Apparently the future of the Littman Gallery at PSU (one of Portland's best art spaces) is in serious question as the school's administration is planning to restructure the Smith Student Center, which houses it. One plan is to reallocate the space for an African American and Pacific Islander center. This makes little sense, diminishing established and noted cultural resources for other cultural resources seems to completely miss the point of having cultural spaces in the first place and takes away from the college experience. The Littman has long been the best place for PSU to engage the community (see this interview with William Pope L. on the occasion of his Littman Gallery exhibition.)
Despite being student run the Littman has launched countless art careers and numerous exhibitions that have changed the city's cultural complexion. I've personally curated 3, including PLAY (2002) where Bruce Conkle first exhibited his snowman in a freezer eco-existentialism. PLAY also posited the idea that Portland was a place for experimental and conceptual new media art (back in 2002 this was a contentious idea). What's more, unlike other PSU galleries the Littman isn't hidden away in a building only art students see and fondly remember the interactions I've had with casual visitors to the exhibitions I've curated at the Littman.
As an art city that needs spaces open to new programming Portland simply cannot lose this valuable cultural resource and the fact that it is run by the students also makes it more susceptible. It greatly diminishes the invaluable experience that the student gain from running the space as well.
The Littman Gallery staff has asked you to email them with your support here: firstname.lastname@example.org and please spread the word.
*Update: in a rare bit of good cultural news for Portland the Littman Staff just announced that the gallery is no longer in danger of being closed, mentioning that the all of the responses made the difference.
Portland has had its typical sleepy January start but Intersecciones: Havana/Portland at Lewis and Clark College's excellent Hoffman gallery looks like the official kickoff to an exciting 2016. The exhibition explores contemporary art in Cuba through the way 6 Cuban artists approach the Oregon trail as cultural ambassadors. It has been over half a century since relations between USA and Cuba have been normalized so this exhibition is a kind of document of emergent familiarity/unfamiliarity.
According to the Press release: "Susana Pilar Delahante Matienzo creates installations and public actions that poke at the troubled cultural space for people of African ancestry. Reynier "El Chino" Novo's reimagined cultural objects reveal the depleted energy of true political action. Elizabet Cerviño's spare performances draw from the haunted contradictions in historic spaces. Adriana Arronte's installations of exquisitely crafted glass, plastic, and metal objects complicate spaces of personal consumption. Rafael Villares's displaced landscapes create tensions between desire and reality. Yornel Martínez’s alternative magazines provide manuscripts for artist exchange.
When the idea to curate a show of Cuban artists first emerged, we had no inkling of the historic change about to take place between the two countries. We happened to be in Havana on the day that President Obama met with Raúl Castro and announced he would take Cuba off the terrorist list. This provides the backdrop for Intersecciones. In the US public imagination, Cuba is either a Communist failure or a victim of US imperialism."
Intersecciones: Havana/Portland | January 28 - March 13, 2016
Opening Reception: January 28, 5 - 7PM
Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art
Lewis & Clark
0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road MSC 95
2015 was a year when a lot of what we love about Portland was put under pressure by the years of success in tourism and certain types of job creation. Though we hate the word "creative" when used by politicians it is good to find out what some of the candidates for Mayor and City Council have to say about the future of our city.
Confirmed participants include: Ted Wheeler, Jules Bailey, Amanda Fritz, Steve Novick, Stuart Emmons and moderated by April Baer of OPB. *Note there is some controversy as several recently declared candidates did not make the cutoff for the forum.
In particular the savvy visual art community has an interest in; ways to keep rents affordable, support for alternative spaces (a crucial seedbed for talent development), why nearly all the major art awards seem to regressively go to hand craft oriented academics to the exclusion of new media and less traditional concepts? (I'm calling for balance.) Lastly, I'd like to see the candidates answer about the perpetual fetish of quirkhype regarding Portland's cultural community rather than a serious discussion? To clarify, Portland is full of artists doing important work nationally and internationally and it is the root of Portland's competitive advantage over most other cities... we have a great community of very serious peers who get very little formal civic support and this is a question of how versed candidates are on talking points regarding patronage and stewardship? Quite specifically, Portland's next Mayor and Commissioners need to be on point culturally, not mere photo op purveyors of quirk or culturally passive regarding Portland's identity. I covered the topic in my 2012 Op Ed in the Portland Tribune but recent financial pressures have made the topic more pressing.
Candidates Forum for Art And Culture | January 26 (free)
Doors: 3:30 PM, begins at 4:00PM
Gerding Theater and Armory
128 NW 11th Ave
The opportunities go beyond the sorts of developments that we have seen in other US Cities, instead think Thief's Island in Oslo... only with a Portland identity both new and old?
Recently we lost the Portland Gasco building because a suitable 3rd way could not be found and the preservation/future development question has become a civic crisis. In this case a third way was on the table...
Thursday, January 21, 6:00PM
1315 NW Overton (Pure Space in the Pearl District)
David Bowie died just over a week ago and frankly I waspretty busted up about it. From 1999-2003 I wrote for Modern Painters magazine, during the London era when he sat on its advisory board... I know a lot of people who actually knew the man and it is pretty plain that most people know the art more than the person. He was deeply interested in critical dialog, not just garnering attention.
Here in Portland the constant din of people trying to out Bowie one another... even at New Seasons just made me want to pull back. Here are a few Bowie links related to Art that might be of interest:
It was sad when HQ Objective left their Oak St. space in 2015 but they are back... on East Burnside now with Fortune Gallery and Press. Their latest exhibition, Folded Object Instructions and Recent Poems, features Marc Matchak and Jabari Jordan-Walker. The exhibition looks like a rebus of sorts:
"Marc says there is a tennis match going, but there is no victory and the rules are somewhat fictive. Jabari gave us instructions on how to build a folded object out of copper, yet its final form is impossible. Given these circumstances we may feel irresolute. These selected objects, companions in our small space for a time, are gently voicing concern about our expectations of fairness and order in our world." -Will Elder, curator
Folded Object Instructions and Recent Poems | January 16 - February 21, 2016
opening reception on Saturday, January 16, 12 - 6PM HQ Objective at Fortune (Sat-Sun 12-6, or by Appt.)
2235 W Burnside St.
Michael Knutson, Symmetrical For-Layered Ovoids and Latices II, 2015, oil on canvas diptych, 60 x 80 in.
One of my main complaints with local curation of the Portland art scene is we dont do a lot of great thematic group exhibitions. In this case a group of hard core serial pattern abstractionists have stepped up and self-selected themselves at one of Portland's best spaces. Featuring; Cynthia Mosser, James K-M, Matt Cosby, Michael Knutson
Rae Mahaffey, Sally Finch, Shu-Ju Wang and Tamara English. I always pay attention when artists organize and I'm a fan of Knutson, Mahaffey and English so I can recommend the trip.
THE PULL OF REPETITION | January 14 - February 13, 2016
Weekend Reception: Sat, Jan 16th, 2-4PM North View Gallery
Portland Community College Sylvania Campus
12000 SW 49th Avenue
There are two especially interesting exhibitions opening this week:
Sometimes the strongest art makes us question what we want and require and the parsing of those two becomes a kind of existential sublimation. What happens when the artwork itself is a questionnaire or poll? Portland collective Guestwork attempts to find out by polling Portlander's on what their ideal city would comprise. The Ballots will then become infographics. Titled, Accounting for Public Interest, Guestwork's Travis Neel and Erin Charpentier are the latest to tackle the Portland Building's installation space and it is not a bad way to kick off the year. It certainly mirrors the intense political season ahead.
Accounting for Public Interest | January 11 - February 5, 2016 RACC Installation Space
1120 SW 5th Avenue
William Harvette #3, Collage on Paper, 2006 (Collection of James Archer)
Archer @ Archer explores the private collection of James Archer at the public art gallery that carries his name. Knowing the man it should be a diverse opportunity and viewing any collectors collection is an exercise in personal Anthropology.
Archer @ Archer | January 5 - February 20
Opening January 12 4-6PM Archer Gallery (Penguin Union Building)
1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver Washington
2016 still isn't extremely active with no major statement solo show in the elite venues. To be fair only Portland's elite artists ever do a big January show... remember this statement maker anyone? Still, things are waking up and these two exhibitions are worth planning your Sunday around:
Taj Bourgeois' work is more than a little in the fluxus tradition and has the penache somewhat like an early Charles Ray or a young Tristan Tzara, while filtering all of his poetic absurdism through social media. This artist weaves a lot of life into his situations and rather worth checking out (the show began last year but is opening in 2016... another good sign). Nice to still have coffeehouses acting as a legitimate place to check out new talent, part of what makes Portland "Portland."
Dreams | December 16, 2015 - January 28, 2016
Opening Reception: January 10, 4 - 6PM
Stumptown @ 3356 SE Belmont St
Pat Boas, Three Triangles and Three Colors, Sumi ink on paper, 2015
The latest group show at the Art Gym is a look at abstraction titled, and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive. Painters included are; Pat Boas, Calvin Ross Carl, Jack Featherly, Ron Graff, Robert Hardgrave, Grant Hottle, Amy Bernstein, Michael Lazarus, Michelle Ross, and Amanda Wojick so it should be a good discussion primer. It needs to be because Portland is where the Clement Greenberg Collection lives and the city does have a very strong abstract painting scene. That said, institutionally Portland tends to do fairly conventional surveys of its genres (Art Gym probably being one of the most conventional). One interesting twist here is that many of the artists in "aftdomntisa" are less pure abstractionists and more semioticians or proto linguists being somewhat abstract. Check it out to see if that's just the conventional expressing itself or perhaps an interesting angle?
Like many January First Thursdays this one isn't firing on all cylinders with holdovers and some galleries opening a week or more later. Still, after the ice storm in Portland earlier this week many will want to get out and there are some good things to see (I'll publish the extensive rumination on 2015's Portland art scene this weekend, I think we are all in the right mood for serious reflection now).
Alien She at MoCC
Perhaps the best holdover from 2015 is Alien She, an extensive survey of Riot Grrrl counterculture at the Museum of Contemporary Craft and PNCA. It is the final week to catch this exhibition on the North Park Blocks with its feral sasquacherinas and pink squirrels.
Alien She | September 3 2015 - January 9 2016
First Thursday: January 7 6:00-8:00PM
Museum of Contemporary Craft
724 NW Davis
PNCA (511 Gallery)
511 NW Broadway
Perhaps the most promising new show opening in Portland today is Eyeshine, a double barrel pair featuring two of my favorite Portland artists, Ryan Pierce and Wendy Given. Both are nature aficionados interested in shifted para-histories, mystery and the way nature circumscribes both humans and itself. The exhibition arose while camping together on the excellent Signal Fire Residencies that Pierce co-operates.
Eyeshine | January 7 - 29
Reception: January 7, 4 - 7PM
Autzen Gallery | Neuberger Hall, room 204
Portland State University
724 SW Harrison St
The Tacoma Art Museum is rebranding its Northwest Biennial as Northwest Now and like previous iterations it has a theme. This one, "seeks to illuminate how Northwest artists are actively responding to forces shaping our regional identity during this current wave of explosive growth and rapid rebound from the Great Recession. The core themes will focus on identity, social justice, and environmental action." Guest curator will be Juan Roselione-Valadez, Director of the Rubell Family Collection, Contemporary Arts Foundation and TAM's Rock Huschka. Deadline: January 4th