Henry Pearson is often linked to the Op Art movement of the 1960s because his best-kwn paintings feature a labyrinth of undulating parallel lines. Yet his work, although included in the landmark exhibition of 1965, The Responsive Eye , has an intuitive rhythm and poetic elegance that falls well outside the calculated, often hard-edged sturctures favoured by most Op artists. World War II interupted Pearson's first career in theatre design but led to a prolonged contact with Japanese culture and a passion for painting. Back in New York City, he studied at the Art Students League and, as early as 1959, began to develop drawings he had made during the war from secret Japanese survey maps. Gradually he transformed a topography of mountains and valleys into n-objective forms that reflected a personal vision and heralded a new era of linear abstraction in his work. This text accompanied an exhibition of Pearson's drawings from 1959 to the mid-1970s, the years when the artist moved toward geometric abstraction.
Patrick McGrady is Charles V. Hallman Curator at the Palmer Museum of Art and Affiliate Assistant Professor of Art History at Penn State University.