One of Cincinnati's most beloved visionaries is turning 100 in August.
On Aug. 4, the Art Academy of Cincinnati will be throwing a birthday celebration for Cincinnati artist Charley Harper on what would have been his 100th birthday. The internationally-recognized artist formerly based in Cincinnati died in 2007 at age 84.
Harper, who eventually landed in Cincinnati but was raised in West Virginia, created paintings, prints and illustrations that frequently stylized their nature-related subjects by deemphasizing depth and accentuating colorfulness and geometric characteristics, a common motif around the middle of the 20th century.
Charley's son, Brett Harper, will be in attendance at the AAC's birthday celebration, signing copies of the latest book about his father, Wild Life: The Life and Work of Charley Harper. As the book’s title indicates, this isn’t just a collection of images; it also has a biographical narrative written by Margaret Rhodes, an editor at New York Magazine with a background in design stories.
Overall, the plentiful art reproductions in Wild Life do reinforce Charley’s reputation as a stylized colorist whose love for nature made him a kind of modern, streamlined Henri Rousseau. But the book also features work that surprises in terms of its minimalism, its restrained color choices or its subject matter. Who knew, for instance, that Harper once designed a trendy Cool-Ray sunglasses advertisement?
Other interesting artifacts shown in the book include Harper’s 1957 color rendering of his Midcentury Modern “dream home and studio,” designed by architect Rudy Hermes (it was built with changes from the rendering and is owned by Brett today).
Those who attend Charley's birthday bash will also have the chance to browse over 40 prints from the artist's career that will be on display at the AAC's Pearlman Gallery through Sunday, Aug. 14. The prints are also available for purchase, according to a press release.
"A Celebration of Charley Harper on His 100th Birthday" will take place from 5-7 p.m. at the AAC, located at 1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine. More info: artacademy.edu.