Inexplicable Art: A Rick Bartow Retrospective

A major retrospective from one of the most important Native American artists in the country opens in Eugene this week, promising to engage and provoke with over 100 works.

By Rene Bermudez April 15, 2015

Things You Know But Cannot Explain, 1979 graphite on paper, 24" x 19"

There's a 1979 drawing by  Oregon artist and Wiyot tribe member Rick Bartow called "Things You Know But Cannot Explain" (see above). It's a screaming figure, eyes clenched and face marred by sharp zigzags of graphite, leaning out of blackness toward the viewer with its hand raised. This kind of aggressive, engaging, and evocative presence epitomizes Bartow’s capacity to leverage a haunting vocabulary of visual forms and cultural stories. 

This month a major retrospective of Bartow’s work opens at the University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene. It bears the same title as that 1979 drawing, and promises to similarly engage, evoke and provoke with a lifetime of work from the artist, who turns seventy next year.  

The retrospective, which collects over 100 works from across a broad range of media—paintings, pastels, art objects, sculptures, drawings, and more—will run from April 18 to August 19. After that, it will travel for three years. Additionally, the show will be punctuated by dozens of events that gather together artists, scholars, and the public as they grapple with nearly forty years’ worth of Bartow’s striking artistic work.

For those who can’t make the trip to Eugene, the Froelick Gallery, which has represented Bartow for 20 years, will bring a selection of his work to NW Portland later this year.

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