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John Buck: Iconography, Work from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation

November 3, 2009 - February 28, 2010


Over the past four decades, artist John Buck has created a large and significant body of artwork, made up of woodblock prints, sculpture and three-dimensional wood panels. Comprised of over 50 artworks, including several pieces from Buck's little-known series of glass jars, this exhibition is the first large-scale museum survey of the artist's work since 1993 and will be on view at Bellevue Arts Museum from November 3, 2009 to February 28, 2010. The exhibition also features raw printing blocks and prints in different stages of completion that illuminate Buck's printing process.

Visually complex, Buck's art is saturated with a deep richness of images, icons, symbols, and motifs and an intensely lyrical and authentic evocation of both the natural and social worlds. A master carver, all of the artist's work is grounded first in wood carving, and then expands toward large and unique woodblock prints, monumental wood sculptures and unusually colorful, shadowbox-like wood panels.

In the prints a central image -- figures, birds, plants, glass jars -- is surrounded by graphic constellations of visual icons ­ couples embracing or dancing, skulls floating in space, roads curing off into far distances, beautifully rendered plants, shells and insects, fires and stars and plants, and countless images reflecting our troubled times.

The sculpture, statuesque carved wooden nude male and female figures standing singularly silent and powerful, are completed by arrangements of carved images and symbols delicately balance above their shoulders. Recalling graffiti art, cartoons and political broadsides, Buck's sculptures draw from and comment on popular culture. "My work is inspired by contemporary issues as well as primitive and folk art of many cultures. Wood carving and assemblages are found in practically all cultures and I find the connection inspiring. My approach to sculpture is a combination of figurative and abstract compositions which represent the imagination as physical forms and that combine the properties of balance and tension," the artist explains.

The shadow box-like wood panels are a delightful collision of sculpture and painting, and like the prints and sculpture, they are fundamentally grounded in the long tradition of functional and folk wood carving. John Buck's carvings are extraordinary. In his work, whole worlds are created where diverse and imaginative signs and symbols cohere in a dynamic and visually sumptuous array.

John Buck was born in Ames, Iowa in 1946. He received his BFA from Kansas City Art Institute in 1968, followed by a short period in which he studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, ME. In 1972, he completed his MFA at the University of California, Davis, where he met his wife, artist Deborah Butterfield. He studied with Roy De Forest, William T. Wiley, Robert Arneson and Manuel Neri at the University of California, Davis, and out of these fertile roots developed an authentic, resonant, lyrical voice -- a voice unmistakably his own. Since the completion of his MFA, Buck has held four teaching positions, both abroad and in the United States. Most recently, Buck was an Assistant Professor of Sculpture for Montana State University in Bozeman, MT from 1976 to 1990.

John Buck currently divides his time between studios in Montana's Gallatin Valley and Hawaii with his wife, Deborah Butterfield. He has shown his woodcuts, sculptures and wood panels widely. A retrospective exhibition of his prints was organized by the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco in 1993 and traveled nationally. He has also completed a number of major bronze sculpture commissions, including two major works for Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Seattle Art Museum and many other major museums.

John Buck: Iconography, Work from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation has been organized by the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture. The local presentation of this exhibition has been organized by Bellevue Arts Museum and curated by Stefano Catalani and is made possible by The Boeing Company and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.

Selected images from the exhibition


(above: John Buck, Borderline, 2007, Wood sculpture, 72 x 31 x 8 inches. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Strode Photographic, Portland, OR)


(above: John Buck, Tattoo, edition 4/15, 1992, Five-color woodcut, lithograph, chine colle, 74 x 37 inches. 2002.19. Photo: Strode Photographic, Portland, OR)


(above: John Buck, Botanica, edition 10/15, 2003, Nine-color woodcut, 62 x 37 inches. 2003.42. Photo: Strode Photographic, Portland, OR)


(above: John Buck, North of South, 2005, Wood panel with acrylic paint, 72 x 72 x 3.5 inches. Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer. Photo: Strode Photographic, Portland, OR)

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