Robert Rauschenberg, Patrician Barnacle, 1981, Solvent transfer, acrylic, and fabric, with mirrored Plexiglas, safety reflector, and stepladder, on wood, Museum Purchase: Funds provided by an anonymous donor.
PORTLAND - The Portland Art Museum announced the purchase of a major assemblage sculpture by the renowned American artist Robert Rauschenberg. "The collections of an art museum are its core, serving as the basis for exhibitions, research, and programs," said Brian Ferriso, the Marilyn H. and Dr. Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. Director. "The addition of this major work by Rauschenberg represents a critical next phase for the Portland Art Museumís development as we focus our efforts on expanding and strengthening our collection."
Patrician Barnacle (Scale), 1981, is part of Rauschenbergís Scales and Spread series in which he returned to mixed-media and found-object collage work after almost a decade of experimentation in other forms. The nearly eight-foot-tall wedge appears precariously balanced against a found wooden ladder evoking a sense of dependence and independence, movement and stasis.
The wedge is covered with printed fabrics, transfer photographs on fabric, oil and acrylic overpainting, and found objects. In the work, Rauschenberg seems to offer comment on the state of the world around us through imagery of nature at its most pristine and humanityís often-harsh impact on the land. As one moves around the work, the images change from pastoral to industrial, patrician to peasant, and the color palate shifts from light and soothing to dark and dramatic.
"I was attracted to Patrician Barnacle because of the place it occupies in his oeuvre; and its complex imagery which suggests a narrative between humanity and earth, class and social constructs, the first world and the other," commented Bruce Guenther, Chief Curator and Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Patrician Barnacle (Scale) has had a distinguished exhibition history. Since its first gallery exhibition to its installation in the Guggenheimís monumental Rauschenberg Retrospective in 1997, the sculpture has been exhibited around the world.
This is the first unique Rauschenberg in the Museumís collection. To date the Museum has only had a handful of Rauschenberg multiples and editioned work to represent this protean artistís seminal career.
"The recent Mark Building addition and its Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art allow the Museum to pursue, acquire, and present significant works, such as Patrician Barnacle," said Ferriso.
The funds to purchase the sculpture were donated by Carol S. Hampton and her late husband John Hampton.
The Hamptons, long-time supporters of the Museum, earlier provided a major gift for the conservation of and publication for the acclaimed Clement Greenberg Collection, the personal collection of the New York art critic who helped define Modernism for a generation of artists. The Museum acquired the collection in 2001.
"The Portland community lost a great champion of culture when John Hampton passed away last year. Itís wonderful that Carol is continuing their legacy of generosity with this landmark gift in their name," said Guenther. "Carol Hampton has a long commitment to contemporary art in this community, and has been a supporter of Rauschenberg and his work.
Guenther was invited by Rauschenberg to select a work for offer to the Museum with the proceeds going to support the capital campaign of the Oregon Center for Photographic Art/Blue Sky Gallery. After discussing multiple works with Rauschenberg, Guenther selected Patrician Barnacle to come to Portland as a gift from Rauschenberg to the Blue Sky Gallery.
Thus the Hamptonís $1 million gift to the Museum has had a double benefit for the local arts community, providing both the means to acquire a major work for the Museum and helping to ensure the future of Blue Sky Gallery with expanded and permanent exhibition space.
"Once again, Carol has stepped forward with generosity of spirit and purse to make an important gift to the visual arts community," said Guenther. "For years I have wanted to add a major Rauschenberg to the Museumís collection in order to provide the intellectual link between traditional notions of painting and the object, modernism and the post-modern. Working with Blue Sky Gallery, an opportunity presented itself to purchase such a work and the Hamptonís gift ensures that this important sculpture will have a home in the Museum and our community for generations to come."
Patrician Barnacle (Scale) will be installed on the third floor of the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art and will be one of the centerpieces of the Museumís postwar collection.
"I am extremely grateful to Carol Hampton for her incredible generosity, and to Bruce for his determination in helping secure this important acquisition," said Ferriso.
About the Artist Robert Rauschenberg - Born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1925, Rauschenberg studied pharmacology and served in the navy before embarking on his career in art. Beginning in 1947, he studied art at the Kansas City Art Institute, traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian on the GI Bill, attended the famed Black Mountain College in North Carolina where he met John Cage and Merce Cunningham and worked with Josef Albers, and the Art Students League. Best-known for incorporating found objects into his work, Rauschenberg once observed, "I think a painting is more like the real world if itís made out of the real world." Rauschenbergís work has been exhibited widely and he was the first American artist to win the grand prize at the Venice Biennale of 1964.