Robert Tharsing, Title Unknown, 1979, cloth, polymer medium, acrylic, 35 x 30 inches
May 4 - May 20, 2017
Robert Tharsing: Second Hand Shapes is a pop-up exhibition coinciding with retrospectives honoring the artist at the Lexington Art League and Ann Tower Gallery.
Institute 193 will exhibit a series of painted clothes created by Robert Tharsing in 1979. At the time, Tharsing wanted to work beyond the traditional stretched canvas and was exploring new surfaces to paint on. Experimentation led him to search local thrift stores around Lexington where he found inspiration looking at the colorful shirts, bell-bottoms, and mini-skirts popular during the late 1970s. Tharsing poured polymer medium on the found material in order to create a sealed surface suitable for painting. Once they were dry, the clothes were hung on the walls of the studio and treated as a canvas. The bright colors are applied in expressionistic brush strokes, a lyricism occasionally broken up by geometric shapes. By folding the end of a dress or the sleeve of a shirt, the artist created a sensation of movement. The composition and pattern of the textiles are still visible under the paint creating several layers of colors and textures.
The familiar shapes of crop-tops and bell bottoms are visible, one might even wish to wear them; however, the components of these unusual canvases have given up their function in order to become permanently fixed vehicles for Tharsing’s exploration of form, color and texture, consistent with his other bodies of work.
Robert Tharsing (1943-2015) was an Associate Professor in the Department of Art at the University of Kentucky from 1971 until 2002, when he retired to work full-time in his studios in Lexington and Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Tharsing’s work has been shown regionally, nationally, and internationally and is held in many private and public collections, including the University of Kentucky Art Museum, the Kentucky Clinic, the UK Chandler Hospital, and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky and the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY. His latest paintings were the subject of a solo exhibition at Christian Berst Gallery, NY titled ‘Paradise Interrupted’ in 2015.