The more you look, the more you see in Harry Naar’s incredibly detailed drawings. They are representational, and yet in the markings themselves, they are surreal and abstract. It is a good thing they are of very large size, because there’s so much to see. Pictured at left: “Remnants from the Brick Factory.”
Mr. Naar, who lives in Lawrence, is one of just 30 artists from across the United States who have been selected to participate in the Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts by the famed American Academy of Arts and Letters. The participants will be considered for eight awards in art from the exhibit, on view in the Academy’s New York gallery through April 5.
Mr. Naar, a professor of fine arts in the Westminster College of the Arts of Rider University and director of the Rider University Art Gallery, was among 21 painters who will enter their chosen works in the prestigious competition, along with four sculptors, two photographers and three installation and mixed-media artists. Mr. Naar’s four entries are black-and-white ink drawings, all completed within the past few years.
The Academy’s art awards and purchase program serves to acknowledge artists at various stages of their careers, from helping to establish younger artists to rewarding older artists for their accumulated body of work. Paintings and works on paper are eligible for purchase or placement in museum collections nationwide.
Selection for the Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts began with approximately 175 candidates nominated by the 250 members of the Academy. From that group, the 30 artists were then chosen by a rotating committee of artist-members, and they will compete for eight awards in art. Those eight, as well as works selected for purchase, will be held over for the Academy’s Ceremonial Exhibition, which runs from May 21 to June 14.
For the past few years, Mr. Naar says, he has been preoccupied with landscape, particularly drawing. “The pieces I have in the Academy show have all been developed from New Jersey landscapes, and come from the experience of looking at reality, as well as from memory,” he says.
“Even though the landscape appears to be detailed and very representational, once I begin to compose and develop the image, I think more in terms of abstract elements that I see within the landscape,” he continues.
“Moving in close to these drawings forces the viewer to confront the marks of the pen – the dashes, squiggles and curves – and notice the pure qualities of the marks. Therefore, up close, the image seems totally abstract, but when you move away from the drawing, and your perspective changes, the pen marks begin to decode themselves and reveal the reality of the landscape.”
Mr. Naar’s paintings and drawings have been shown at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, the Newark Art Museum, the Jersey City Art Museum, Johnson & Johnson corporate offices in New Brunswick, Bristol-Myers Squibb headquarters in New York, and the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., among others.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters is located at 633 W. 155th Street, in New York. 212-368-5900.