Many art cities check out during the Summer but Portland's weather is great and San Francisco + NYC residents vacation here in droves. The net result is "summertime" is a strong time for shows. Sure there are the ubiquitous summer group shows but these solo efforts are incredibly strong and relevant. Nobody knows the art scene better and here are my picks with short reviews:
Eva Lake Anonymous Woman #63
Eva Lake's collage work has been the strongest and edgiest overtly feminist work in Portland for years now
... but Portland generally doesnt give awards or accolades for being relevant and edgy. Please defy that embarrassingly idiotic and cliquish logic (in an otherwise very relevant and edgy city) by checking out her latest show Through the Ages at Augen Gallery, where she takes on fetishes of ruined antiquity and fresh feminine beauty as the anthropological paradox that it is. The show is a bit of a mini surver going from 2018 work way back to the targets. One of Eva's latest Her Highness #3
with its skeletal body of an enlightend bodhisatva and a model's face alone gives me chills. Eva's been doing well in NYC and internationally... so as it typically is, Portland usually neglects its strongest artists only to let the world pick up the slack. Yes, see it... this is a strong group of works that posits the idea that power is an edifice that asks women to jump through an extra series of hoops for paradoxical trade offs. Like local awards panels, sometimes those hoops are even other women and men simply arent as hard on each other.
Through The Ages | July 5 - August 4
Opening Reception: July 5 6-8PM
Artist Talk: July 14, Noon
716 NW Davis
Dust to Dust is doing an intriguing job of bringing somewhat functional art to N Mississippi ve in the back of Beacon Sound and their latest show Vala Rae is every bit as 1970's as it sounds. Comprised of milky ceramics with occult markings and lots of pre-columbian references including the Moche culture, the whole thing comes off like wandering into some evolved pleasure society ala Zardoz or Logan's Run movie sets. Even Jorge Pardo did similar almost kitschy things at LACMA years ago
. Or maybe it is a combination of the Isis mystery cult from Roman times combined with a Florence and the Machine video set? What I truly enjoy the most though is the way this hybrid space is addressing the pressure traditional galleries are facing. True, Vala and Rae are both alumni of Motel Gallery (perhaps the original Portland hybrid) and other hybrids like Nationale and Land have been in effect for a long time but somehow this show feels like a journey that unfolds in ways those other hybrid spaces rarely did. There is a movie set like concentration to it being in the labrynthine back of the shop and the artist's use of mirrors and tables create a staging that is an engrossing summer adventure.
VALA RAE | June 22 - August 5
Dust to Dust
3636 N Misssissippi
Venus Retrograde @ PAM
Perhaps no show fits the summertime agenda more than Hannah Piper Burns Apex series show at the Portland Art Museum
(open for free on First Thursdays). Titled Venus Retrograde it explores my least favorite television show of all time, The Bachelor. Not that Burns particularly condones it either, she pulls apart its reality show grammar of engineered emotional trainwrecks and predictable dating orthodoxies and heteronorm cliches. The expectations are of course for some sort of exploitative emotional gladiatorial battle. I have a hard time with reality TV and the Bachelor in Paradise would qualify as my personal hell. Still, there is a lot to consider here. Reality TV lead to our current president and his ratings based moral code. Also, so many adopt what they see on these shows as benchmarks for their own lives. Honestly the whole thing makes my skin crawl and I find the way reality TV stars in these shows become emotional restaveks, repugnantly selling themselves for ratings. The value here is that Burns' morbid fascination and deconstruction of this media phenomena reveals how the sausage is made. Kudos to the curator who has focused the Apex series... it has been been waffling since its strong inception
then slide away from consequentiality but with Sam Hamilton , Dawn Cerny and now Hannah Piper Burns has turned away from show after show of artists who reiterate the most common cliches of Northwest Art (traditional craft and figuration) to challenging expectations with multimedia shows by artists who arent over exposed locally, yet often active outside the region. Apex is reintroducing the museum audience to the fact that what we think of Northwest Art really cannot be tidily summarized then performed to a captive audience. Its reintroducing us to the diversity of practices here and the fact that they are showing all over the world regularly. Shouldn't we know ourselves better than the rest of the world does? Often that hasn't been the case? Now, its better and the series is showing us a plethora of multi media artists who arent playing to to stereotypes (which were never more than a 3rd of what the region produced since the 21st Century began). We arent used to the Portland art museum being relevant to the very international local art scene so this is a huge positive.
Venus Retrograde | February 24 - August 14
Open for Free on First Thursday 5-8PM
Apex Gallery (Schnitzer Center of Northwest Art)
Portland Art Museum
1218 SW Park Ave
Kitai at Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
Perhaps the strongest exhibition on display in Portland at the moment is R.B. Kitaj A Jew Etc., Etc. at the OJMCHE. A virtuoso painter who scraped the paint ever so lightly on the canvas here... Kitaj romances his life as a Ohio come British transplant to LA, influencing today's LA painting scene significantly. Even though my British art friends have grown callous to him we hardly ever see Kitaj in the Pacific Northwest and this one is full of quality. On full display at OJHCHE Kitaj romances the studio and his outsider status as well as drawing upon the chilling loss of the love of his life. So many of the noted painter's best works are on display and every First Thursday goer should stop by the OJMCHE. Check out Jesse Hayward's more in depth look at one Kitaj painting that stars in the show
R. B. Kitaj A Jew Etc., ETC. | June 6 - September 30
Open Free on First Thursday
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
724 NW Davis
Shugi Nakagawa at Portland Japanese Garden
Speaking of craft and evolving traditions, Shokunin at the Portland Japanese Garden is an absolute tour de force on the subject. Comprised of 5 "artisans" working in traditional Kyoto type idioms that are striving to evolve their fields rather than simply become tribute bands of their elder's greatest hits. For example the wooden tray above by Shugi Nakagawa is perhaps the most impressive bit of woodworking Ive seen in years, This is far more than that, with wooden buckets, delicate baskets, bowls etc. that are simultaneously contemporary but with a taproot that reaches back to traditions of the Kyoto court life and monasteries. Besides all that, if you haven't recently seen the Japanese Garden, which expanded last year
, you haven't seen what I and many others can argue is the highest caliber arts institution in Oregon. The garden and expansion are simply exquisite while still being adventurous.
Shokunin: Five Kyoto Artisans Look to the Future | May 12 - July 8
Portland Japanese Garden
611 SW Kingston Ave
Liz Ensz at Paragon Arts Space, PCC Cascade
PCC Cascade's Paragon Arts Space has been a ray of hope amid all of the major Univerity art gallery closures. The current show Remember the Future – Forget the Past (Remember the Past – Forget the Future)
by Liz Ensz is perhaps their strongest offering to date and is rooted in Robert Smithson's improbable entropic map making coupled to digital tools like google earth as well as impressive handcrafted weaving traditions. Of particular note are the large scale tapestries like Oquirrh Range (pre-Kennecott Topography). Digitally designed and hand woven this work and others feel like the artist is close to a breakthrough but the presentation is too traditional. Floor based works like Cartesian Glitch Mound are also relying too heavily on Smithson's ouvre. Everything here is good, but that really is never enough. Instead of an assignment they could feel like unfolding journeys if the artist took it to another level, but at least it isnt just piles of stuff upon eachother like is often the case. Instead you can see the consideration Ensz gives turning garbage into edifice then mapped and recrafting it. There is a sense of industrious engagement here. Overall, the show itself is handsome and really shows off the space in a very expected professional way. I am most curious to see what is next from Ensz and every artist should be checking out this very nice space.
Remember the Future - Forget the Past (Remember the Past - Forget the Future) | June 15 - July 28
Paragon Art Space