PORTLAND, OR.- On August 4, the Portland Art Museum will open Camouflage, an exhibition of eight paintings assembled around the investigation of artists use of pattern in the post-World War II era. The exhibition draws its title from a 37-foot-long 1986 painting by Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987) entitled Camouflage.
In nature, as in the military, camouflage is created through repeating, often-random patterns that disguise, obscure, and protect. This exhibition features major works that use pattern as both subject and form. It includes paintings of very different scales and palette intensities, but all of the works demonstrate the artists primary use of pattern to animate and organize the two-dimensional space of the canvas.
"I was given the opportunity to bring two major works by Warhol and Hirst to Portland and decided to create a small exhibition using pattern as a starting point for the viewers experience," said Bruce Guenther, Chief Curator and Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. "Each of these paintings, from artists of quite different generations, uses pattern in differing applications, but all become emotionally and intellectually compelling through the pattern matrix."
Warhols Camouflage, a canvas covered in random and repeating patterns of stylized military-style camouflage, postulates means and method as aesthetic issues in the post-modern age. The heroically scaled painting demonstrates pattern as a vehicle for abstraction and silkscreen repetition as a means for original activity. The camouflage pattern was used by Warhol as both an end in itself, as seen in this abstract work from the end of his life, and also as a ground for portrait and image-based works.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is a major new work by artist Damien Hirst (British, b. 1965). The Kingdom of the Father (2007) is part of Hirsts ongoing butterfly series, which utilizes the pattern and iridescent colors of natural butterfly wings. This work was created using thousands of naturally shed butterfly wings to pattern and color a matrix inspired by the structure of Gothic stained glass windows. Commissioned by The Broad Art Foundation, this will be the first time The Kingdom of the Father is on public exhibition.
Agnes Martin (American, 1912 - 2004) used simple pattern repetition over the course of her lifetime to organize the abstract space in her work. A series of pastel stripes, intersecting pencil and paint strokes, and the overlap of form and color create the abstract pattern in Martins works. Formal and rigorous in their construction, the works maintain an important handmade quality.
Christopher Wools (American, b. 1955) two untitled works on panel use a mechanical means of pattern making. Through a variety of applications, such as a pattern roller or silkscreen, Wool creates general repeating patterns and then disrupts the pattern with seemingly random brushstrokes, creating a unique intersection of repetition, system, and the artists own hand.
Philip Taaffe (American, b. 1955) creates pattern by layering multiple individual woodblock prints which he creates; cutting around the image or pattern shapes Taaffe layers them onto a canvas creating one pattern on top of another. The richly colored works are complex, grid-based explorations of pattern and association.
While Warhol and Martin are direct in their use of pattern as a formal vehicle for abstraction. Hirst, Wool, and Taaffe used strategy of invented, repeating pattern to create conceptual-based abstractions that use association and allusion as integral elements.