“Harris’s collaborations are fleeting, temporary and mutable. It’s in the nature of collaborations to serve as foil; they’re a hybrid construction that often attempts to overcome a lack in the singular with a doubling of artistic personae. While Harris exploits the mode to extend the otherwise dead end of painting, his collaborations are not a strategy designed to service any other lacking. Stretched across various media, his work attempts to plumb what an artist is and has to be in order to survive this moment. Thus, the materials he works from are those of mass culture and pop iconography – the stuff of economies driven by fame and celebrity. His work is a diaristic and everyday account of an autobiography, while his collaborations function as a mode of self-curation that is itself a means of self-reflection on the status of the individual, the artists and the object as a hybridized and friable cultural product.
Reference and influence plays a significant role in this show. The signature – that of style as well as name – functions in his work alongside the band logo: Bob Dylan, Manet, Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh, Duchamp, Johnny Cash, P.T. Barnum, and the Sex Pistols. Harris gave his paintings full of layers of textual identities and icons to a number of artistic friends and colleagues – Bob and Roberta Smith, Amikam Toren, George Shaw, Saron Hughes, Gary Webb, Matt Calderwood, among others- and asked them to make work out of his own. Rather than foregrounding the collaborative act, these paintings, photos, videos, and objects focus on acts of contextualization and identity within culture. Something is lost, something is gained. The end result belongs to the alter and other that is an irrepressible part of the contemporary cultural product and artistic ego.”
John Slyce, Flash Art
The Sex Pistols, who are represented by the band’s logo and by the four band members’ signatures, and “Vincent”, appear repeatedly. In some works the enlargement and overlapping of their names has been used to produce densely worked apparently –abstract paintings, which function partly as tributes.
But what brings the whole scenario to life is the iconoclastic collaborations with artist working today. There are about a dozen, most of which involve Harris giving over a painting of his to the collaborator. So a composition involving Van Gogh’s ‘Crows over Wheatfield’ and the Pistols name as it appears on ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’, signed and dated by Harris, has been given a makeover by Bob and Roberta Smith. The latter has deleted Harris’s name, signed his own, and changed the orientation of the picture when painting ‘NEVER TRUST AN ARTIST”, over it. The fact that the picture is mounted on the wall with this slogan upside down, means that it’s unclear who has had the last word.
Although the names and works of other artists appear everywhere in this show, they don’t serve to hide but instead to bring to light the creative drive of …what’s his names again?
Duncan Mclaren, Independent On Sunday
Andrew Mummery Gallery, London
5 – 30 September 2000