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Word and Image/Word as Image

New print exhibition at Portland Art Museum

By Lisa Radon August 26, 2009

Drops. Ed Ruscha. 1971. detail.

How’d you like a little Albrecht Dürer with your Ed Ruscha? The Portland Art Museum‘s print collection is one of the institution’s shining jewels thanks to the late Gordon Gilkey. Just opened at the Portland Art Museum, Word and Image/Word as Image is nearly 70 works from the Portland Art Museum’s permanent collection and local private collections. The show focuses on four groups of works, beginning with late 15th- and 16th-century prints and culminating in works from the late 20th century to the present. Some of the artists represented in the exhibition include Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Francisco de Goya, and Ed Ruscha.

The exhibition examines the relationship between word and image in prints over the course of more than 500 years, from the Renaissance to the present.

The following, from the press release:

The exhibition focuses on four groups of works, beginning with late 15th- and 16th-century prints, which tend to convey clear messages with a close correlation of text and image. This section includes a page from the renowned Nuremberg Chronicle, the most lavishly illustrated book of the late 15th century.

Prints of the 17th and 18th centuries often present ambiguous messages, particularly in commentaries about society, as in works by by Francisco de Goya and Cornelis Dusart.

With the emergence of Pop art in the mid 20th century, prints drew from everyday subject matter, common objects, and consumer culture, as in Andy Warhol’s large-scale renditions of S&H Green Stamps, Robert Rosenquist’s layered corporate logos, and Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-book style portrayals of melodramatic or violent subjects.

From the late 20th century to the present, artists have explored language as a subject, used text in conceptual or paradoxical ways, and explored social concerns. In Ed Ruscha’s Drops, from 1971, the letters in the word ‘drops’ are formed illusionistically with drops of water. Bruce Nauman’s Eat Death, a lithograph of 1973, evokes disturbing associations, and Edgar Heap of Birds’ 2006 monotype series addresses issues relating to indigenous peoples of North America.

Other artists represented in the exhibition include Odilon Redon, Käthe Kollwitz, Georges Braque, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jenny Holzer.

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