James Howell (1935 – 2014) exclusively worked with the colour grey in his paintings and drawings for a number of decades, fascinated by the colour’s unlimited tonal possibilities. Von Bartha’s exhibition ‘Decoded’ presents a range of media – from etchings, monotypes, graphite, pastel and acrylic works – highlighting the versatility in Howell’s practice, as well as his unrelenting ambition in his quest to explore the physical and metaphysical properties of grey. Not only are his works characterised by a gradation in this colour, but also by their perfectly square format.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, James Howell studied at Stanford University before becoming an architect, later deciding to pursue a career as an artist. Howell built a studio for himself in San Juan Island, Washington, USA and its design won a Record Houses Award in 1983. He moved to New York City in 1992, and worked with architect Deborah Berke to transform a 1909, 5,000 square-foot stable in the West Village into a minimalist studio and residence, which went on to win the AIA NY Design Award in 1997. The studio continues to be preserved to maintain Howell’s legacy and serves as a central research and archival facility.
His work appears in numerous public and private collections including the Albright-Knox Art Museum, New York, USA; Das Kleine Museum – Kultur auf der Peunt, Weissenstadt, Germany; Das Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany; Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA; and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vicente, Segovia, Spain – to name a few.