Gilcrease

Exhibition Review: Rick Bartow

“if it didn’t hurt, we don’t remember it”

In the corner a small gallery at the Gilcrease, a cedar sculpture stands. More abstract than most works in the museum, this sculpture depicts the face of a man with his brain cracked open, his anxiety spilling out.

For 30+ years, Rick Bartow has cracked open his brain and poured the spillage onto wood, paper and canvas, creating figures that pulse with electricity and flow with a spiritual transformation. The Gilcrease is the first museum to host The Things You Know But Cannot Explain exhibition, which is a retrospective on Bartow’s best works from the past 30 years.

The exhibition itself, is awash with transformation. Historically, native art exhibitions have been organized by culture area or time period, but curators from the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art use a thematic approach, choosing  7 categories: Gesture, Self, Dialogue, Tradition, Transformation, New Work, and Works on Paper to organize the works, which include paintings, drawings, and sculpture.

Rick Bartow has layered identities, native and anglo, soldier and alcoholic. He uses art to clarify the world’s complexity. Weaving emotion, experience, and tradition, Bartow creates enticing abstract works.

The exhibit begins in main hallway, where From Nothing Coyote Creates Itself, holds center court. The sculpture is carved from cedar with a coyote head on one side and a carved human hand on the other. The sculpture encapsulates Bartow’s native American traditions with his desire to create works that emphasize transformation.