Harold Balazs: Leaving Marks
Harold Balazs, A Dialogue, c. 2007, copper Museum Purchase, 2023. Sponsored by Steve Duvoisin. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Poe Photography.

Harold Balazs: Leaving Marks

Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, Spokane, WA - To June 3

by Matthew Kangas

Harold Balazs (1928–2017) is widely known as “Spokane’s most famous artist.” This survey exhibition offers a broader picture. By including both large-scale indoor works and smaller, more intimate tabletop sculptures as well as paintings, carvings, maquettes, studies and enamels, Leaving Marks allows visitors to appreciate many aspects of the artist’s considerable oeuvre.

Originally from Westlake, OH, Balazs moved to Spokane with his family during the Great Depression and attended Washington State University in nearby Pullman. Shortly before, New York School giant Clyfford Still was on the faculty. He may be a source of Balazs’ characteristic mythological symbolism, a blend of ideograms, calligraphic gestures, totemic forms and other hermetic shapes. Like Still, Balazs also drew from Native American art, but turned it to his own end.

Settling in Spokane and raising a family there was fortuitous for the Hungarian American designer and artist whose father had inculcated in him an appreciation of the well-made object, the interchangeability of imagery regardless of medium, and the virtues of community cooperation, with a 1930s emphasis on appeasing public taste. What Leaving Marks reveals is how the mysterious and enigmatic roots of Balazs’ youthful abstract symbolism were successfully transformed into public artworks with immediate appreciation and accessibility.

Balazs created numerous indoor and outdoor public sculptures, panels, screens and murals for Spokane as well as for academic institutions in Idaho and public buildings throughout Washington State. A widely hailed exterior sculpture at the Jackson Federal Building in Seattle was later joined by a colorful enamel-on-steel floral mural, Rhododendrons (2000), at the King County Administration Building.


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