Trifecta’s latest exhibit is a Charley Harper treasure trove


The Details

Design in the Desert: B.C.PC Works by Charley Harper
Through June 28. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Trifecta Gallery, 366-7001. Opening reception May 2, 6 p.m.

There was some elation among Charley Harper fans a few years ago, when it
 was reported that dozens of the artist and illustrator’s original paintings had been discovered in a Ford
 Motor Company vault after 35 years.

Though the images had been reprinted decades ago in Ford Times—the car
 company’s small monthly lifestyle magazine, for which Harper freelanced—the
 chance to see the originals was an unforeseen opportunity for Harper
 devotees, whose addiction to his reductive brilliance keeps them chasing his vast collection of flat, colorful and geometric renditions of nature.

Harper, who died in 2007, might have been lost to large audiences beyond 
the graphics industry had designer Todd Oldham not come across his work
 in an antiques store, befriended the artist and published 2007’s Charley
 Harper: An Illustrated Life.

Trifecta Gallery owner Marty Walsh crossed 
paths with the Cincinnati artist a decade ago when she studied painting at the Art
 Academy of Cincinnati. Harper, an alum at the school, was also
 a professor there. Walsh says she contacted the Harper
 estate more than a year ago in hopes of bringing his work to Las Vegas, and in March she was
in Cincinnati, selecting works for Design in the Desert: B.C.PC, which runs through June 28 at Trifecta Gallery.

The exhibit features four originals and an assortment of artist proof serigraphs and silk-screens, along with multi-species posters Harper had created for conservation efforts.
Design in the Desert’s more than 20 works showing fish, birds, insects and mammals include “Black-Billed Magpie” (featuring the large bird in the foreground of a sparse landscape), “Shadow Dancers,” (a clean aerial depiction of Jesus bugs on the water) and a dense collection of zebras in “Serengeti Spaghetti.”

In addition to his more than 30 years illustrating for Ford Times, Harper contributed to commercial work, including The Golden Book of Biology and The Giant Golden Book of Biology—both published in the 1960s—and an illustrated edition of “Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two cookbook. But it was during his years with the Ford Times that he responded to requests for prints, all done at a time when stunning graphics were made by hand, rather than computer design.

Works like “Cheeky Chippy” and “Cardinal Courts” (both in Design in the Desert) demonstrate his minimal use of color and form, reminding viewers why the self-proclaimed “minimal realist” is often dubbed a modernist wildlife artist, known for saying, “I don’t see the feathers in the wings; I just count the wings.”

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