Museum  August 23, 2018  Megan D Robinson

Avantika Bawa's Ode to a Coliseum

Portland Art Museum

Avantika Bawa, Coliseum 15, 2017. Graphite, pigment on paper.

Now at the Portland Art Museum, APEX: Avantika Bawa features new work by the Portland-based artist. The APEX series celebrates Northwest-based artists and is curated by Grace Kook-Anderson, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art. Bawa is known for her architecturally inspired modernist abstractions. Fascinated by Portland's Veterans Memorial Coliseum, she has created an ongoing series of drawings, prints, and large panel paintings illustrating the Coliseum’s grids, lines, colors, and mass. Completed in 1960, the Coliseum was designed by the architectural firm of Skidmore Owings and Merrill in the modernist International Style.

Portland Art Museum

Avantika Bawa, Coliseum, Red Sky, 2018. Photopolymer Lithograph. Printed at Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts.

Bawa celebrates the striking geometry of the Coliseum. She primarily uses graphite and pastel on paper, but also experiments with lithographic prints, colored pencil, pigment and acrylic paint. The pencil and pigment create a subtle change in atmosphere, while the bright blocks of acrylic color are juxtaposed with the strong grids of windows, creating a different emotional ambiance. The saturated blacks of the windows add depth and heft.

Her work examines the interplay of memory and form. Some of the works were composed elsewhere and ended up with differing numbers of pillars than the actual building. Bawa views this not as a failure of memory, but as an organic evolution. This difference in memory is an example of our ongoing changing relationship with the structures around us, and how perception can affect those relationships.

Bawa has produced a limited-edition artist book, in collaboration with Ampersand Gallery, to accompany the exhibition.

Avantika Bawa, Coliseum 01, 2016
Portland Art Museum

Avantika Bawa, Coliseum 01, 2016. Graphite and pastel on paper.

Avantika Bawa, Coliseum Blue, 2018.
Portland Art Museum

Avantika Bawa, Coliseum Blue, 2018. Graphite and acrylic on wood panel.

Avantika Bawa, Coliseum 17, 2017. Graphite on paper.
Portland Art Museum

Avantika Bawa, Coliseum 17, 2017. Graphite on paper.

Avantika Bawa is a Portland-based artist, curator, and educator, and also spends time in her hometown of New Delhi, India. Bawa has a BFA from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

APEX: Avantika Bawa is on view at the Portland Art Museum through February 10, 2019.

About the Author

Megan D Robinson

Megan D Robinson writes for Art & Object and the Iowa Source.