PORTLAND, ORE.- OJMCHE's Menashe Gallery
exhibition features four large-scale works painted by the artist in response to Portland's 2020 protests for racial justice.
The police killing of George Floyd in May 2020 shocked many citizens in Portland and around the country into a long-delayed reckoning for equal justice under the law. In some respects such an uprising had not seen since the 1960s. When the neighborhood around the Justice Center in Portland became the site of intense demonstrations it was no surprise to those who know his art that Henk Pander turned his artistic vision on this historic place and time. Henk Pander is no novice to making politically inspired paintings. His long career includes a series of paintings depicting his childhood memories of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam; the fate of Europes Jews; the Vietnam War; September 11, 2001; as well as events in Oregon such as the 1948 Vanport flood and the 1999 sinking of the freighter the New Carissa that grounded and caught fire, spilling oil in Coos Bay. Throughout his work, Pander has engaged the social world around him with a rare and remarkably moving moral passion.
Henk Pander continues to live the life of a pure artist: he remains undiminished in the voracity and ferocity with which he confronts the universe. He never imagines a day when he would not work. His paintings are brave, plaintive and vivid, deeply personal and yet, for precisely that reason, openly and boldly universal. Pender exemplifies the best of representational realismnot surprising for an artist trained in the classical Dutch traditions of Rembrandt and Vermeer. And he is also, as an American, an immigrant, and product of the 1960s, a universalist. His art exemplifies the power of visual art to express human experience and emotion, a position appropriate for an artist who understands himself as a history painter even as he magnifies and heightens historical reality through the prism of his imaginative vision.
This is Henk Pander's gift to his viewer: he takes nothing for granted. He keeps images alive in his minds eye, polishing and refining their precision, producing a tableau of moments almost too painful to take in. Henk Pander fulfills the duty of the artist to remind us, in the most vivid and sometimes disturbing ways, of the pressing issues in our world today.
Henk Pander was born in 1937, in Haarlem, the Netherlands. His father was an artist who specialized in Bible illustrations. Pander studied at the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. His artistic character was shaped by the academic training he received there, as well as by the Dutch tradition of painting, with its devotion to representing the visible world. Panders work has been the subject of many solo exhibitions, including those at the Portland Art Museum in 2001, the Frye Art Museum in Seattle in 2004, and the Hallie Ford Museum in 2011. His work is in many public collections: the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has acquired a number of the artists sketchbooks, drawings, and etchings and most recently the Portland Art Museum acquired his portrait of City Commissioner Joanne Hardesty.