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John Pearson (1940-)

Continuum 2 series #B, 2011

Materials: Acrylic on shaped canvas, 30” x 72”

Location at Summa Health:  Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, ground floor, registration area.

John Pearson, artist, by Herbert Ascherman, gelatin silver print, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art

About the art and artist

This abstract work of shaped canvas strikes multiple notes of contrast with the environment of the patient registration area: Its undulant outer contours are repeated in graded bands of alternating grey and steely blue across its surface, suggesting air and/or water moving in langorous symmetry. The two brightly contrasting rings dominate the center of the composition, call our attention to the work in almost neon tones, and appear like lenses that ride the waves and collaborate with them in defying (mostly) the strict horizontals and verticals of the built and furnished environment. The height of the wooden frame on which the canvas is stretched moves it off the wall and into our space, John Pearson’s subtle means of making his paintings more sculptural (as he does with a related series of painted reliefs).

For many years, Pearson has made paintings and low-relief sculpture, predominantly wall pieces, which use color, form, and various degrees of abstraction to modify the space of entire rooms.  With work exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally in both solo and group shows, Pearson has also been sought for many site-specific commissions, both public and private.  Like “Continuum 2, series #B,” these are typically highly abstract, simplified, and nuanced; they’re often witty, too.

In a short video made for the Cleveland Arts Prize in 2012, you can watch the artist preparing the canvas for a painting similar to our work in the Summa Collection. Perhaps you suspected, on close examination of  “Continuum,” that Pearson uses some kind of mechanical technique to create the hard edges in the main areas of the work: In the video, you can see the significance of expertly-applied masking tape as a painting tool (this is true as well for Julian Stanczak’s work, also in the Summa Collection, as well as for many other works by contemporary artists). As another painter who masks areas before applying paint explains, “My hand is steady, but not that steady!”

Pearson was born in Yorkshire (Britain) and studied art at the Royal Academy Schools in London, did advanced work in Munich (Germany), and earned the M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) degree from Northern Illinois University. He taught at several U.S. and Canadian institutions before coming to Oberlin College in 1972, where he educated several generations of appreciative liberal arts students. He also served as department chair and held the Young-Hunter endowed professorship from 1987 onward, until his retirement. Pearson travelled widely to paint, exhibit, and teach and received support from the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.  His career received recognition via the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1975, while most recently he was recognized as a Special Honoree by the same organization.

Where you can see more of this artist’s work:

In Ohio, you can find Pearson’s work in the Peter B. Lewis Business School at Case Western Reserve University; the Nord Family Foundation in Elyria; the George Gund Foundation in Cleveland; Cleveland MetroParks; and at the BancOhio National Plaza in Columbus, among others. Over the years, he completed site-specific commissions for the New Education Union Building Headquarters (Columbus), the Parker-Hannefin Headquarters in Cleveland, Lorain County Metroparks, and the Continental Bank in Chicago, among others.

His paintings and sculptures are held in many public and private collections in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, and Japan, as well as by museums, such as the Allen Art Museum (Oberlin), the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and the Art Institute of Chicago. His website contains further information on his work and his career.

The healing arts at Summa Health


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