Art

Stephen E. Ostrow Distinguished Visitors

ROBERT DAVIDSON
SEPTEMBER 17, 1998

From August 24, 1998 to October 11, 1998, the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College presented an exhibition of the work of the distinguished Canadian Haida artist Guud Sans Glans, Robert Davidson. The exhibition held as its centerpiece Davidson's 20-foot totem pole, "Breaking the Totem Barrier," which was transported to Reed from a private collection in New York for the exhibition. The pole will be installed in front of Eliot Hall on the Reed campus, where it provided a striking focus for the exhibition in the Cooley Gallery. On September 16, Davidson and his dance company, the Rainbow Creek Dancers, conducted a ceremony of songs and dances to commemorate the installation of the pole at Reed. This was an important event for Portland and the region, celebrating the vitality of contemporary Indian culture.

The exhibition brings together for the first time the majority of Davidson's maquettes and drawings for his totem poles, offering a substantial contribution to the study of Native Indian culture. Also on exhibit will be a selection of Davidson's masks, woodcarving, metalwork, jewelry, paintings, prints, and drawings, emphasizing his transformation of subject and symbol in both traditional Haida and non-traditional media. The exhibition focuses on work made since 1985.

Robert Davidson (Guud Sans Glans, meaning "Eagle of the Dawn" in Haida) holds a central position in contemporary Northwest culture. The descendant of a family of artists, he is the great-grandson of the renowned Charles Edenshaw (1839 1924) and is considered by many to be pre-eminent among artists of his generation. He has been active as an artist since the 1960s, is represented in numerous private and public collections, nationally and internationally, and was given a retrospective exhibition at the Vancouver Art Museum in 1993.

The exhibition curator is Charles Rhyne, professor emeritus at Reed and an internationally respected art historian. He has worked extensively in many areas, including the theory and practice of art conservation, and has established a close working relationship with Robert Davidson. Recently he has received grants from the Andrew Mellon and Charles Culpeper Foundations, and from the Northwest Academic Computing Consortium for the development of high-quality digital images for teaching and research in art history. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue with an essay and annotated bibliography on Davidson's work by Rhyne as well as his important color photographs of Davidson's totem poles, which offer a contribution to scholarship in their depiction of scale, presence, and details of carving. Rhyne is also editing an anthology of Robert Davidson's writings and speeches.

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