Watch As Ellen Harvey Goes Heavy Metal at the Barnes Foundation

VIDEO: Harvey riffs on Albert C. Barnes's love of wrought iron objects.


“It’s almost the number one question that they ask if they’re new to the Barnes,” says curator Judith Dolkart. “What’s this metal work? Why is it here? Where does it come from?”

The in-depth exploration of that question is exactly what inspired “Metal Painting,” Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Ellen Harvey’s forthcoming show at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. For this site-specific installation, Harvey has created painted representations of the myriad wrought iron objects that collector Albert C. Barnes famously placed alongside his collection of paintings by old and modern masters.

“I really feel that Barnes, he was an installation artist,” says Harvey. “He used art and objects to create these sort of installations…I think you [can] take the metal work and insert them into being paintings…so that they’re on the same level with the painting collection. Because they always have these other pieces around them and you don’t see them as much.”

Harvey, who employs painting, video, installation, and performance, first rose to prominence in the early 2000’s for her New York Beautification Program, in which she painted small, picturesque oil landscapes over graffiti sites without permission. She later published a book detailing her experiences on the streets while creating the interventions. She was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, and has been featured in exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery, the Bass Museum of Art, and MoMA PS1.

“You forget about something like a hinge,” Harvey says of the experience of observing the numerous keys, hinges, latches, and locks that hang among the paintings at the foundation. “So let the hinge have it moment!”

Ellen Harvey: Metal Painting” will be on display at the Barnes Foundation from September 19, 2015–January 4, 2016. 

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