Friday, April 12, 2013

Kridel Grand Ballroom, Mark Building

MAJOR SPONSORS: Bonhams, Lisa Domenico Brooke, Christie’s, Janet and Richard Geary, Jeanette Heinz, Laura S. Meier, Vasek Polak and Travers Hill Polak, Arlene Schnitzer, Nani S. Warren, Helen Jo and Bill Whitsell, Dr. Alton and Celia Wiebe. SPONSORS: Joan and Ken Austin, Sharon and Keith Barnes, Frank Foti and Brenda Smola, Mark and Christi Goodman, Selby and Douglas Key, James and Susan Winkler.

2013 Curator Choices

Julia Dolan, Ph.D.

The Minor White
Curator of Photography

Irving Penn


Irving Penn (American, 1917–2009)
Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1948
Platinum/palladium print, printed 1970
19 x 12 1/4 inches
Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco

Irving Penn’s platinum prints are among the most celebrated photographs of the twentieth century. This classic image of the incomparable Dada and Surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp is one of Penn’s finest portraits.

Throughout his fifty-year career with Vogue magazine, Penn shaped fashion photography into art by using simple backdrops and treating models and their exquisite clothing as masterpieces. His sparsely beautiful vision moved beyond the pages of Vogue, and he regularly photographed a wide range of subjects—including tradesmen, food, and even discarded cigarette butts—with equal intensity and respect. In the late 1940s, when Penn began photographing famous artists such as Marcel Duchamp, he frequently placed them within a tightly cornered space in his New York studio, heightening the power of the relationship among subject, photographer, and viewer.

In the 1960s, as an antidote to the mass production of his photographs in popular magazines, Penn began making platinum prints, a once popular but complex process that had died out because of the metal’s expense and rarity. Penn reveled in platinum’s luxurious print quality and helped return it to favor among fine art photographers. Only twenty platinum prints of this image of Duchamp were made, and they rarely come up for sale. It is an exceptional view of the renowned artist, his impish grin and knowing look conveying authority and ease. The opportunity to acquire this photograph of Duchamp in 2013 is timely: exactly 100 years ago, his groundbreaking modern painting Nude Descending a Staircase—which had caused a great scandal at New York’s Armory Show—went on view at the Portland Art Museum.

Dawson Carr, Ph.D.

The Janet and Richard Geary
Curator of European Art

Francesco Fidanza


Francesco Fidanza (Italian, 1747–1819)
Vesuvius Erupting at Night, circa 1790
Oil on canvas
15 1/2 x 22 5/8 inches
Courtesy of Charles Beddington Limited, London

Vesuvius became a major tourist destination in the eighteenth century owing to a sustained period of volcanic activity. To witness an eruption in moonlight was considered the ultimate experience of nature’s sublime qualities—not only because of the vivid play of hot and cool light, but also because the volcano symbolized ferocious unpredictability while the moon was serene and reassuringly regular. Fidanza specialized in picturesque views of the Italian coastline, and works like this one were created so that visitors to the bay of Naples could take home a souvenir of the most awesome sight that they would ever see.

The excellent condition of Vesuvius Erupting at Night allows us to appreciate the artist’s mastery of light effects as well as his acute observation of volcanic phenomena. The glow from the lava shimmers across the bay, silhouetting the tall ship and boats, as the churning ash cloud threatens to block the light of the moon. Descending from above are massive bombs that were ejected as clots of molten lava and then assumed aerodynamic shapes as they cooled in flight.

Here in the Northwest, we live with the great volcanoes of the Cascades on our horizon, so this painting would be an especially appropriate addition to the Museum’s collection of European art. It would also complement Charles-Francois Lacroix’s A Shipwreck, the marine equivalent of a volcano scene. Lacroix was Fidanza’s teacher, and together the paintings would serve as strong evocations of the eighteenth-century fascination with nature’s awesome forces.

Maribeth Graybill, Ph.D.

The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer
Curator of Asian Art

Itō Jakuchū


Itō Jakuchū
(Japanese, 1716–1800)
Carp Ascending a Waterfall, 1798
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
40 5/8 x 12 1/8 inches (painting)
71 1/4 x 17 inches (scroll overall)
Inscription: Painted by Old Man Beito at age eighty-three
Courtesy of Kaikodo, New York

Based in Kyoto, Japan’s ancient cultural center, Itō Jakuchū drew on exciting developments in eighteenth-century painting—in particular, new emphases on self-expression and the direct observation of nature—while retaining reverence for older traditions of Zen art. Largely self-trained, he created a fresh, unique style that won wide acclaim in his own time. Today Jakuchū is regarded as one of the most innovative painters in Japanese history, and Carp Ascending a Waterfall is a masterful example of his ink painting style.

Jakuchū painted Carp Ascending a Waterfall at age 83. The subject is based on an ancient Chinese legend in which fish that managed to swim upstream past the steep falls at Longmen (Dragon Gate) on the Yellow River would turn into dragons. Throughout East Asia, the image of a fish ascending a waterfall became a metaphor for striving for success. In eighteenth-century Kyoto, paintings of this subject were popular among the merchant and professional classes. Jakuchū chose to render the subject in monochrome ink, a medium associated with Zen meditational paintings. With wit and bravado brushwork, he captures the energy of contending forces of nature: the splashing waters tumbling down and the intense resolve of the carp, flipping its tail as it surges upward.

Tadashi Kobayashi, one of Japan’s leading scholars of Edo-period painting, has called Carp Ascending a Waterfall “a Jakuchū masterwork of unquestionable authenticity.” Carp presents a very rare opportunity for the Museum to acquire a brilliant example of ink painting by one of Japan’s finest artists.

Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson

The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer
Curator of Northwest Art

Gaylen Hansen


Gaylen Hansen (American, born 1921)
Red Dog and Kernal, 1981
Oil on canvas
72 x 96 inches
Courtesy of Linda Hodges Gallery, Seattle

Gaylen Hansen is the Kernal, a self-invented symbol of the American West. Raised on a Utah ranch, he came to excel at contemporary art. His West is a place where cowboys coexist with Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, where playful images of a red wolf-dog mimic Henri Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy, 1897, while addressing ecological issues like the reintroduction of the gray wolf. Hansen’s work embraces California Funk and early modernism with compositions that result in canvases of painterly celebration, inspired by Milton Avery and Marsden Hartley. Wolves, magpies, leaping trout, giant grasshoppers, and the Kernal interact with “Big Nature,” becoming heroic icons of the American West. The ambitious, 72 x 96 inch Red Dog and Kernal, 1981, dates from the apex of Hansen’s sixty-year-long career.

Born in Garland, Utah, Hansen received an MFA from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and taught at Washington State University for 25 years, retiring in 1982. He has exhibited in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Berlin, Singapore, and Beijing, with 40-plus solo exhibitions. His paintings are in numerous public and private collections, including Boise Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, and Honolulu Academy of Art. Hansen has received prestigious awards, including the Washington State Governors Award and Flintridge Foundation Award for Visual Artists. His major retrospective, Gaylen Hansen: Three Decades of Paintings, was shown in 2007–08 at four venues around the West and the Seattle Art Museum. This signally important artist clearly deserves a place in the Portland Art Museum’s collection.

Mary Weaver Chapin, Ph.D.

Curator of Graphic Arts

Albrecht Dürer


Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)
Madonna Crowned by Two Angels, 1518
Engraving on laid paper
5 7/8 x 4 1/8 inches
Courtesy of Susan Schulman Printseller, New York, and Carolyn Bullard Fine Prints, Dallas

“The entire world was astonished by his mastery.” —Giorgio Vasari, historian, 1568

Albrecht Dürer is widely considered one of the greatest German artists of all time, and among the most important printmakers in the history of art. His mastery is evident in Madonna Crowned by Two Angels, a fresh, sparkling engraving in excellent condition. Every detail is carefully thought out and brilliantly rendered: the angels’ fluttering wings, the Madonna’s flowing curls and the minute landscape behind her, the chubby hands of the Christ child, and the fur trimming the Madonna’s elegant robe. We can tell by the quality of the line and crispness of detail that this was among the very first sheets to be printed from the copper plate, making it rare, exceptionally beautiful, and highly desirable.

In addition to its fine condition and rarity, Madonna Crowned by Two Angels has an impeccable provenance, as seen in the collectors’ marks on the verso. It passed through the collections of numerous distinguished and discriminating connoisseurs before landing in Portland for your consideration.

Dürer and his prints have stood the test of time. Over the last five hundred years, artists, collectors, and scholars have sought out, studied, and cherished his engravings, and I am confident that we will be celebrating Dürer for centuries to come. This is an important opportunity to acquire a first-rate engraving by an artist of the highest order. This print may be small, but it would have a major impact on the Old Master collection at the Portland Art Museum.

Deana Dartt, Ph.D.

Curator of Native American Art

Clarissa Rizal


Clarissa Rizal (American, Tlingit, born 1956)
Resilience, Chilkat robe, to be woven 2013
Merino wool, natural dyes, cedar bark, fur, and leather
47 x 27 inches (painted canvas pattern-board)
Courtesy of the artist

The Chilkat robe, an enduring symbol of Northwest Coast Native cultures, has remained an icon of Native American art through time. Today, eight fine examples of Chilkat robes can be seen at the Portland Art Museum.

A complex form of tapestry twining, Chilkat is the best-known textile art of the Northwest Coast. These robes are emblems of nobility, prized for their crest significance, fine workmanship, and spiritual meaning. The labor-intensive process to create a robe includes harvesting and spinning wool and cedar bark warp, dyeing weft, and weaving the blanket.

In this commissioned traditional Chilkat robe titled Resilience, Tlingit weaver Clarissa Rizal—student of master weaver Jennie Thlunaut of Klukwan—will illustrate a narrative about the impact of colonialism on Northwest Coast Native cultures. Eagle and raven symbols dominate the central design field, as they continue to form the foundation of culture: the clan system. Rizal conveys adaptations for cultural integration and survival by incorporating logos of the Native corporations and organizations “giving flight” to Native rights and sovereignty. The right and left panels depict symbols of Western influences integrated into the lives of Native people, including museums, institutions, and mining, as represented by the pair of hands holding a gold pan.

The Resilience robe will set the stage for an exhibition in 2017. As a modern expression of a traditional form, it represents the powerful bridge we need in order to bring our historic collection of Northwest Coast Art into the twenty-first century.

Bruce Guenther

The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Folkert de Jong


Folkert de Jong (Dutch, born 1972)
Business as Usual: “The Tower,” 2008
Styrofoam and pigmented polyurethane foam
110 1/8 x 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 inches
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York

Folkert de Jong is one of the most exciting and challenging figurative sculptors working in Europe today. In questioning the boundaries of art—its ideas and appropriate materials—de Jong’s sculptures and massive installation works made of Styrofoam and polyurethane deconstruct our most treasured assumptions of high art and its formal values.

Like a slap in the face, de Jong’s absurdist sculptures have an overwhelming immediacy of materiality and imagery that is emotionally powerful and strangely sublime. Part jester, part moralist, de Jong is celebrated for his savagely dark vision that combines references to art, world history, current events, and popular culture.

Unsettlingly raw and lacking in decorum, Business as Usual presents an oil barrel topped by a tower of smirking monkeys—a reference to the moral fable of the Three Wise Monkeys from Japanese Tendai Buddhism. Invoking the moral coda of “Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil” atop a leaking oil barrel in a world struggling under the stranglehold of big oil, collapsing banks, and governmental impasse is compellingly cynical. De Jong combines cultural allusion with ironic black humor to skewer the worldwide economic’s Business as Usual.

Based in Amsterdam, de Jong has exhibited internationally since the early 2000s and has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Prix de Rome for sculpture in 2003 and the Den Haag Sculptuur Orange Award in 2005. His work was most recently featured at the Saatchi Collection, London, and in a major solo exhibition organized by the Groninger Museum, Netherlands.

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