Ellen Harvey has caught a ball thrown across a half century by Albert C. Barnes and run with it. “Metal Painting” is a site-specific mural installation commissioned by the Barnes in which the British-born, Brooklyn-based artist engages one of the most memorable of the founder’s many curatorial idiosyncrasies, his placement of historic metalwork amidst his amassed painting collection. Dr. Barnes once told Stuart Davis that each anonymous maker of the locks, keys, door ornaments, jewels and other wrought iron objects that obsessed him was “just as authentic an artist as Titian, Renoir or Cézanne.” Harvey’s mural accompanies a show of stunning examples of metalwork, “Strength and Splendor: Wrought Iron From The Museé Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen.” The French loans are generally more rarefied and ornate examples than Barnes’s humbler, more robust, essentially modernist tastes in this area. Harvey has painted a portrait, in silhouette, of each metal piece hanging in the Barnes, and they are magnetized to a metal support, with gaps deliberately left to show that this is so. Perhaps Harvey is taking a gentle stab at Dr. Barnes’s legacy alongside her homage to his taste by making manifest that the installation is flexible.
“Ellen Harvey: Metal Painting” and “Strength and Splendor” on view through January 4, 2016 at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia