Born in Westlake, Ohio in 1928, Harold Balazs took Saturday morning art classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art as a child. Although in his early teens at the time, Balazs remembers being particularly impressed with two enamel panels by Edward Winter “in the stairway to art classes in the Cleveland art museum where I studied from 1938 to 1941.” Balazs realized at this early age: “I wanted to do to that some day – enamel!”
He went on to study painting and drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago and to receive a B.F.A. degree from Washington State University in 1951. At WSU, the Czech-born artist George Laisner introduced him to the spare, geometric work of Bauhaus masters Gyorgy Kepes and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Laisner also rekindled Balazs’s early passion “by exposing us to a minimum of enameling.”
After graduating, Balazs supported himself and his family by “freelancing at any and all things” including “making lots of enamel jewelry, bracelets, cufflinks, earrings, bowls and ashtrays.” However, in the early 1950s he also began to collaborate with several local architects creating doors, decorative panels, light fixtures, and furniture for churches, schools, libraries, and businesses throughout the region. Thus, like the artist he admired as a child, much of the work Harold Balazs produced as a mature artist was designed for architectural application – including his enormously successful, vividly colored, and boldly graphic enamels.
For almost sixty years, Balazs has pursued with great enthusiasm his interest in diverse materials and formats – from beautifully designed enamel jewelry to large-scale concrete and metal sculpture. His work, which is sometimes representational and sometimes abstract, is grounded in his love of the figure and of nature.
In 2010, Harold Balazs’s contributions to the field were celebrated in a major retrospective exhibition organized by the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane and in a monograph published by the University of Washington Press.