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Friday 06.30.06

« Free day at Portland Art Museum | Main | Holiday reading »

Local Perspective

Hilda Morris Genesis #1 (Edition of 7) 1965
cast bronze 9 3/4" x 10" x 3"

Be certain to check out two significant historical shows that close this weekend.

First of all the Hilda Morris show of small sculpture and sumi ink drawings at Laura Russo Gallery adds additional perspective to the retrospective at the art museum. There just weren't that many abstract expressionist sculptors (and even fewer female ones) but Hilda Morris adds an interesting counterpoint to David Smith, de Kooning and a fascinating series of parallels to Louis Bourgeois' very early totem work. Hilda Morris' craggy forms are known somewhat on the east coast as well and hopefully this show at the museum will spark some additional interest in her nationally.

Clifford Gleeson (far left), Milton Wilson (large center painting), anonymous sculpture (foreground)

Then there is Milton Wilson and His Peers at Pulliam Deffenbaugh. I think it's the nicest survey of these mostly regional artists Ive seen, it's not as grandiose as the Sondland and Durant gallery in the Portland Art Museum (4th floor of the Northwest wing) but its more comprehensive and ultimately the nicest compact survey of Post 1955-1979 art in the region with Wilson, Mark Tobey, Kenneth Callahan, Margaret Tomkins, Lee Kelly and Louis Bunce. There are plenty of parallels between de Kooning and work by Wilson, Callahan and Bunce but only Wilson seems to have de Kooning's zest for pop assemblage. Clifford Gleason makes a great showing as well. He had a great hand and his pallet knife work has some of the zest you see also in Wilson's brushy use of fuchsia.

I like the earthiness of these fine regional painters but let's not forget that it wasn't all musty earth tones, as Gleeson and Wilson can attest. The zip of the current Portland art scene has all sorts of long standing historical precedents and Wilson and Gleeson have more than a tangential relationship to it, both were mentors to many prominant artists. True they were both characters and that has made the condition of their estates (and contribution) less visible than other historical artists but their legacy amongst artists plus joie de vivre place their importance much higher than some casual observers might expect. I think talking to top local artists like Lucinda Parker and Tom Cramer for 5 minutes would make that abundantly clear. Actually just looking at their work for a minute or two gives Parker and Cramer's work a lot more context.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 30, 2006 at 12:25 | Comments (0)


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