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`Jack-of-all-trades' artist showing new work.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

Carl Niederer likes to think of himself as a free-lancer, a stringer, a bit of a misfit in the world of art.

So it's appropriate that this 81-year-old professional artist has mounted his latest show not in a gallery but in a public area of the Eugene retirement center where he and his wife have lived for the past year.

"I have been a jack-of-all-trades kind of artist," explains Niederer, a reed thin, white-haired man who enjoys talking about his work. "I've done industrial design. I've been a teacher. I've been a gallery artist. It's a free country, and I did the kind of art I wanted."

Born in Portland, Niederer entered the Navy during World War II, then came home to study painting at the University of Oregon on the G.I. Bill. He worked here with Jack Wilkinson, David McCosh and Andy Vincent.

"I learned all the things about color and how to manipulate color from McCosh," he says. "And Vincent taught me to think about contradictions."

After graduating in 1949, Niederer headed for Paris, where he studied painting for two years with Fernand Leger.

"There were other Oregonians studying there with Leger," he says. "They even had a translator in Leger's studio."

What he brought home from France was a sense of the value of art.

"I hadn't seen that kind of respect for artists when I was in Oregon. It showed me there was a life out there as an artist."

Niederer went to work in 1952 as an industrial designer in New York, first apprenticing and later rising to associate with Russel Wright. He opened his own design studio in 1959 in San Francisco, where he created such things as a set of enameled elevator doors with abstract geological patterns for the Standard Oil of California building.

He continued to paint all that time, preferring to take his paints right out on the street instead of hiding out in a studio.

"I would sit on the ground and do a painting. If I sold it, I would go back and do three more in the same place." The work sold through the Allan Stone Galleries in New York.

Niederer found his way to teaching in 1977, becoming the head of the art department at the University of Wyoming in Laramie for 4' years, later alternating teaching with travel.

"They liked me in Wyoming because I had done all these different things," he says. "And I could also teach these Wyoming kids how to paint pretty pictures of their landscape."

Niederer calls his easel paintings "pretty pictures." They have been his bread-and-butter work. Though he continues to produce them, he's more interested in less conventional types of art.

His show at Willamette Oaks, for example, consists of a series of large, ragged unstretched linens and other fabrics on which he has painted images in oil or acrylic. He began painting this way after his watercolors framed under glass were too often destroyed in shipment.

"It's hard to destroy a thing that has already been destroyed," he says of the big linens.

Niederer also has a slightly geeky side. His father was an accountant and his brother, an engineer. And Niederer himself is interested in mathematics.

One of the big linens is titled with the mathematical equation x4-x2-1=0. (The solution can express a ratio that is illustrated in the work.)

He's also susceptible to puns. Two big paintings, hanging side by side, show horses in an attic and horses from a Greek vase. "Horses in the attic and Attic horses," he says. "Get it?"


Carl Niederer

What: Works on unstretched linen by the Eugene artist

Where: Willamette Oaks, 455 Alexander Loop

When: Through November

Plan to visit? Go in through main entrance and ask at the front desk for the atrium
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Title Annotation:Arts and Literature
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 13, 2008
Previous Article:ART NOTES.

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