Joan Nelson and Joseph Yoakum at Adams and Ollman


Artist: Joan Nelson and Joseph Yoakum

Venue:  Adams and Ollman, Portland, US

Date:  June 4 – July 11, 2015

Photography: images courtesy of the artists and Adams and Ollman, Portland

April 1, 2015, Portland, OR: Adams and Ollman is pleased to announce a twoperson exhibition with Joan Nelson and Joseph Yoakum. Yoakum’s animistic drawings depict places from the artist’s worldly travels while Nelson’s works prominently feature the Oregon landscape.

In her paintings, Joan Nelson recontextualizes parts and scenes from historic landscape paintings with first person observations, memories and invention. Appropriating from artists such as Albrecht Altdorfer, Albert Bierstadt, Edward Hicks and Caspar David Friedrich, Nelson speaks to the experience of nature and the complexity of its representation across time and place. Her luminous and haunting works of art occupy a unique place in the history of landscape painting, one that is distinctly female and revisionist.

For over three decades, Nelson has been making these epic and theatrical paintings, borrowing from history and representing iconic vistas from the Hudson River to Mount Hood. The intimate works on view at Adams and Ollman are made with wax, ink, spray paint and glitter. Nelson embraces the surprise and unpredictable character of an eclectic combination of materials, allowing them to realize their own nature as she works to depict a mountain, grove of trees, stream or lush field. Her roaring waterfalls are masterfully conjured from little more than glitter. The support and surface is of great significance as the materials, techniques and textures provide an important component of the viewer’s experience.

The seriality of the works is reinforced by the way they will be installed in this exhibition—one after another as if they share a horizon line. This long line is also a visual nod to the path of the artist’s inadvertent road trip through Oregon some years ago.

With a GPS gone awry on her way from Portland to Coos Bay on the Oregon Coast, Nelson instead found herself heading east along the Columbia River where the epic views of the Columbia River Gorge gave way to vast rolling hills and Mount Hood. Turning south at The Dalles and having now realized that she was off course, the artist, unwilling to turn back, instead continued along this path towards the town of Sisters, nestled at the base of the majestic Three Sisters mountain range. Tall pines, lava fields, volcanic peaks, waterfalls, wild rivers and orchards turned into primeval forest on her way back toward the rugged Pacific ocean. The works on view in this exhibition reference this trip and are Nelson’s attempt to recreate this profound visual and emotional experience.

Similar to how Nelson’s majestic landscapes do not depict actual, specific places, but rather are an amalgamation of experience and image, Joseph Yoakum’s works on paper are equal parts mythology and memory. Using ballpoint pen, graphite, watercolor and colored pencils, Yoakum began, later in life, to make visual recordings of places around the world he visited as a circus advance man, soldier, train porter, hobo, stevedore, and stowaway. He drew delicate, richly patterned scenes of hills, mountains, roads and seas that not only have odd and multiple perspectives, but are populated with spirits and personalities. His unique type of animism finds mountains standing guard over meandering and searching rivers, dense forests seeking shelter in coves, and clouds that function as eyes peering out over the entire world.

Joan Nelson (b. 1958, California) lives and works in upstate New York. Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Minneapolis Museum of Art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Joseph Yoakum, according to official records, was born in 1890 in Ash Grove, Missouri, though by his own account, he was born in 1888 on a Navajo reservation near Window Rock, Arizona. Yoakum’s first show in the contemporary art world was in 1968 at Edward Sherbeyn Gallery in Chicago. In 1969, the group of artists known as the Chicago Imagists included him in their first museum show, Don Baum Sez “Chicago Needs More Famous Artists” , at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago). Over the next three years, Yoakum was given several solo museum exhibitions, including at the Museum of Modern Art (1971) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1972), both in New York. Yoakum was most recently included in the 2013 Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, PA.











Joan Nelson, Untitled, 2013


Joan Nelson, Untitled, 2012


Joan Nelson, Untitled, 2015


Joan Nelson, Untitled, 2015


Joan Nelson, Untitled, 2014


Joan Nelson, Untitled, 2014


Joseph Yoakum, Weeping Pebble of Sira Range on Wake Shasta in Nevada State, 10/27/1965


Joseph Yoakum, Imperial Valley, 1965


Joseph Yoakum, King Leopold Range, Argyle Downs, Australia, c. 1969