Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

2019 1st links
2018 Summary
End of 2018 Links
PNCA + OCAC Merger Off
Loss of Material Evidence at Hoffman Gallery
Hoffman Gallery Changes at Lewis and Clark?
1st Weekend Picks
Meow Wolf The Movie
Giving Thanks Readings
Meet RACC's new leader Madison Cario
November Reviews
Early November Links

recent comments



Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Openings & Events
About PORT

regular contributors


Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman



Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us


Contact us






powered by


Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a


Creative Commons License

Saturday 07.30.11

« but liquor is quicker | Main | Monday Links »

Laurie Herrick retrospective

Detail of Laurie Herrick's Crater, 1969 (all photos Jeff Jahn unless otherwise noted)

This Summer I sense that many Portlanders feel a little robbed... no it is not the Juneuary we just experienced. Personally, I'll take 65-72 degree days that over the blast furnace much of the country has experienced. Instead, it's the lack of a strong, in depth look at the arts that are the hallmark of major museums. In fact PORT's writers have been traveling to other cities to catch great shows like Lee Ufan at the Guggenheim or Picasso/Braque at the Modern Fort Worth, etc. So now that Summer is finally here in the very manageable 80's we still want to dive into a museum for some cool contemplation. What are the options?

Exhibition view: Laurie Herrick Weaving, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

This is the last day but the Museum of Contemporary Craft has pretty much the only game in town with it's very engaging retrospective of mid 20th century designer and weaver Laurie Herrick (1908-1995).

Design was always important for the young, initially LA based Herrick who first developed men's neckties and worked as a model in her youth before becoming a weaver in Martha Pollock's design studio in 1940. Pollock's studio specialized in developing commercial uses for new fibers by companies like Dupont and supplied Hollywood films. Pollock would have been in competition with even more well known designers like Dorothy Liebes (who designed fabrics for the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright).

detail of Rainforest (1950's)

After opening her own Beverly Hills design studio in 1950 Herrick moved to Portland in 1954, bringing her depth of experience to an area where she could be more of solo practitioner. Early on she began doing mostly ecclesiastical commissions and also taught for 20 years at the Oregon School of Craft (today's OCAC).

The exhibition itself is relevatory, non-chronological and more grouped thematically (Nature, Op art and couture) with a few works by Herrick's contemporaries for context. Herrick was particularly gifted in her use of texture and structure as evidenced by her interpretations of Victor Vasarely's Op Art and even more so through her own interpretive often Klee-like natural scenes. This nature motif sets her apart from Liebes who achieved notoriety through working in the more male dominated architectural world as a patternist, despite her stand alone pieces being her most compelling. Today, there are major female architects like Zaha Hadid and Jeanne Gang but back them it was incredibly rare (I still find architecture to be an exceedingly masculine culture though). Considering those times it makes sense Herrick would seek a different path.

Redwood V (1969)

In particular, the open warp designs like Redwood and Crater were highly idiomatic works from 1969, just as sculptural and structural as they were flat... I think of a piece like this as a kind of portable architecture more than more traditional tapestry.

Redwood V in particular may be the most striking work in the show as it uses redwood staves structurally, which recursively parallels both the redwood trees as material and the weaving tools she would employ to make her works. Herrick always sought to do what machines could not and believed more repetitive work was more ideally suited to machines.

detail of Redwood V

Overall, I find these open warp works to be her most original because of this sophisticated surface/support and philosophical conflagrations and exemplify poetry in materials that found their own voice more than the otherwise excellent Vasarely projects which came shortly after.

Photo Jake Stangel

The open warp works lead to her excellent garment designs (all woven on loom) of the1970's and into the 1980's and the show gets high marks for bringing about a current collaboration with current designer Adam Arnold, fashion photographer Jake Stangel and stylist Galen Amussen worked together to bring Herrick's designs into the present consciousness. It's a brilliant curatorial move that shows just how this craft museum is thinking more like a design and craft institution (designers are by nature media savvy and collaborative). It is also a strength of the exhibition that Herrick's working sketches, correspondences and design documents are also on display providing the weavers of today access to her process.

Installation view (left) Laurie Coat (1977)

It is a tradition and a weavers legacy (like a great violinist) lives on partly through the students they pass their knowledge to, not simply their own performances. For example, a great violinist like Issac Stern mentored YoYo Ma and Itzhak Perlman and likewise, Herrick (who like Klee was a violinist herself) taught at the Oregon School of Craft. In fact, money for her commissions went to purchase looms for the school (most of which are still in use today). The exhibition makes good on this tradition by having 5 contemporary weavers as artists in residence; am Patrie, Mackenzie Frère, Christy Matson, Elizabeth Whelan and Deborah Valoma. I like this idea of a design and craft museum as a kind of workshop designed to pass on knowledge, not just a display opportunity (though it is a tad overfull).

Tree of Life 1/4 scale (1968) Photo Dan Kivitka

Photo of Herrick's full size Tree of Life installed shortly after it was completed

Perhaps it is telling that Herrick's highest profile comission was the Tree of Life for the First Unitarian Church is still on display (in what is now called the 1st Presbyterian church) The design was extremely successful, based on forms such as the menorah and the Norse tree of life Yggdrasil (particularly the Överhogdal tapestries) so that even a change in denomination did not prompt its removal. How often does that happen? A scaled down preparatory version has become the exhibition's signature piece... perhaps because its graphic design is just as strong as the weaving?

This is exactly the type of show that worldly Portlanders are hungry for and are in short supply this summer. This exhibition presents a novel and historical artist in her first retrospective, while revealing a great deal of curatorial agility in the displays and scope of the exhibition.

Shawl and Sample (1976)

Go and see it. It is your last chance, though somehow I feel like we will be seeing a lot more of Herrick in the future. Such is the effect of a good retrospective, good things come out of the woodwork.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 30, 2011 at 10:45 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee