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October 04, 2019 - February 15, 2020

Bartow, Rick
Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain


This exhibition speaks directly to the personal and cultural aspects of traditional Native art within Bartow's oeuvre while demonstrating his close engagement with the work of 20th century artists, such as Francis Bacon, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Rick Bartow (1946–2016) is one of the nation’s most important contemporary Native artists. This fall MAM features his work in a national traveling exhibition organized by The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.

Bartow–a member of the Mad River Band Wiyot, a tribe that thrived in Northern California before being massacred in large numbers in the 1860s by vigilante settlers—created art drawn from his personal history, Native American ancestry, and friendships with artists from around the world. Born in Newport, Oregon and educated at Western Oregon University where he graduated with a degree in secondary arts education, Bartow served in the Vietnam War immediately after college.

Awarded a Bronze Star for his service, Bartow worked as a teletype operator and hospital musician in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971. By the time he finished his tour, he suffered post-traumatic stress and turned to substance abuse. After a period of recovery, making art allowed Bartow to confront parts of his history that were difficult. While he avoided depicting specific wartime experiences, his work came to feature haunting combinations of human and animal forms seemingly caught in the act of transformation. Author Barry Lopez called Bartow’s art, particularly the animal images, “penetrating.” He observed that Bartow’s art was made “to be in service, to work through the mess and make something comprehensible.”

Bartow is known for his large-scale paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures that have been featured in many solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally and are in numerous public and private collections. One of the highlights of his career was the completion of We Were

Always Here, a monument commissioned by The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

In 2013, Bartow suffered a major stroke. Within days of nearly losing his memory and motor skills, he was back in the studio, drawing and painting his way back to health. Until his death just three years later, Bartow continued to produce art.

Image: Rick Bartow (American, Mad River Wiyot, 1946-2016). Creation of Crow, 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 37-1/16 x 49 x 2-1/4 inches, framed. Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Gift of Rick Bartow and Charles Froelick.

Related Programs:

The line and Legacy of Rick Bartow Film Screening: November 2, 2 PM

Art Swing: October 25, 5-8 PM

Remembering Rick Member Reception: November 20. 5:30-6:45 PM

Remembering Rick Bartow: November 20, 7 PM

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