Mark Clarke exhibit at Karin Clarke Gallery includes some paintings never before shown

(Above: “Red Barn No. 4” is part of a series created by the late artist Mark Clarke throughout his career; it is on display at the Karin Clarke Gallery in a show called “Mark Clarke: Paintings from the Estate”)

By Randi Bjornstad

An untitled portrait by Mark Clarke was one of the surprise finds in his in-home studio. “I wonder if this is a portrait of me as a girl,” said his daughter, gallerist Karin Clarke. “I like to think it is.”

Lush may be the best one-word description for the just-opened show at the Karin Clarke Gallery in downtown Eugene, which features a selection of paintings by the gallerist’s late father, the eminent Oregon artist Mark Clarke.

It’s titled “Mark Clarke: Paintings from the Estate,” and Karin Clarke and her mother, the painter Margaret Coe, have put together a grouping of a couple dozen works that Clarke believes “may even hold some surprises for people who are very familiar with his work.”

Mark Clarke died suddenly in January 2016, shortly after his 80th birthday, and his wife and daughter have been in the process ever since of going through his in-home studio, cataloguing the many oils, acrylics and collages that fill its nooks and crannies.

“Some of these paintings have never been shown before, and others my mom and I have never even seen before,” Karin Clarke said. “I don’t know if some were pieces that he wasn’t ready to sell, so he just tucked them away, but I think what we’ve chosen will satisfy even the people who have followed his career for a very long time.”

The richness of what they found surprised even them, she said.

Mark Clarke, who died in 2016 at age 80, grew up in Junction City, and farmers and rural landscapes often inspired his work

“We really wanted to represent what he did so beautifully, in all the ways that he painted during the different periods of his life — landscapes, barns, figures, abstracts, still life work and paintings he did periodically incorporating a mannequin he had in his studio,” she said. “We tried to represent the whole range of what he did, but at the same time I think we could have just blindly grabbed things and the result would have been a good show.”

The exhibit at the downtown Eugene gallery is a small foreshadowing of a retrospective show, “Mark Clarke and Margaret Coe: Our Lives in Paint,” that opens at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus on Oct. 21 and runs until April 1.

“The show at the UO focuses on my parents’ relationship as artists and a married couple, and it has been in the works for several years, well before my father died,” Clarke said. “So that show will be much larger and will include self-portraits that each of them did, portraits of each other, and it will trace their paintings through their entire careers.”

“Black Hat and Pot” by Mark Clarke used as its subject a mannequin he kept in his studio as the impetus many of his paintings through the decades

In contrast, the show at her gallery focuses on Mark Clarke’s painting techniques, colors and subjects, and it includes much more of his recent work than have been displayed in previous shows, she said.

This exhibit also helps to mark the 15th anniversary of the Karin Clarke Gallery.

“The very first show I had featured landscapes by both my parents,” Clarke said. “The second one was of their figurative pieces. I thought about doing that again, but my mom has been painting for two years since my dad died, and she has not been doing much figurative work in that time, so I will follow this show in November with some of her more recent work.”

Mark Clarke: Paintings from the Estate

When: Through Oct. 28, with opening reception from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 6, during downtown Eugene’s First Friday ArtWalk

Where: 760 Willamette St. in downtown Eugene

Information: 541-684-7963 or karinclarkegallery.com

Randi Bjornstad

Has more than 30 years’ journalism experience after a previous stint as a land-use planner. Got first rejection slip at age 11, but the editor wrote an encouraging note. Lives in Eugene, Ore., with husband-and-photographer Paul Carter, adorable dog Tallulah and quirky cats Pearl, Audrey, Garbo, Harry and Ozma.

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