The recent paintings by Richard Haas seem different in attitude than their predecessors, which over the span of a long career possess an ambiguity toward their subject, i.e., the portrait-llike views of the buildings on which he concentrates. In the past he chose specific buildings for their eccentricities of architecture or engineering. His depiction of them hovers between a cheerful tongue-in-cheek send-up, and a paternalistic pride in the facts of their existence. The often extravagantly designed structures he presents usually seemed about to become anthropomorphic, to be characters ready to perform in some surprising new kind of aniated film. The buildings, whether early 19th century cast iron fantasies currently in need of restoration and preservation, or gleaming skyscrapers showing off their engineering glories in sunlight or glamorous night time klieg-lighting, are like divas making their stage entrance. The new paintings are less theatrical. They also have less to do with individual structure, and more to do with the building’s spatial position in relation to its neighbors. The buildings have gone through a process of social conditioning. Now each building is seen as a part of the much larger structure of New York City itself. The city has become the dominant subject of Haas’ recent paintings.
It was sometime in the early 1970’s that Richard Haas became a promising recruit to the burgeoning “New Realism” movement. Among the first works exhibited by him were a group of studies of the nineteenth century cast-iron industrial buildings in Manhattan’s SOHO. Soon he was an exhibiting artist of note, and the same suspicioys questions accrued to his work as had been attached to the work of the rest of the “New Realists”. Was this artist simply a neo-primitive, or was he a jokester creating a sneaky vatiation of the then new “Pop Art?” The idea of a contemporary artist being serioys with this subject matter was beyond the understanding of most members of the New York art world at that time. But Richard was serioys, even if there was a bit of joking ambiguity present in all of his projects. This ambiguity is always counterbalanced by the sence that his dedication to the precise statement of the facts of design of the buildings he depicts is almost a moral position. Haas never fakes or fabricates anything about the buildings for compositional purposes, nor is anything ever obscured for atmospheric effect. The portraits of individual buildings have escalated into group portraits comprising whole sections of the city. These baroque views are about the space and light generated by the buildings. It becomes clear that the sub-text of Haas’s work has been the history of the architecture 19th and 20th century Western culture has created through its mastery of scientific engineering. However, perhaps the fact that Haas’s recent work is post 9/11/01, when the collapse of the World Trade Center towers demonstrated a downside to these achievements, accounts for the sense in his new work that all the buildings that make up the city are interdependent, the city really is one anthropomorphic whole.
American Academy of Art, New York, NY
Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Center of Contemporary Arts, Miami, FL
Elvehjem Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin
Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York
Iowa State University, Brunnier Gallery, Ames, Iowa
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Michigan State University
Milwaukee Art Museum
Minneapolis Art Institute
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
National Academy of Design, New York, NY
National Academy of Design, Washington, D.C.
The New York Historical Society, New York, NY
New York Public Library
Smith College Art Museum
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
St. Louis Art Museum
University of North Carolina, Weatherspoon Art Gallery
University of Wisconsin Art Museum
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Yale University Art Gallery
Oil on canvas
12 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches
Oil on canvas
12 x 16
2 - 2
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