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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications

Ken Aptekar's "A Personal Public" opens August 20 at Reed College's Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery

PORTLAND, OR (August 2O, 2004) - A Personal Public, the newest mixed media and video installation by artist Ken Aptekar, will be on view at Reed College's Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery from August 20 through November 18, 2004. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Artist Talk and Opening reception : On Monday, September 27 , Ken Aptekar will give an artist talk on his work at 7 p.m. in Reed's psychology auditorium (room 105), followed by a question and answer session. A reception will follow at 8 p.m. in front of the Cooley Art Gallery entrance.

The exhibition is curated by Stephanie Snyder, director of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery.

Ken Aptekar's most recent body of work examines the personal and artistic exploits of Mme de Pompadour (1721-64): Louis XV's mistress, and one of the most prodigious and influential artistic patrons of 18th century Europe. Drawing upon the rich art and history of 18th century France, Aptekar's sensuous, narrative oil paintings consist of faithfully repainted passages from historical portraits of Mme de Pompadour--primarily by François Boucher (1703-70)--that are bolted under thick glass.

Each sheet of glass is etched with a story or textual fragment that interacts with the painting's imagery--and the viewer--in enigmatic and temporally discontinuous ways. As described by art historian Mieke Bal, "[Aptekar's] performance asked of the viewer/reader is time-consuming, slowed-down by the work's commitment to promote caring, loving and reciprocal attention , promoted by the various elements that slow it down--from glaring glass to the enticing text, from the verbal, visual and verbal/visual puns to the ambiguities of tense and tone." (p. 93, Mieke Bal, "Sticky Images," in Time and the Image , Carolyn Baily Gill, ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000)

Aptekar delves into Mme de Pompadour's rise to prominence in the court of Louis XV, reflecting upon her common origins, her relationship with Louis, her insecurities, her passion for art, and the vicious personal and political attacks that were a constant during her public years. In Aptekar's intimate exploration, he also positions personal and familial narratives among Pompadour's likenesses, ruminating, for example, on the difficulties his Jewish Grandmother faced in evading an arranged marriage and fleeing Russia for America--a juxtaposed narrative of social mobility and the reinvention of the self. The crystalline story of Aptekar's Grandmother--who became an accomplished seamstress--veils a full-body portrait of Mme de Pompadour wearing a gown as embellished and as rosy as a wedding cake. The words cast their shadow-selves back onto the painting, and the bright glass reflects and captures the light and movement of the space.

In addition to his oil paintings, Aptekar will exhibit a suite of chincole prints and debut a new video piece. In the video work--nestled in a small private viewing room--Aptekar undergoes an amazing transformation into several important 18th century French personages at the hands of a traditional Parisian perruquier (wig maker).

Aptekar's chincole prints reference Mme de Pompadour's relationship to some of the most significant intellectual projects of her time, specifically Diderot's Encyclopedia . Alongside Aptekar's prints, Reed College will exhibit volumes from Denis Diderot (1713-84) and Jean Le Rond d' Alembert's (1717-83) L'Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers , published in Paris in 1751-65 . The most comprehensive compendium of practical knowledge at the time, it was brought to fruition, in part, by the support of Mme de Pompadour, who, along with powerful intellectuals of the time, convinced Louis XV that the achievement would be worth the incredible expense of the project.

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Admission to the Cooley Gallery and its exhibitions is always free and open to the public. For information and hours, please visit or call the gallery information line at 503/777-7790.

For more information or to receive images from the exhibition, please contact Beth Sorensen, office of communications, at 503/777-7574 or at .

Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students,   Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes Scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915). For more information, visit .


Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College
August 20-November 18, 2004


Reflections, 2003, 30" x 360" (twelve panels), oil on wood, sandblasted glass, bolts

Text in glass:
my dependence
the wrong past
what I couldn't do
fear of a life cut short
my money worries
the calculating careerist I wish I could be
my desires
my passivity
dearest sister
neither Russian nor a grandmother
nor a Yiddishe mama
my beloved

Source works for Reflections (left to right):

•  Jean-Marc Nattier, Madame de Pompadour as Diana, 1748, Musee de l'Hotel Sandelin, Saint-Omer

•  Francois Boucher, Madame de Pompadour, 1759, The Wallace Collection, London

•  Francois Boucher, Portrait of Madame de Pompadour Standing, c.1750, Musee du Louvre, Paris

•  Francois Boucher, Madame de Pompadour at her toilette, 1758, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge

•  Francois Boucher, Madame de Pompadour, c.1750, Waddesdon Manor, UK

•  Francois Boucher, Portrait of a young lady--previously   thought to be Mme de Pompadour, 1750, Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon

•  Francois Boucher, Apollo and Issa, 1750, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Tours, Tours

•  Francois Boucher, Madame de Pompadour, 1756, Alte Pinakothek, Munich

•  Francois Boucher, The Toilette of Venus, 1751, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

•  Francois-Hubert Drouais, Madame de Pompadour with a Fur Muff, 1763, Musee des Beaux-Arts d'Orleans

•  Francois Boucher, Madame de Pompadour seated outside, 1758, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

•  Jean-Marc Nattier, Madame de Pompadour as Diana, 1748, Musee de l'Hotel Sandelin, Saint-Omer

Scenario, 2002, 90" x 60" (six panels), oil on wood, sandblasted glass, bolts
"Lou" refers to Louis XV; "Jen" to Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (Mme de Pompadour). The image is comprised of details of the walls of Madame de Pompadour's apartments in the Palace of Versailles. Seen above one of the doors is a detail of Boucher's Apollo and Issa (1750) for which Pompadour posed as Issa. The open door seen view in the mirror at the bottom of the painting recalls the access to the secret staircase Louis XV built between his apartments on the floor below those of Mme de Pompadour.

Some for Me, Some for You, 2002, 90" x 60" (six panels), oil on wood, sandblasted glass, bolts
Madame de Pompadour, after moving into the Palace of Versailles, later introduced the cultivation of flowers for bouquets for her apartments, and with diplomatic grace and savvy, provided bouquets to her lover's wife, the Queen, for her apartments.

A Bisl far Mir, a Bisl far Dir (Trans. from Yiddish: Some for Me, Some for You), 2002, 30" x 60", (diptych), oil on wood, sandblasted glass, bolts

A Shorter Encyclopedia, 2003
A series of five chincole prints inspired by the life of Madame de Pompadour and based upon Diderot, Denis (1713-84) and d' Alembert, Jean Le Rond (1717-83) L'Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers Paris: Briasson [etc.] 1751-65

1. How Love Endures
2. What Keeps Everything from Coming Apart
3. Why Some Rise and Others Fall
4. Why the Winds Change
5. How One Day Follows Another
(Actual Print Size: 22.5 x 30 in. each, printed on Somerset Velvet)

The texts have to do with the sort of Encyclopedia entries Madame de P--and most of us as well--might have wanted to read. She was instrumental in getting King Louis XV, not particularly interested in literary matters, to support the production of the first encyclopedia in France, a project her philosopher pals, Diderot and D'Alembert, directed (and personally wrote some entries for).

Originally, the French were just going to translate the English encyclopedia, which came out first, but then decided to do a better one themselves. I used illustration plates from the French original and combined them digitally with the titles of my "entries" for the five prints. So, for instance, the images with "How Love Endures" are plates illustrating Encyclopedia entries about how the knots used in lace making are tied. Each of these prints are futile attempts to answer the questions that I imagine were central to the extraordinary life of Madame de Pompadour.

Her Father Dragged Her, 1996. Oil on wood, sandblasted glass, bolts, 60 x 60 in., Collection of Dr. John Burger, Edison, NJ

Video installation piece as yet untitled, 2004
DVD projection
25 min.
Collection of the artist

Diderot, Denis (1713-84) and d' Alembert, Jean Le Rond (1717-83) L'Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
Volumes X, Y, Z
Paris: Briasson [etc.] 1751-65
Collection of Reed College