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Optical art exhibit celebrates MOMA history

Schneider Museum of Art’s fall exhibit, “Breaking Pattern,” intends visitors to leave the museum talking, or even arguing, about its celebration of optical and perceptual abstract painting, work in which paintings and objects are not necessarily what they appear to be.

“People will definitely have favorite paintings and some painting that they hate, but that’s the beauty of this exhibition. It invites conversation,” says Scott Malbaurn, Schneider’s interim director. 

“Breaking Pattern” celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit of perceptual and optical art, called “The Responsive Eye.” Works from that 1965 exhibit aimed to generate perceptions in the eye and mind of the viewer. It was a popular and controversial exhibit at the time, and its showcased artists have had a strong and lasting influence on some of today’s artists.

“This current exhibition puts together artists whose work stems from or relates to the work that came out in 1965,” Malbaurn says.

An opening reception for “Breaking Pattern” will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1. The reception will feature a performance by Maraval Road steel drum band, along with a theater mask and movement medley by Oregon Center for the Arts students, in the museum’s courtyard. Crater Lake Cellars will donate wine for the event.

"Breaking Pattern" will officially open Friday, Oct. 2, and run through Saturday, Dec. 5.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, the museum will present a free public lecture by curator Matthew Deleget, who will discuss the exhibit as well as his work as a gallerist and artist.

“I think the talk will be great for anyone curious about abstract art, and also the work of a gallery, especially since Ashland has so many gallerists,” Malbaurn says. “I think viewers will all have different perceptions of the work. With these paintings, I’d suggest people take time and sit with each work for a while. The artists created these works to take viewers someplace and to engage them.”

He also urges newcomers to the art world not to be afraid of abstract art.

“This is a great exhibition. Come in and check it out, go to the curator talk or take a Tuesday docent tour,” Malbaurn says. “It’s a wonderful way to learn about the work and share thoughts about it with other people.”

Malbaurn says the artists in the exhibit represent a diverse range of gender, ethnicity, age and region. For the Schneider exhibit, the curators added West Coast artist Brian Porray and artist and educator Michelle Grabner from Wisconsin. Grabner also is the curator of the Portland 2016 Biennial of Contemporary Art and will attend the Schneider’s opening. Other artists featured include Gabriele Evertz, Anoka Faruqee, Gilbert Hsiao, Douglas Melini and Michael Scott.

Deleget and Rosanna Martinez, curators of “Breaking Pattern,” also are artists, and the museum will feature their installations in the Treehaven Gallery.

Malbaurn says he is excited about the direction the Schneider is taking over the upcoming seasons.

“Rather than have distinctly separate exhibitions, I’d like them to complement one another, for the exhibitions themselves to be a spectrum that by the end of the year represents the Schneider and what it stands for,” he says.

The Schneider Museum of Art is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday on the Southern Oregon University campus near the intersection of Siskiyou Boulevard and Indiana Street.

Three free family days will accompany the fall exhibit. Hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 24, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. See www.sou.edu/sma or call 541-552-6245.

Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at decker4@gmail.com

An abstract from New York artist Gabriele Evertz' The Black Room collection.