Carl Morris, Groups Over the Land, from the series History of Religions, 1959, Oil on canvas, 8 x 10 feet, Gift of the Fine Arts Commission of the Oregon Centennial

Carl Morris, Emerging Units of Light Traverse the Dark, from the series History of Religions, 1959, Oil on canvas, 8 x 10 feet, Gift of the Fine Arts Commission of the Oregon Centennial

Carl Morris: History of Religions

December 21, 2012 to January 20, 2013

Carl Morris (1911–93) was born in Yorba Linda, California, and received his early art education from master ceramicist Glen Lukens (American, 1887–1967). Upon seeing José Clemente Orozco (Mexican, 1883–1949) at work on his fresco mural Prometheus at Pomona College in 1930, Morris dedicated himself to painting. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1931 to 1933, before receiving fellowships to paint in France and Austria. After his return to the United States, Morris was hired as director of the new Spokane Arts Center and was later awarded a Public Works of Art Project commission for two murals in the Eugene Post Office (still extant). This significant achievement convinced Morris and his wife, sculptor Hilda Grossman (American, 1911–91), to settle permanently in Portland, though both maintained ties to their artistic circles in Grossman’s hometown of New York City. At mid-century, as he moved away from figurative art and his style became increasingly abstract, Morris continued to draw his inspiration from the geography and atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest.

In 1959, Morris was commissioned to create these nine large paintings depicting 100 years of religious history for the Oregon Centennial Exposition and International Trade Fair in Portland. Morris, concerned about how to sensitively and accurately represent nearly 200 faith traditions active in the state, focused on what he identified as one common element: the intersection of light and man. He was given only eight weeks to complete the series of paintings before they were installed in the Expo’s Hall of Religions, a ten-sided building designed by architect Ken Richardson in which visitors would be surrounded by the murals. The results of his labor, which evoke the religious experience in Oregon through bold color, expressive gesture, and Morris’s characteristic luminosity, are considered some of the painter’s finest work.

The History of Religions series was acquired by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art after the Oregon Centennial Exposition ended and has only been shown once, in 2007, since its inaugural exhibition in 1959. In 2010, the JSMA was the recipient of an IMLS American Heritage Preservation Grant for conservation of the murals.

Weston, Edward, Cabbage Leaf, 1931, Gelatin silver print, 1968:7.2, Museum Purchase: WAAM Fee

The History of Photography

September 18, 2012 to January 06, 2013

This exhibition of photographs is on view in conjunction with a Fall term course, Art History 359, The History of Photography. The course surveys the history of photography from its origins as a new medium in the early 19th century through its diverse manifestations in contemporary art and society today. Students are introduced to a broad set of issues, from the social function of photography to purely aesthetic concerns. The photographs in this display will be used throughout the term by the students for written assignments and for the opportunity to study actual works of photography first-hand.

iona rozeal brown. Untitled I (female), 2003. Color silkscreen, Museum Purchase, 2004:19.1

The Female Figure: Artistic Multiplicities

September 28, 2012 to May 12, 2013

Organized by art history graduate student Anne Taylor, exhibition coordinator extern Jessi DiTillio, and former curator Lawrence Fong, The Female Figure: Artistic Multiplicities draws from works in the collection, supplemented with special loans which present women as complex, nuanced individuals, as well as potent vehicles for symbolic meaning.

Charles M. Schulz, circa 1956, Photographer Frank Ross, staff photographer at The Saturday Evening Post

GOOD GRIEF! A Selection from 50 Years of Original Art from Charles M. Schulz’s PEANUTS

September 01, 2012 to December 30, 2012

Charles M. Schulz’s PEANUTS is not only the most successful newspaper comic strip in the history of the form; it also represents one of the more remarkable achievements in the history of twentieth-century artistic endeavor, in terms of qualitative consistency and sheer longevity. The strip debuted on October 2, 1950, and ran continuously for almost fifty years, with the last Sunday page appearing on February 13the, 2000. Schulz himself passed away only a day before this final strip saw print.

PEANUTS has become part of the national consciousness as a poignant and philosophically sophisticated portrayal of ordinary human disappointment that, even at its most heartbreaking, somehow always manages to remain funny. In Charlie Brown, Schulz reinvented the existential archetype of the loser-everyman; unlike most other little boys in prior comics and children’s literature, he was not a reckless tear-away, a loveable urchin, a little prince, or even a misunderstood geek-genius, but rather an almost painfully unremarkable figure ¾ not badly behaved, but not particularly good at anything, either. In Snoopy, by contrast, Schulz transformed the cliché of “man’s best friend” into an emblem of sheer imaginative vitality: a walking metaphor for the creative impulse itself. But these groundbreaking conceptions did not emerge full-blown from Schulz’s pen; they gradually took shape, in the context of a larger cast of characters that would eventually become almost as famous, developing their familiar, iconic forms slowly over years of intense, disciplined, and daily creative exercise.

Schulz drew nearly 18,000 strips over the course of his astonishing career; selecting just twenty-five to represent that half-century of output is therefore at some level an impossible task. Instead of pretending to an impossible comprehensiveness, then, exhibition curator Ben Saunders has attempted to offer a series of revealing snapshots from all five decades of PEANUTS ¾ producing a kind of “time-lapse” effect, that will allow the viewer to take in the origins, maturation, and final years of this great American masterwork with a slow turn of the head. At the same time, the show will provide a unique perspective onto fifty years of twentieth-century US history and culture, as seen through the eyes of one the country’s most beloved cartoonists.

Watch an interview with exhibition curator Ben Saunders:


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