The work of William Charles Harrington will be on view in “The Maker,” an exhibition opening at Keyes Art Gallery with a reception from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, June 4. The work will remain on view through July 10.
Harrington, who died in July 2020, was an American painter, sculptor and collage artist whose muscular, potent and often soaring work embodies the myriad contradictions, ironies and perennial hopefulness of life in the modern world.
A Vietnam-era army veteran having served in the renown Combat Artist Team, Harrington witnessed first-hand the horror and tragedy of war, and upon his return as a young man to the United States dedicated his life to challenging and illuminating the raw pursuit of political power and money through his art.
Using structures of wood, iron steel and found objects, Harrington’s sometimes massive sculptures elicit the skeletons of gigantic unknown beasts or winged seraphim that capture a sense of awe and uneasiness and a strictly American quality of wildness and unpredictability.
Harrington was born June 20, 1942, on the Southside of Chicago to an Italian mother and Irish father. His childhood in these working-class neighborhoods gave him a sense of the contradictions of the American Dream. A gifted artist, he received a scholarship to the University of Illinois where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and later earned an Master of Fine Arts at the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School.
Working in the summers for kinetic artist George Rickey to help construct the kinetic “useless machines” Rickey was known for, Harrington recognized and embraced the new directions and possibilities of American art.
Shortly after his graduation from the Hartford Art School and his marriage to his wife, Diana, Harrington was drafted into the U.S. Army.
Upon graduation from Officers Candidate School and serving in a logistics command in Germany, in 1967 Harrington was chosen to lead the U.S. Army Combat Artist Team VII in Vietnam documenting through art the many bloody and sometimes horrific deployments of U.S. soldiers. His experience in the jungles and rice fields of Vietnam profoundly influenced his life’s work.
Stateside, Harrington made and taught art at Iowa State and the University of Indiana. He published several books of his collage art and has been shown in galleries throughout New England, the southern United States and Chicago. His work is found in collections internationally and in Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Keyes Art Gallery is at 45 Main Street at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor. For details, call 631-808-3588 or visit juliekeyesart.com.