Froelick Gallery is proud to present an enlightening look into Rick Bartow's (Wiyot, 1946-2016) archive. Titled Crow’s Instructions- after a minimal 2007 monotype of black silhouetted corvid forms with human legs surrounded by cryptic letters, numbers and other markings- this collection calls attention to some of Bartow’s most-venerated imagery: Crows and ravens. A lifelong observer of their behaviors, highly versed in their significance in Indigenous and worldwide stories, Bartow referred to the the crow as a "sacred fool"; the raven as "crazy with too much knowledge of both the light and the darkness”- he held strong personal associations with them. He spoke of their dark peripheral movements as triggering his PTSD after his return from service in Vietnam and his later deep affection for them as tricksters, as bearers of burdens, guides and portents.
Among the pastel drawings, acrylic paintings, unique prints, and wood sculpture is Raven Gift, a 1999 transformational self-portrait in pastel and graphite, in which his head is joined with a black raven’s head and beak facing away; spread-out hand tracings on either side suggest wings, while the contour of the gender-defying figure becomes female. In Horrible Crow, a circle of wood, bark intact, is adorned with a roughly-carved beak bristling with small, matchstick teeth and round cutout eyes. Works from the bold, declarative late in life series G.C. (Great Crow) substantial bodies feature both bird and human eyes and mouths, with forklike feet and primary color outlines are surrounded by a midnight of black tempera wash. These and other works are a celebration of the artist's fascination with birds and his ability to transmit the panoply of human experience through them.
Froelick Gallery remains committed, as ever, to Rick Bartow and his legacy, and we will continue our efforts alongside the Richard E. Bartow Trust to ensure his works are widely seen and placed in museum, public and private collections.