From a large image of exuberantly colored flowers by Polly Apfelbaum to an intimate series of spider prints by Louise Bourgeois, the Schneider Museum of Art in Ashland is showing works normally seen only in big cities or in textbooks on contemporary art.
The new exhibit, "Art on Paper: 10 Women Artists from the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation," opens with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at the museum, located on the Southern Oregon University campus. The exhibit continues through Jan. 7.
"Each has contributed to the conversation of art history in a major way and each has a genius to their sensibilities," Schneider Museum Director Scott Malbaurn says of the internationally known artists in the exhibit.
A Portland philanthropist and art patron who focuses on prints, Schnitzer has loaned art from his 9,500-piece collection to more than 100 museums. This summer, the Schneider Museum displayed pieces by art world star Chuck Close from Schnitzer's collection.
The new exhibit at the museum includes a range of well-known contemporary artists, including Bourgeois, famous for her sculptures that often focus on body parts and other biological shapes.
The museum is showing nine drypoint intaglio etchings from her series "Ode à Ma Mère." Originally paired with a poem, the etchings show eerie, semi-abstract spiders, which to Bourgeois represented maternal figures, especially her mother, a weaver and manager of the family's antique tapestry restoration business, according to the Tate museums in England.
In the poem, Bourgeois calls spiders and her mother deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat and useful. The poem continues:
"I want to: eat, sleep, argue, hurt, destroy
Why do you?
My reasons belong exclusively to me.
The treatment of Fear."
The small prints at the museum contrast with mammoth, monstrous sculptures of metal spiders by Bourgeois installed around the world. The spiders often have a maternal element, bearing egg sacs or sheltering their young.
Taking a completely different approach to issues of femininity, Apfelbaum became prominent in the 1990s with her installations of dyed fabric, which she arranged on the floor of galleries and called "fallen paintings," says Schneider Museum Education Coordinator Dante Fumagalli.
The large-scale print "Lover's Leap III" reflects a female influence on Minimalism, he says.
The simplified, organic forms of the flowers in the print are minimalist, but not in the stark black-and-white manner of Franz Kline's abstract paintings or Piet Mondrian's black, white and primary color squares and rectangles.
Apfelbaum also has said her bright abstractions relate to Pop Art and embrace commercial design, including the graphic design of Paul Smith shopping bags.
Focusing on girls as literary figures, artist Kiki Smith has created large hand-colored prints of Alice in Wonderland.
She depicts Alice swimming with a menagerie of animals, including a dodo, monkeys, ducks and an owl, in the print "Pool of Tears II (After Lewis Carroll)." Alice and the animals are drawn in a vintage style that reflects Carroll's original illustrations for the 1865 book "Alice in Wonderland."
Subtle, faded colors and inky scratch marks in Smith's print give the piece an antique feel, like a damaged illustration or animated film still.
Smith is interested in stories and images that anthropomorphize animals and symbolically blur nature and human nature.
"Pool of Tears II" was previously exhibited at the Tate Liverpool museum in an exhibit of art inspired by "Alice in Wonderland" that included pieces by surrealist artists Salvador Dalí and René Magritte.
Artist Ann Hamilton has used paper and the stereotypically feminine materials of thread, silk and wool to create mixed media pieces that combine art and sound. Her pieces are framed at the Schneider Museum, but in other venues, air passing through holes and cylinders made by the paper and wool have created sounds, giving "voice" to the otherwise-silent materials.
Another work familiar from contemporary art textbooks is Sarah Sze's print series "2." A common test for color blindness shows orange dots forming the number two surrounded by green dots. In her series, Sze breaks apart the image, sometimes showing the orange number alone, sometimes showing only the green dots with missing space where the number once was.
Other artists featured in the exhibit are Louise Nevelson, Judy Pfaff, Pat Steir, Barbara Takenaga and Jennifer Bartlett.
Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.
Family Days with free hands-on art activities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. are on Saturday, Nov. 12, and Saturday, Dec. 10.
Docents lead narrated tours, during which participants can learn more about the artwork, at 12:30 p.m. every Tuesday during the exhibit.
Several free parking spaces are located behind the museum, which is located uphill from the intersection of Siskiyou Boulevard and Indiana Street. A metered parking lot is available off Indiana Street.
For more information, call 541-552-6245 or see sma.sou.edu.