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Interview with Wangechi Mutu
Keeping up with links
Ruth Gruber retrospective at OJMCHE
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Thursday 03.31.16

Interview with Wangechi Mutu

Hailing from Kenya but studied in the United States, Wangechi Mutu is internationally renowned for merging anthropology, interwoven traditions and surrealism through experience as a different often more empathetic approach to the visual representation of women. Recently, she sat down with PORT's Victor Maldonado to discuss her exhibition The Human Hybrid at PNCA, the inaugural show of the new Jordan D. Schnitzer Exhibition and Visiting Artist Lecture Series.

Victor Maldonado and Wangechi Mutu

In a relaxed setting Mutu and Maldonado two sat down, talked shop and explored how, myths, belief systems and the way art history is coming around to the methodologies that cultural historians not tied to the art market have accepted for many decades. Watching them I was struck by the lack of sophist ideologies at play even when discussing old hierarchies like Picasso and established sculptural traditions, The conversation has been edited for clarity. - jeff jahn

Victor Maldonado: How did you find your installation of your exhibition; The Human Hybrid?

Wangechi Mutu: Oh, I love it. Yeah, it’s beautifully done. It is a small, elegant show and its serendipitous that this collector happens to have almost all of my prints. There are a couple of things he doesn’t have but it’s wonderful.

V: Walking through the exhibit with different people one of the things that kept coming up was, “what is it like for you for these works to come together in this way?”

W: It’s very satisfying. I mean, I’ve been making the work that you see as you walk in on the left... medical illustrations, essentially the histology series was made in 2005 on an actual Victorian print, these twelve different gynecological diseases and issues with the female reproductive organ. So, that whole moment is, you know, ten years ago, so it’s good to see this work living, breathing, looking better than when I first made it.

V: It has a lot of impact?

W: It has a lot of impact, so that’s always really good, but I think what is also important to me is that there is this kind of consistency, that I’ve been exploring a certain area of thought and interest in terms of material and subject matter. I mean, it holds together really well. The most recent one is a bronze... (more)

Posted by Victor Maldonado on March 31, 2016 at 23:10 | Comments (0)


Tuesday 03.22.16

Keeping up with links

I've been very busy on another major multi-media exhibition and scholarly conference that we should be announcing very soon (it is next month). PORT currently has 1 review and 2 major interviews in the works that we hope to drop on you soon. Till then here are some links:

Portland's Nathaniel Thayer Moss took part in Meow Wolf's newest extravaganza and even notched some pictures in the New York Times Magazine. It is this sort of artist driven pandemonium that makes most institutional biennial/survey attempts seem like stale ingraciatory exercises executed more for the institution than the health of an art ecosystem. back in the aughts Dave Hickey and Robert Storr were able to curate relevant things at Site Santa Fe by letting the work fuel and somewhat direct a probing intellectual premise. Lately, where most every institution fouls up is by trying to let the premise... or "we followed the process" be the guide. Arch-meh copout pseudo curiosity, and yeah my upcoming project follows that advice... the artists are not just illustrating an idea. Instead, the idea came after we chose the artists and their interests framed the intellectual scaffolding. Meow Wolf tropes to pay attention to "Mystery" and "Fantastical" artists who generate the unknown should be on everyone's radar and Portland is full of them and it isnt just a Surrealism/Dada rehash... there is a lot of design as a disruption of the reality going on. When reality yields a presidential race like this one one can see why artists are creating a parallel universe.

But I do like some places like London still parse how and why certain artists are chosen... for example the new Hepworth Sculpture Prize. Unlike Oregon's prizes, which seem to be mostly illustrative doteage on unchallenged cliches ... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 22, 2016 at 22:00 | Comments (0)


Saturday 03.12.16

Ruth Gruber retrospective at OJMCHE


For those who looking for something beyond the standard MFA puppy mill art (self-serving research and drawings of crystals with a couple pieces of detritus stacked upon each other in white room) this traveling survey of groundbreaking photographer and journalist Ruth Gruber will absolutely blow your mind. She was the world's youngest PHD in the 1930's and her intense curiosity lead her to witness the rise of Hitler (she got within feet of him at a rally... a Jewish girl with epic Khutspah). She was also the first correspondent permissioned to travel throughout the Soviet Arctic and Siberian gulag from 1934–35. Later, her coverage of the Holocaust and its survivors were instrumental in the forming of Israeli statehood. She was an important early influence for me at age 3 or so along with Thor Heyerdahl (I was very precocious and needed role models).

Ahead of Time Trailer

The associated documentary film has won numerous awards as well. This is a must see historical show that the International Photography Center curator Maya Benton has vowed will tour for as long as Ruth Lives, Gruber is 104. I Love that and her photographs have a philosophical sensitivity and empathy that is rare at any time. This is a master class in true intelligence and gives me hope for humanity. It is also incredibly relevant with so many refugee situations throughout the world.

Ruth Gruber: Photojournalist | March 13 - June 13
Opening Reception: March 13 with Film screenings at 12:00 and 2:00
Film screenings Friday at 2:00
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
1953 NW Kearney St.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 12, 2016 at 14:21 | Comments (0)


Wednesday 03.09.16

Every Day Is International Women Day Picks

Mary Henry

Jeffrey Thomas' new gallery is doing a lot to build understanding around the work of the departed and seminal modernist Mary Henry. She studied under Laslo Maholy-Nagy and eventually chose a career as modern painter rather than homemaker and the sheer excellence of her work has Major national museums bringing her into their cannonical collections. The latest exhibition Mary Henry: The Fabric of Space explores her studies and process for creating her often large abstract paintings.

Henry absorbed the teachings of the New Bauhaus thoroughly but gave them a West Coast vibrancy and Arcy conveyed a while back here on PORT. So often female artists have to traffic in a sense of vulnerability in their work but Henry, like Agnes Martin and Frankenthaler, is just excellent and justifies how abstraction gets us back to basics by removing gender norms from the work all together.

Mary Henry: The Fabric of Space | March 9 - April
Opening Reception: March 9 6-8PM
Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art
2219 NW Raleigh

Wengechi Mutu

The big art event in Portland this week is Wengechi Mutu's talk at PNCA. She's currently showing the Hybrid Human, a series of prints from The Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation's collection at the 511 gallery and Im curious what this international mediator of chimerical feminine anthroplogigical forms drawn from science, fashion and her own more surrealist imagination? She presents a chimerical grotesque that pushes back rather than points and in my mind she's a bit of a modern Mary Shelly with these (one could say) monsters as her beautiful creations. We will have more on this soon.

Wangechi Mutu Talk
March 10: 6:30-8:00PM
PNCA (Mediatheque)
511 NW Broadway

Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 09, 2016 at 14:38 | Comments (0)


Friday 03.04.16

First Weekend Picks March 2016

Worksound International presents Innenraum with German artist social practice artist Per Schumann and international but one time Portlander Zefrey Throwell (I curated him into the 2001 Portland Independent Salon back when he was painting huge oil paintings).

I like the subject matter of this show, which according to the press release is, "When looking for the liminal spaces created by city life and art, there are often niches that form part of both. The exploration of the areas of intersection of freedom, community and exhibition gives a space for performative interventions and installations that may widen our interpretation of our perceptions of all." Sounds like a great reason to get out on the town tonight.

Innenraum | March 4th, 2016 - April 7th, 2016
Opening reception March 4, 6-9PM
Worksound International
820 SE Alder

This talk, The New Deal's Local Legacy: Pioneering Historic Preservation And A Landscape Aesthetic looks intriguing. On March 5th AHC Education Committee member Judith Kenny, "explores the history of 1930's New Deal projects in the Portland area and how they contributed to the preservation of our pioneer architectural heritage and the development of a regional landscape style. Elaborating upon HABS and WPA construction projects, the architectural work of Ellis F. Lawrence and Jamieson Parker, and the lasting beauty of Timberline Lodge, this unique educational event will be perfect for both History buff and lovers of the natural world." Note the image above isnt technically a new deal building... but the famous and privately commissioned "witches cabin" is a paragon of that era's "parkitecture" and the ruin itself is an important way to spur discussion about the interchange of the built and so called natural environment. You can get tickets here.

The New Deal's Local Legacy: Pioneering Historic Preservation And A Landscape Aesthetic
Talk: March 5th 10:00AM, Tickets required $12-20
Architectural Heritage Center
701 SE Grand Ave

Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 04, 2016 at 14:45 | Comments (0)


Thursday 03.03.16

First Thursday Picks March 2016

Finally, things are getting more interesting in the galleries, with a certain explosion of material and geometry as well as heightened states of awareness. Kinda like springtime for Clement Greenberg in Portland?

Berger_AO.jpgJonathan Berger at Adams & Ollman

The show has been up since mid February but you still have till March 12th to see Jonathan Berger's A Future Life. Of course, nothing stands out like a funeral in Springtime but this reliquary of funerary forms and carbonized cubes has the kind of thoroughness I'd like to see more often in solo shows in Portland. Not sure how I feel about it overall (too many great people died in the last few months) and pulling a Louise Nevelson where everything is black (or white for that matter) can be a hack's strategy but at least there is a gestalt and a mood. Americans don't contend with death very much either and it seems like the artist is holding a wake for many lame art world strategies... That is a cheery thought actually. All that said, this is the must see among the commercial galleries this month.

A Future Life | February 12 - March 12
First Thursday: March 3rd
Adams & Ollman
209 SW 9th

... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 03, 2016 at 14:51 | Comments (0)

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