Hilda Morris With SculpturePortland, OR - The Portland Art Museum’s exhibition Hilda Morris is a stunning collection of more than 50 sculptures, drawings, and paintings that examine the innovations of Portland artist Hilda Morris (1911-1991). Considered one of the most important artists of her generation, Morris was a fixture of the Northwest art scene.  On exhibit April 15 – July 16, 2006.

In ongoing support of Northwest artists, the Museum is honored to present Hilda Morris and continue spreading her artistic and sculptural influence, which has been an important but overlooked component of Northwest art.  Hilda Morris will redress this significant gap in the popular knowledge of American art of the mid-20th century and thoroughly explore Morris’ art of unrecognized modernism.  The exhibition includes five decades of works by Morris in ceramic, cement, and bronze, outlining her search for hidden relationships and metaphorical correspondences in the material world.

Morris lived her professional artistic life in the center of the Northwest region’s group of avant-garde painters, sculptors, poets, and musicians.  She introduced rigorous and expansive thinking about abstraction to the Pacific Northwest by synthesizing casting and gestural traditions.  Her work was extremely process-oriented and technically innovative, yet it maintained a distinct element of spontaneity that fashioned a striking style. Many of her images were drawn from the rhythms of dance, music, and mathematics, which she gave physical form, emphasizing the organization of organic structure.  Morris’ highly individual version of Abstract Expressionism is especially present in her sculptures of mythological and legendary subjects.  Her form of Abstract Expressionism truly stands out when viewed against the background of vanguard sculpture made in the United States and in Europe during the second half of the 20th century. Morris’ work was invigorated by her passion for transcendent thought, which was a common tie throughout her entire career.  However, due to a complex set of circumstances, including distance from art-world centers and her own independence of mind, as well as changing trends and directions in art, Morris’ sculptures and career have been largely forgotten in the vast arena of the art world.

The Portland Art Museum, continuing its commitment to the artists of the region, looks to expose this regional artist who was part of a national moment to modern audiences. Over the decades the Portland Art Museum has organized exhibitions for major Northwest figures such as Louis Bunce, Lucinda Parker, Carl Morris, Dale Chihuly, and George Johanson.  The Portland Art Museum is an active participant in the writing of the history of artists of the Northwest.  This is the first show with partial support by the Northwest endowment by Arlene and Harold Schnitzer.  Arlene and Harold Schnitzer are long-time supporters of Morris.

Hilda Morris Tribal RitesAbout Hilda Morris

Born Hilda Grossman in New York City in 1911 she began her study of art through visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the new Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History, and classes at Cooper Union and the Art Students’ League. Among her teachers were John Steuart Curry and Concetta Scaravaglione.  By 1937 Morris was pursuing an independent artistic career in her own studio.  In 1939, while Morris was working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Spokane, Washington, she established a sculpture program and taught art at the WPA community center.

Morris met her husband, the well-known Abstract Expressionist painter Carl Morris while he was director of the WPA Art Center.  They married in 1940 and moved to Seattle, Washington, and in 1941 Morris and her husband settled in Portland, Oregon where she briefly taught at the Museum Art School.  They lived and worked in Portland until 1969, when she began to alternate between Oregon and Pietrasanta, Italy, where Morris worked at the Mariani Foundry and maintained a studio.

In 1985 Morris was the recipient of the Ford Foundation Grant and the Governor Arts Award. During her career her work was exhibited at the Kraushaar Galleries, New York; Triangle Gallery, San Francisco; Gordon Woodside Gallery, Seattle; and the Portland Art Museum. Public sculptures of Morris’ are located in Portland, Oregon at The Standard Insurance Building, Reed College, Portland Art Museum, and in Eugene at the University of Oregon. Her work is also at the Seattle Art Museum; Seattle Opera House; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; SFMOMA; Albright Knox, Buffalo, New York; and the Dayton Art Institute, Ohio; among others as well as innumerable private collections and gardens. From 1940 until her death in 1991, Morris produced a large body of abstract bronze sculpture of the highest quality and consequence. Laura Russo Gallery, Portland, Oregon and Kraushaar Galleries Inc., New York, represent Hilda Morris’ estate.

The Catalogue

The exhibition will include a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue published by the Museum to help re-introduce Hilda Morris to the public and explore the contingent history and experience of this woman-artist in negotiating both her work and her place in the world during the mid-20th century.

The Portland Art Museum

One of the seven oldest museums in the United States, the Portland Art Museum, founded in 1892, is internationally recognized for its permanent collections and the organization of ambitious special exhibitions drawn from its holdings and the world's finest public and private collections. The Museum's campus of landmark buildings houses a permanent collection of 35,000 objects displayed in some 112,000 square feet of galleries. The Museum's collection is especially distinguished in its holdings of French painting, English silver, the arts of the native peoples of North America, its graphic arts collection, modern and contemporary art, and artists of the Pacific Northwest.

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Pause For Thought

Picasso on Art's Purpose

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls."