frieze New York
May 2, 2018
Charles Harlan’s solo booth at Frieze New York began with a road trip. One that the New York-based artist was still recovering from when I met him at his Red Hook studio in early April. His haul, a new baptistry from an online church supplier in Roanoke, Alabama, greeted me at the door. Although the plastic tub was originally designed as a cleansing pool for adults and babies alike, its jacuzzi-like shape felt more pagan than protestant. For me, it brought to mind a cartoon of an Aztec temple with its two sets of descending stairs—a resemblance that only grew stronger when the artist tipped it to show me the upright posture it would take at the fair. “It’s going to be anchored by a birdbath,” he explained pointing to another ready-made component, a simple stone bath he picked up at Olde New England Reclamation. “I like this doubling of baptismal images. First us and then the birds.”
Charles Harlan: The Twenty-Five
As you’re floating through Frieze art fair in New York this May, you may notice what appears to be a baptistery jutting out of a booth. This is thanks to Kayne Griffin Corcoran and JTT, who are jointly presenting Brooklyn-based artist Charles Harlan as a part of Frieze Focus. Provocative in its contextual implications, Harlan’s chapel can be read as a continuation of his explorations into the way architecture holds meaning—as well as space.