Intangible Assets: Recent Work by Josh Harlan
Josh Harlan creates geometric abstractions derived from visual displays of data and information. For Intangible Assets: Recent Work by Josh Harlan the artist has featured three distinct bodies of work: “Household Income and Math Scores” (2021), “Katya” (2020), and “Nine Years Since the Crisis” (2019).
Harlan drew inspiration from charts, diagrams, and data visualizations related to finance, media, telecommunications, transportation, government, and other sectors. The artworks were developed digitally, using image viewers like Preview and spreadsheet viewers like Excel to capture or create data visualizations. The artist then extracted fragments or “data cuts” and stripped away all signifiers of the original function or purpose of the data. He sampled color schema from historical artwork or commercial illustrations and applied those colors to the data cuts. These manipulations are executed in vector graphics software such as Adobe Illustrator and outputted as digital files. The completed work was fused to aluminum panel in a 400-degree heat-transfer, dye sublimation process.
The exhibition title, Intangible Assets, references the dual quality of his works: on the one hand, the abstractions harbor strong formal and aesthetic qualities, and on the other hand, they impart a lingering sense, conveyed by the highly structured nature of the resulting images, of some kind of significance, a dissonance, or encoded meaning that lies just beyond reach.
The works in the exhibition are as follows:
“Household Income and Math Scores” (2021) is a body of work based on a data set that explores the correlation between household income and home country on international math test scores as published in the Economist in 2020. On average, pupils in wealthy countries achieve higher test scores than those in developing ones, in turn contributing to the accrued wealth and success of the societies to which they contribute.
“Katya” (2020) is a series of eighteen individual panels that explore changes in daily movements by people in various metro areas following the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, based on location tracking data from cell phones. The series references a data visualization and aggregate data set published in the New York Times in spring of 2020. Three of the eighteen panels in the series were chosen to be featured.
“Nine Years Since the Crisis” (2019) is a series of nine panels, of which the artist has selected four representing the years 2015-2018, that depict a heat map of stock prices in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Harlan rendered raw data for the years of 2010-2018 into works of geometric abstraction inspired by the minimalist aesthetic of predecessors such as Josef Albers and Brice Marden.
About the Artist:
Josh Harlan creates geometric abstractions derived from visual displays of data and information. He takes inspiration from charts, diagrams, and data visualizations related to finance, media, telecommunications, transportation, and other sectors. Generally, his work is completed as digital files and printed on metal panels or glass-mounted photo-stock. Harlan studied philosophy at Harvard College and received a law degree from Yale Law School, completing coursework on the history of art while attending both institutions. He had his first solo show in August 2016 at the East Hampton Library in East Hampton, NY, entitled Data is Art/Art is Data. The show was featured in the Wall Street Journal. In 2018, Facebook, Inc. commissioned a site-specific installation of his work, Spectrum Fragments, for one of its headquarters buildings in Menlo Park, CA. The installation is comprised of eight 48”x48” metal panels printed with fragments extracted from a US government chart of frequency allocations. In 2021, Harlan’s Katya series was featured in the Palm Beach Cultural Council Biennial. In June 2021, he will participate in the Contemporary and Digital Art Fair (CADAF).