. . . I began to look at paint as an organic event,
as an event of nature itself. . . I'm not representing anything.
What I'm doing is causing these little organic circumstances
to happen in paint over a certain type of structure. . . .
~ James Lavadour, Artist
Self-described Expressionist James Lavadour, a Walla Walla with a deep understanding of art's value as a transformative tool, co-founded the nonprofit Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton in eastern Oregon (see my post about Crow's Shadow here). He currently is president of the institute's board, having returned after a period away to concentrate on his career.
Lavadour, who has been called "the J.M.W. Turner of the Northwest",* is an exceptional painter of abstract landscapes and a masterful printmaker. He recently was selected to participate in a group show, "Personal Structures", at the 55th Venice Biennale that will begin this coming June and extend into November. Taking place at Palazzo Bembo and devoted to work focused on concepts of time, space, and existence, the group exhibition will feature recent studio and site-specific art in diverse media, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, videos, and installations.**
In addition to vivid landscapes, Lavadour has worked for many years on series of monochromatic abstract paintings ("interiors"); most recently, he has brought the two together, dripping or scrapping the paint and layering it in ways that seem both to build and take away. His brushstroke is beautifully fluid and gestural, yet also textured and nuanced, I would say even spiritual in how it appears to effect a perception of time and its passage.
Well-known especially in the Pacific Northwest (he exhibits often in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, but also has had shows at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and in New York City), the down-to-earth Lavadour was the subject in 2000 of an introductory Oregon Art Beat profile (see below); in addition to talking about his artistic process, Lavadour addresses the question of what a painting is for him and how place and nature inform his vision.
In 2009, Oregon Art Beat revisited Lavadour, who, in this video, addresses his engagement with the land and how it inspires him. Art, he says, "is nothing more than the transfiguration of nature". He is a passionate art-maker who becomes delightedly excited about what he discovers from his own work.
In this short video from 2012, Lavadour talks about why he paints and about his sculpture Ruby Lift, a collaboration with Walla Wall Foundry:
Also see the informative 2008 video James Lavadour: The Properties of Paint, about his exhibition at Halie Ford Museum at Williamette University.
Work by Lavadour is in numerous corporate, private, and public collections, including those of Boise Art Museum, Heard Museum, Portland Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Microsoft Corp., Hilton Corp., Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Arts and Crafts Board. He work also has been presented in the U.S. Department of State's Art in Embassies program. His beautiful prints are available at Crow's Shadow and his paintings may be obtained through the galleries that represent him (several are noted below).
Lavadour, who received no formal art training or education, is a recipient of an Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art, a Joan Mitchell Award from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and numerous other honors.
* Jen Graves, The Stranger Suggests
** See Aaron Scott, "James Lavadour Chosen for the Venice Biennale", Portland Monthly, January 21, 2013
James Lavadour at PDX Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon; Cumberland Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee; Grover/Thurston Gallery, Seattle, Washington
Anastasia Mejia, Phone Interview with James Lavadour, Spring 2011
Michael Upchurch, "The Desert Blooms with Color, Feeling in James Lavadour's Work", The Seattle Times, June 16, 2011
James Lavadour Talks about Max Beckmann (Video), Portland Art Museum