I have been wanting to write for some time about my experience seeing this exhibit but am still unsure I can find the language to describe it. I first learned of Rick Bartow when I read a review of this show about a year ago, on Hyperallergic. I immediately ordered the book because the images shown in the review transfixed me. I was not disappointed. I have sat with this book a lot – sometimes for just a couple of minutes, sometimes for an hour – and the power of Bartow’s work just knocks me out. It is primal, textured, visceral, heady, instinctual, dark, and beautiful. It is tuned in, to the self and to the natural world, to history and memory, to presence.
I was thrilled to find out that I would have an opportunity to see this exhibit when it came to the High Desert Museum here. Bartow was born and lived in Oregon and is represented by a Portland, Oregon gallery. These Oregon connections, I am sure, are what brought the exhibit to this more remote location. The exhibit here included paintings, drawings, prints, and maybe a half dozen sculptures. To stand before and among this work magnified my experience on a very physical level. I found myself consciously taking long, deep breaths, I gasped, I lost time. Ultimately, I took a break and walked the grounds of the museum – including outside in the rain – and then came back in to be with the work again. Wow. His work speaks to me on so many levels and to have the great good fortune to experience it live was extraordinary.