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Carl Morris and Leonard Ruder

January 13 - February 13, 2008

Carl Morris: Figure, Word & Light
Prudence Roberts, guest curator

Leonard Ruder: Evidence of a Life's Work
Silas Cook, guest curator

Carl Morris: Figure, Word & Light

Carl Morris (1911–1993) had a long and illustrious career, and his work has been the subject of several museum exhibitions. Prudence Roberts, guest curator of the Marylhurst exhibition, has a deep interest in the history of the art of the Pacific Northwest.

In this exhibition, Roberts examines the work painter Morris made partly in response to the second World War. Prudence Roberts is an art historian and curator, and a member of the faculty of Portland Community College, Rock Creek Campus.

Roberts writes:

Like many artists of his generation, Carl Morris began as a figurative painter, then moved gradually towards abstraction. By the mid-1960s, he was making the paintings for which he is best known today: frequently large-scale, with a brilliant palette of earthy colors and elemental compositions. While this exhibition will include a few of these works, it is focused on the period that came before the 1960s.

During the 1940s and 1950s, American artists grappled, intellectually and spiritually, with the impact of World War II: the devastation of Europe and the horrors of the Holocaust and the atom bomb. Morris, along with friends and acquaintances such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Mark Tobey, sought to make art that reflected this momentous history and the frightening new world that lay on the other side of the war.

This exhibition, and its accompanying essay, explores Morris's responses to his times by focusing on his use of the figure, either fully rendered or merely suggested; his references to word — as calligraphic sgraffito, as tablet or as text — and his frequent images of light as a source of creation or salvation.

The exhibition includes more than 50 of Morris's paintings from the 1930s to the mid-1960s, all drawn from Portland collections.

Leonard Ruder: Evidence of a Life's Work

Two years ago, Leonard Ruder's art came to the attention of Silas Cook, assistant director of The D.F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College. Cook has curated an overview of Ruder's paintings and drawings for The Art Gym.

The show includes Ruder's early focus on abstracted architectural and landscape motifs, tracks the work as the artist quickly moved to non-objective abstraction, and demonstrates the artist's formal prowess and constant experimentation.

Leonard Ruder has made art for more than 50 years. After he graduated from the Cranbrook Academy in 1950, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston included his work in a national traveling exhibition. Ruder moved to Portland in 1950, and the Portland Art Museum presented his art alongside works by Louis Bunce and Carl Morris in several Oregon Annuals in the 1950s. Over the ensuing decades, Bunce and Morris gained public renown, while Ruder worked quietly in the studio and supported his family as a Portland Public Schools custodian. He regularly sold work through the museum's Rental Sales Gallery, but rarely exhibited elsewhere. The Art Gym is pleased to help bring these intriguing works by a little known, dedicated and accomplished artist to the public's attention.


Marylhurst University thanks guest curators Prudence Roberts and Silas Cook for proposing these exhibitions for The Art Gym, for their curatorial curiosity, sleuthing and excellent essays. The Art Gym often collaborates with guest curators, other academic galleries, museums, collectors and art patrons. Ours is a modest program, and we are very grateful to all those who work with us and make it possible to meet our mission of increasing public understanding of contemporary art in our region.

We are also grateful to the collectors who have loaned work for Carl Morris: Figure, Word and Light, including Brooks and Dorothy Cofield, Arlene and Harold Schnitzer, Laura Russo, the Carl and Hilda Morris Foundation, Michael Parsons and Marte Lamb, and others. In addition, the gallery brochure would not have been possible without the support of the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, Brooks and Dorothy Cofield, and others.

Several years ago, the friends and family of Arilla Ruth Dawson established a memorial fund in her honor at Marylhurst University. Dawson was an artist who studied at Marylhurst, and her daughter Dr. Libby Dawson Farr is on the faculty of the University's Department of Art & Interior Design. We thank the donors for their generosity and are pleased to be able to use their contributions to help meet the costs of Carl Morris: Figure, Word and Light.

The Ruder exhibition is a true collaboration with the arts professionals of the Cooley Gallery at Reed College: Silas Cook, Robin Richard and director Stephanie Snyder. We are grateful for all their time and expertise, and for the Cooley Gallery's generous financial support for the exhibition and brochure.

Both Silas Cook and I also wish to express our gratitude to all the members of the Ruder family, for their help in researching the exhibition and allowing Marylhurst University to present these beautiful paintings and drawings to the public. We thank the artist Leonard Ruder and family members Irene Ruder, Rhine Ruder, Reuel Ruder and Rhea Ruder Sleeman.

— Terri M. Hopkins, director and curator, The Art Gym


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