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 Irving B. Haynes  (1927 - 2005)

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Lived/Active: Rhode Island/Maine      Known for: abstract painting

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Irving B Hayes is primarily known as Irving B. Haynes

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from Auction House Records.
Abstract Composition
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from David Hall Fine Art, LLC:
The following essay is by Ronald J. Onorato?, Department of Art and Art History,? University of Rhode Island

Beyond Modern: Optical Space in the Paintings of Irving Haynes

Created over a half century, Irving Haynes' paintings on paper are infinite variations on a very modern type of space. Over the course of his career, Haynes worked with numerous techniques to evoke the spatial richness of modernist abstract painting. Some early works from the 1960's and 70's allude broadly to abstract expressionist handling or landscape formats featuring loosely handled arcs or organic shaped areas of color. Others seem more purely gestural with a thin arabesque line or repetitive marks covering an entire surface. In every phase Haynes often employed modules of color, composed in a gridded matrix.

The paintings of his last five years show a fully developed sensibility emanating from a decades long artistic career spent working with this implied modernist grid. Ranging in size from small sheets barely a foot square (Split Image, 2004) to mid sized (Luminous Dark, 2004) and near wall-scaled (Oktoberfest, 2005), these acrylics on paper have less to do with the two dimensionality of their obvious gridded composition than with what Haynes himself once called the "optical space" of the sheet of paper. While their underlying, rectilinear structure might suggest to some a fundamental architectonic vision, Haynes' work is not architectural but instead addresses issues at the very heart of painting: the creation (or denial) of illusionistic space, the effects of color, form and surface textures and their interrelationship on a working surface.

In each of these works his starting points are the inherent dualities of his working arena, a sheet of paper. Both the boundaries of its height and width and its opaque planarity clearly inform his painting strategy. While the works firmly avoid the post-Renaissance idiom of representation, they are equally insistent on giving us the essence of that traditional painting practice in a flatness that holds a sense of potential depth. In Haynes' works we not only see through a "window" into an illusionistic, other world but we become simultaneously aware of the tension between that three dimensional world and the picture plane of the "window" itself. (In everyday experience, it would be as if when looking out through an actual glazed window, we became convinced that the elements of the landscape on the other side of the window, were somehow fused into the glass panes separating us from that third dimension of lawn, trees and sky.) This tension — or better yet, equilibrium — is fostered by Haynes through a variety of means: color relationships, textural variety and a concern for surface and framing devices which balance smaller elements with the whole of the working surface.

Important to this equilibrium is the way that his grid is often not literally inscribed but only inherently implied as his painted modules squeeze between or expand toward each other in rectilinear ways. In some of Haynes' work, the grid is wholly present as a series of intersecting boundary lines a la Mondrian. His optical space is more fully felt in those works that lack such a structured layer (which can be read as a separate, overlaid plane). What grid there is (in those that lack an explicit network of crossing lines) emerges out of the paint itself, peeking out between broader areas of color (Prima Verde and Signals, both 2005) This implicit grid only serves to enhance Haynes’ sense that the paper itself has a kind of dimensionality, not dictated by a linear overlay but embedded in the material itself. Haynes' paintings, despite their actual two dimensionality, have a visual and tactile depth, an almost palpable thickness. Compositionally, this optical space is sometimes framed and re-emphasized by edging elements, like bars of color along one side of the paper (Blue Roof, 2003 or Well Braced, 2004) or even within the composition (Le Rouge et Le Gris, 2001) which only serve to further separate foreground and background for the viewer.

This sense of a third dimension is enhanced by Haynes' various textured applications and surface work. Some color swatches are opaque but reveal underlayers of different colors at their edges; others are more translucent or scumbled, allowing deeper hues to emerge from within the shapes themselves. Sometimes these shifting coloristic effects are achieved with brushwork, as when a shape breaks up and gives way to a loose set of brush strokes, or when an otherwise opaque block of paint becomes more mottled like a translucent aqueous pool of color (as in Summer Sequence, 2005). Sometimes, very thin layers are laid on in repetitive arcs with a more hard edged tool (Green Grid, 2004). In numerous works, Haynes scratches through top surfaces to graphically reveal sediments of color beneath (China Lake, 2003). Yet for all this surface variety, Haynes' third dimension doesn't comprise an illusionistic, pictorial window but instead can be read as a result of his ability to coherently manipulate the physicality of his paint and paper within a defined two-dimensional area.

Ultimately Irving Haynes' paintings should be seen as timeless considerations of the act of painting itself. He expressed himself within the ongoing dialogue that painters have been having since antiquity and that continues to be central to an understanding of painting in our own time — the challenges of three dimensional spatial illusion and the balances of color and form, line and surface. That Haynes' paintings express a presence that is at once a very real, physical object as well as a visually beautiful sensuous image means that he achieved something rare for any painter — reconciling these two incongruous aspects into one harmonious whole.

Review of Museum Exhibition at the Newport Art Musuem, RI in 2009
Striving to explain to an interviewer why he continued to paint the same subject, an elderly Josef Albers proudly reached back to the exacting standard set at the beginning of modernism: "When I want to speak about why I am doing the same thing now, which is squares, for - how long? - 19 years. Because there is no final solution in any visual formulation. Although this may be just a belief on my part, I have some assurances that that is not the most stupid thing to do, through Cézanne, whom I consider as one of the greatest painters. From Cézanne we have, so the historians tell us - 250 paintings of Mont St. Victoire. But we know that Cézanne has left in the fields often more than he took home because he was disappointed with his work."

The lesson from Cézanne that Albers was so eager for his questioner to understand was one that another teacher and painter, Irving B. Haynes (1927 – 2005), would have recognized and commended. An architect, artist, musician, and RISD professor, Haynes was a man of manifest range, but painting remained his touchstone, a practice of endless visual experiments which he pursued across the years.  An exhibition at the Newport Art Museum, "Irving B. Haynes: Abstractions, 1960 – 2005", demonstrates his commitment to the patient negotiation between vision and paint through more than four decades worth of rich work. ??

Born in Maine, Haynes came to Rhode Island in 1948 as a transfer student to RISD from Colby College.  After earning degrees in painting and architecture, he spent the 1950’s working for a variety of architectural firms by day and playing jazz by nights in area nightclubs. By 1968, the year of the Albers interview, Haynes had his own architectural practice, Haynes and Associates, in Providence. Another career began in 1973, when he started teaching Foundation Studies at his alma mater, assuming an Assistant Professorship in 1980. Haynes’ association with RISD would continue, as he retired from architectural practice in 1990 to concentrate on painting and teaching, becoming a Full Professor in 1997 before retiring in 2005.

??Painting seems to have been a necessary practice for Haynes throughout all his varied pursuits, something he would seize the chance do under almost any circumstances. All of his paintings were done on paper.  Crayon figures into some of the earliest work on display, some of which is so playful it makes one imagine the sticks were taken right from a child’s set. Watercolor and ink recur throughout his practice, though acrylic became Haynes’ favored medium, valued for its quick drying and flat appearance.

From the start one sees Haynes fully immersed in modernism. Post-Cubist understandings of space are a given, while some paintings, like a 1961 watercolor, engage in a cool biomorphism.  Though his artistic sensibility seems to have been most closely attuned to European modernism, several works, including a large 1972 ink on paper, employ a brash Abstract Expressionist scrawl, with thick black lines carving across areas of blue and yellow in a shallow picture plane.  A sure feel for color is apparent from the start, but in the paintings from the 1980’s on, Haynes increasingly bore down on the question of structure, with rough squares of color forming loose or implied grids, often interrupted or bisected in turn by black diagonals lines.  Like many other abstract painters, Haynes seems to have found the investigation of his chosen structural principles to be freeing rather than restricting: the paintings from these years display a great range of mood, scale, touch, and tone, while almost all building upon the same guiding forms.  Iberia, from 2000, to take one example, uses opposing and repeating spiky diagonals to complicate its vertical thrusts, with dusty whites, yellows, and oranges scraped over darker colors predominating the painting while narrow verticals of blue and pink set the range of tones. In a very different mode, China Lake (No. 10), 2003, deploys smooth, placid strokes to create squares and rectangles of cool, verdant greens and blues with only a few variations from its horizontal flow present. Both paintings are built out of the same recognizable process, have a rough grid pattern that visually divides the surface into quadrants and share the same range of shapes, but their achievements are thoroughly distinct. These paintings, like others of Haynes’ later career, and especially his last decade, have a quiet assurance that only comes from a lifetime spent in art.

As the titles of the two paintings might suggest, Haynes’ abstractions are grounded in observations from nature as translated into two-dimensional form. Their essential non-representational character, however, comes across most clearly by the several examples of his photo collages, all dating from about 1995. These consist of photographs of common phenomena—a door frame, a gravel path, woods—cut up, rearranged, and assembled together in grids in a manner to make the everyday strange and allow the underlying character of forms emerge. While not a direct working source for the paintings, they provide a striking example of Haynes at work, investigating and experimenting with the visual world.

The handsomely designed catalog features an essay by Judith Tolnick Champa, formerly of the University of Rhode Island’s Fine Arts Galleries, that skillfully traces the formal development and aesthetic context, visual and musical, of Haynes’ production.  I would add one word on the location of the show. The Newport Art Museum’s Griswold House, dating as it does from 1864, is not the first setting one thinks of for abstract painting. The Illgenfritz Gallery, the modern addition where the exhibition hangs, features a more fitting “white cube” look, but the contrast between the two spaces offers perhaps a hint of an appropriate metaphor.

Haynes thought his work particularly suited to a domestic space, which Griswold House was, and if its grand scale contrasts with the intimate one of his paintings, the visual stimulation of its rich wood inlays and graceful ornament provide an architectural parallel to his intently structured paintings. Given that Haynes was a modern architect with significant ties to Newport’s historic heritage—his firm headed the restoration of the city’s Trinity Church and Brick Market—as well as a resolutely abstract artist with a teacher’s comfort with the broad range of history, the contrasts and associations feel especially full. One more bit of counterpoint, perhaps, to the compositions on view.

Newport Art Museum
Irving B. Haynes
Josef Albers interview, 1968 June 22-July 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

"Irving B. Haynes: Abstractions, 1960-2005", Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI, April 4-June 7, 2009

Joe Leduc works at the Worcester Art Museum. He is an occasional contributor to Big RED & Shiny.


Brief Chronology

Born in Waterville, Maine; spent his youth painting nearby fields and lakeside, especially China Lake; studied music, played a number of instruments and composed, and as a young professional, supplemented his income by playing piano in local jazz clubs.
Eighteen months military service, mostly in Europe.
Enrolled at Colby College.
Transferred to Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI; received Bachelor of Fine Arts/Painting, 1951 and Bachelor of Science/Architecture, 1953.
Draftsman in various Providence architectural firms.
Partner, Johnson & Haynes, Architects, Providence.
Established his own architectural firm of Haynes & Associates in Providence.
Began teaching, Foundation Studies at Rhode Island School of Design and became full time as Assistant Professor in 1980; appointed Full Professor in 1997.
Elected to The College of Fellows/American Institute of Architects, for contributions in the fields of architectural design and historic preservation.
Retired from his architectural practice to focus fully on painting and teaching.
Retired from Rhode Island School of Design. Died at home, Lincoln, Rhode Island.
Solo Exhibitions
"Irving B. Haynes: Abstractions, 1960-2005", Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI.
Industrial Design Gallery, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI.
Providence Art Club, Providence, RI.
Providence Art Club, Providence, RI.
Happy White Gallery, St. Andrews School, Barrington, RI.
Providence Art Club, Providence, RI.
Providence Art Club, Providence, RI.
Central Congregational Church, Providence, RI.
Ewing Building Gallery, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI.
Wheeler Gallery, Providence, RI.
Lily Iselin Gallery, Providence, RI.
Providence Art Club, Providence, RI.
Providence Art Club, Providence, RI.
Museum of Art, Colby College, Waterville, ME.
Group Exhibitions
risd|works, Providence, RI.
Painting Center, New York, NY. The Big Abstract Show Denise Gale, Curator.
Virginia Lynch Gallery, Tiverton, RI. 25th Anniversary Exhibition.
Faculty Biennial Exhibition, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. Exhibited biannually since 1973.

Biography from Adam Tamsky Fine Art:
Irving Haynes spent his youth painting in and around China Lake, Maine.  He also played a number of musical instruments and supplemented his income by playing piano in local jazz clubs. After an 18 month stint in Europe following the end of WWII, he enrolled at Colby College in 1946. In 1948 he transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design and received his BFA in Painting in 1951 to be followed by a BS in Architecture in 1953.

After working for several Providence architectural firms, he formed his own firm in 1968 specializing in Preservation Architecture.

In 1973 he began teaching Foundation Studies at his alma mater becoming a full-time assistant professor in 1980. In 1990 he retired from his architectural practice to focus fully on painting and teaching.  In 2005 he retired from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Solo Exhibitions:
2009 Retrospective (with catalog), Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI
2005 Solo Exhibition, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

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