Rock of Ages
Nov 2, 2019 – Mar 12, 2023
Main Building, Floor 3, Gallery 303
Isaka Shamsud-Din: Rock of Ages is an intimate exhibition celebrating the Portland artist’s masterful paintings, rich in a narrative combining personal stories and folklore. Shamsud-Din’s paintings also celebrate and honor individuals by capturing portraits. Tightly composed and with a vibrancy of color, the works invite viewers to be among these individuals and warm settings. The exhibition is titled after Shamsud-Din’s painting of his father, Rock of Ages (1976), the museum’s most recent acquisition of the artist’s work. Capturing his subject in the luscious garden that his father prided himself in—a setting that was particularly special for the very close father and son—Shamsud-Din invites the viewer to see this man. In Brothers Phree (ca. 1990), Shamsud-Din reveals a scene at a local club then called the Welcome Inn, on Northeast Alberta Street. It is a happening place of social gathering, playing pool, dancing, and relaxing, while the backdrop of the Pyramids of Giza is a reminder of roots to Africa and pre-colonial kinship. With the support of the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) and Teressa Raiford of Don’t Shoot Portland, the exhibition will also highlight the significant mural projects Shamsud-Din has created for Portland in a span of more than 50 years.
Isaka Shamsud-Din (born 1940) came to Portland via Texas when he was in the first grade. The sixth of 14 children, Shamsud-Din became aware of the many inequitable systems as a young black person navigating his world on a daily basis. However, Shamsud-Din has maintained his commitment to art, education, and work for the African American community and his home. In 2019, Shamsud-Din was recognized with Isaka Shamsud-Din Day, a Juneteenth celebration at Portland’s City Hall honoring his work as an artist and social justice leader.
Curated by Grace Kook-Anderson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art.
IN THE NEWS
Tom Hallman writes in The Oregonian:
“Isaka Shamsud-Din began painting while in the second grade and never stopped. Even today, at age 80 and battling cancer. His focus has been on capturing, honoring and exposing the truth about what it means to be Black in America with his large-scale oil paintings. The Portland Art Museum is featuring his work in a current exhibition called Rock of Ages, the name of a portrait of his late father. In his long life, the only constant has been his art. ‘If I couldn’t create, I wouldn’t want to live any longer,’ he says. ‘Creating has been the mission of my life. As long as I am breathing, I’m doing art.'”
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