Portland

Portland

Various Venues

The most rewarding shows to have occurred in Portland this month were the Persian and Indian Miniatures at the Portland Art Museum, the small but per­ceptive drawings of deaf-mute James Castle at the Image Gallery and the austerely elegant canvases of Duane Zaloudek at the Fountain Gallery.

At the museum, the paintings in Ed­win Binney’s medieval Mideastern as­semblage provided viewers with a splen­did opportunity for studying the variety and excellence of an expression which, with its limitations, would certainly seem severe to our contemporary artists. The world one sees in these paintings is one as viewed through a keyhole or tran­som, and it is a world whose boun­daries are prescribed most strictly by religion, mythology, literature or by the wishes of the courtly patron. Most strik­ing in this notable collection are the Mughal paintings, Faberge-like produc­tions in their exquisite accomplishment. They were made in India during the 16th and 17th centuries and show such Mos­lem characteristics as sensuously drawn portraits of the youths at court, depic­tions of heroic but bloody exploits, fanci­ful studies of birds and Henri Rousseau-­ish scenes of animals in the wild.

Rajput miniatures make up a third of the collection. These were created in northern India during the same cen­turies as the Mughal works. There are some similarities with the Mughal: all artists were Indian and paintings were at one time used as illustrations in books. Color in the Rajput pictures is stronger, however, and design much more free. Subjects are Hindu, dealing very often with the life of the principal gods; Krishna and Vishnu. Buddhist and Jain palm leaf and paper manuscripts, and Persian ceramics dating from the 10th to the 13th centuries round out the display of 188 items of which 91 are scheduled to travel to other West Coast museums after January, 1963.

Particularly enjoyable was the work depicting the Amir Sheikh Nuz-al-din Killing a Lion in Front of the Emperor Timur. The high horizon of the rounded hill fills the major part of the outdoor scene, and it serves as a perfect back­ground for the somewhat static horse and rider. Interior scenes such as Brahma Visits the Princess of China in Her Saffron Pavilion are constructed in much the same way. There is astonish­ing beauty in the colors of the costumes and scenery. Compositionally, they re­mind one of Fra Angelico.

Miniatures of a different mood were found in the drawings of James Castle, Idaho farmer. What strikes us first about these sketches is their sincerity. Soot drawings, done on the backs of old card­board soap boxes, these remind one of early Van Gogh studies. Scenes such as a room with a bed and an old dresser, clothes hanging dejectedly from a hook, stained wallpaper, point up in no un­certain terms a life that is simple, hard and poor.

The solo-show at the Fountain Gal­lery reveals that one of Oregon’s most promising painters is making tracks in an entirely new direction. Zaloudek, circa 1959-61, looks pallid in compari­son. A silent but more confident Zalou­dek has emerged. The meaty rectangu­lar, sometimes ovoid shapes––frag­ments in earlier works––are now brighter, bigger projections. Zaloudek’s color has a pure, crystalline quality and with it he is developing severe, even imposing structures. The handling of paint leaves no doubt that there is a real painter at work here. Door-size oils comprise most of the show but included are a small number of caseins. These are exceptional works where forms seem on the verge of shifting or establishing exciting new relations to each other. In the larger efforts this holds true, too. The effect of three somber ovals in Arim is hypnotic; the manipulation of space and color in Gide is arresting, and in Klar, quietly humorous.

Andy Recchia