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Rosemarie Beck
Portland State University Art Gallery, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Rosemarie Beck, "Two with Horse," 1964, oil on canvas, 24 x 30". Collection of Nora Beck, Portland

Continuing through May 3, 2015

With her predilection for swaths of neo-Impressionist color and sprawling, neo-Classical tableaux, the late Rosemarie Beck (1923-2003) had a far different set of concerns than her Abstract Expressionist contemporaries in 1950s and 1960s New York. In her journals, she detailed a distaste of the macho posturing of the AbEx ideal, with its enshrinement of the “hero’s life,” which, as she noted, “requires manliness.” Setting off in her own direction, Beck dove into explorations of the figure, often cast as characters in allegorical or mythological settings. She continued this practice into the 1970s, 80s and 90s, diversifying her media to include embroidery, as in “Falling Icarus” (1983), and mixed-media drawings, as in “Untitled (Two Female nudes)” (1991).  

She did not shy away from sensuality and eroticism, as her luscious portrait of two nude lovers, “Two with Horse” (1964) evinces with refreshing anatomical frankness. The artworks referenced above and a wide selection of others — none of which have ever been exhibited in Oregon before — are part of the University’s thorough survey, “Lyric Truth:  Paintings, Drawings, and Embroideries by Rosemarie Beck.” As the decades roll by a growing cast of artists who found other valid paths to explore outside of the ruling orthodoxy are beginning to secure a place in our historical awareness. Beck’s place is well deserved and past due.

Portland State University, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

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