A Look Back Into the Archives: John Pearson

By Mandy Tomasik, KSU library & information science practicum student

Let’s talk about math.

Drawing for Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10.  #AAI 3,628,800.  All permutations of ten of ten symbols. Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

Drawing for Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10. #AAI 3,628,800. All permutations of ten of ten symbols. Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

 

No, wait, come back!

John Pearson has already done all the math, we just get to enjoy the results.  The new John Pearson: Intuitive Structures exhibition in the Isroff Gallery is the first solo show at the Akron Art Museum for this enduring figure in the Northeast Ohio arts community.  Educated at the Harrogate College of Art, Yorkshire, the Royal Academy Schools, London and Northern Illinois University, Pearson taught at Oberlin College from 1972 until his retirement this year.  In addition to his remarkable teaching career, he is the recipient of numerous regional and international art grants, fellowships and awards including the 1975 Cleveland Arts Prize.

Although this is his first one-man show here at the museum, Pearson has participated in two previous group exhibitions.  Six Artists: Breidel, Davidovitch, Eubel, Lucas, Pearson, Tacha was on view from December 17, 1972 through January 28, 1973, and featured local artists working with conceptual ideas.  His second appearance, in Five Perspectives: Henry Halem, Patrick Kelly, Edward Mayer, John Pearson, and Judith Saloman, occurred April 24 through June 5, 1983, and likewise highlighted area artists who all explored abstract modes.

Pearson arrived at the minimalist geometric abstractions he created in the mid 1960’s and 1970’s through the rigorous application of mathematical systems like the one pictured above.  While this sounds dry, Pearson’s explanation of these works is anything but:

When I use mathematical structures to make my own structures, I am using concepts and forms which have been developed to define specific aspects of the harmony perceived in nature.  I am taking that harmony, fracturing it, putting it back together in my own way, to deal with another kind of harmony — the harmony that is in my spirit, in my soul.  (Five Perspectives exhibit catalogue, 1983, p 20, Akron Art Museum Archives)

 

Installation of Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10.  #AAI 3,628,800.  All permutations of ten of ten symbols.  Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

Installation of Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10. #AAI 3,628,800. All permutations of ten of ten symbols. Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

 

Installation view of Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10.  #AAI 3,628,800.  All permutations of ten of ten symbols.  Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

Installation view of Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10. #AAI 3,628,800. All permutations of ten of ten symbols. Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

 

Indulge your inner mathematician and discover some examples of Pearson’s early systematic mode in the John Pearson: Intuitive Structures exhibit on view in the Isroff Gallery through February 8, 2015.  Also, don’t miss the artist’s Gallery Talk on October 9, starting at 6 pm.

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