Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain

Representing more than forty years of work, Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain features a broad selection of sculptures, paintings, drawings and prints, drawn from public and private collections, including the artist’s studio, that affirm this extraordinary artist’s regional, national, and international impact.  The exhibition culminates in outstanding examples of Bartow’s most recent work, which evidenced a new freedom of scale and expression.

Accompanying the exhibition is a fully illustrated catalog, with essays by co-curators Jill Hartz, executive director, and Danielle Knapp, McCosh Associate Curator, at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and Lawrence Fong, former curator of American and regional art at the museum. The catalog is made possible with support from The Ford Family Foundation and the Harold and Arlene CARE Foundation.

Personal experiences, cultural engagement and global myths, especially Native American transformation stories, are the heart of Bartow's art. Animals and self-portraits populate his iconography, and he was known for astute interpretations of literary, musical and visual sources.

Rather than follow a chronological survey, the exhibition explores such themes as “Gesture,” “Self,” “Dialogue,” “Tradition,” “Transformation,” and “New Work.”

Born in Newport, Oregon, in 1946, Bartow was a member of the Wiyot tribe of Northern California and had close ties with the Siletz community. He graduated in 1969 from Western Oregon University with a degree in secondary arts education and served in the Vietnam War (1969-71). Bartow passed away in 2016.

His work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally and is in numerous public and private collections. A recent career highlight was the completion of We Were Always Here, a monumental pair of sculptures over 20 feet high installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The work was commissioned by The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

Support for the exhibition is provided by the Ford Family Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, Arlene Schnitzer, the Coeta and Donald Barker Changing Exhibitions Endowment, The Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, a grant from the Oregon Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, the Ballinger Endowment, Philip and Sandra Piele, and JSMA members.


Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK, January 15 - April 30, 2016

North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, ND, May 24 to July 10, 2016

IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM, August 19 to December 31, 2016

Washington State University Museum of Art, Pullman, WA, January 20 to March 11, 2017

Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ, April 22 to July 9, 2017

Boise Art Museum, Boise, ID, August 11 to December 16, 2017

Schingoethe Center of Aurora University, Aurora, IL, January 23 - April 13, 2018

Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, CA, May 12, 2018 - January 6, 2019.

High Desert Museum, Bend, OR,  February 2 - April 14, 2019.

Missoula Art Museum, Missoula, MT, October 4, 2019 - February 15, 2020