William Pope. L's work engages, even embraces the absurdity of race and in February 2014 returned to Portland for his exhibition Claim at PSU's Littman Gallery. It was a reprise after 2003's legendary exhibition, eRascism, at PICA. With its rotting onions and hot dogs, eRascism was one of the most memorable exhibitions in Portland history so PORT sent Gary Wiseman to query Pope. L about his practice and his sequel in Portland.
Gary Wiseman: Why did you choose to revisit Portland in 2014? For some reason the timing feels significant.
William Pope.L: I think returns, like endings, are always significant in some way and my return to Portland is particularly pleasurable.
Portland has many connections to Japan including; intensive volcanism, a climate
with ample moisture, earthquakes, tsunami and of course a strong Japanese community.
Still, it is Portland's world class Japanese Garden that truly seems to transport
us to another culture (see the current Samurai show at PAM then visit the garden
for a complete day of immersion).
In 2010 we were thrilled that Kengo
Kuma was chosen as the architect for the
expansion of the Japanese Garden. He is perhaps the world's foremost architect
of subtlety and materiality. Frankly, most of the other famous architects I've
spoken to revere his work in much the same way guitarists like Eric Clapton
and George Harrison would speak of Jimi Hendrix. His work is startling for its
unpretentious clarity while still being adventurous. As a bridge between Japanese
tradition and the (global) future he perhaps has no equal in architecture. He
is considered a philosopher of the site and his buildings always integrate themselves
rather than stand out as context-less novelties.
In October I had the rare privilege of speaking with Kengo Kuma and his Project
Manager for the Portland Japanese Garden's expansion, Balazs Bognar. We all
left feeling as though something significant had come out of it.
Great (Bamboo) Wall (photo Satoshi Asakawa, courtesy Kengo Kuma and Associates)
JJ: I could ask you about so many of your projects, the Great (Bamboo) Wall
is fantastic in the way the semi transparent bamboo walls seem to make the walls
hover in space. But perhaps the Wooden Bridge Museum is the one with the most
connection to Portland's project since they are both on steep mountainsides
forming an enclave that draws people up the slopes and they both have a similar
wooden lattice overlay.
Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum (photo Takumi Ota, courtesy Kengo Kuma and Associates)
KK: The Wooden Bridge Museum... the site is a very deep mountain with a small
village. The main industry of the village is forest products and as the forest
industry of Japan is getting worse and worse so they develop some new designs
which activates the new forest industries... (more)
On Understanding and Being Understood: Interview with Anna Craycroft
The opening lines of the press release for Anna Craycroft's C'mon Language reads "C'mon Language is an exhibition in pursuit of an artistic vocabulary." In conversation, Craycroft indicates that she had never intended to create a community. Instead, the exhibit operates as an immersive inquiry into epistemology, pedagogy, and delivery. Drawing corollaries between alternative educational approaches and the artists' creative practice, she built a space for participants to explore how they/we/I might 'make ourselves understood'. Brooklyn-based artist Anna Craycroft's work plays with the symbols and methods employed within different didactic spaces. Craycroft received her MFA from Columbia University School of Arts in 2004 and her BFA from the Slade school in 1998. I had the pleasure of speaking with Craycroft one Friday morning in September as the exhibition was preparing for its culminating presentation.
C'mon Language, Installation View, Anna Craycroft, 2013, photo by Jeff Jahn
TA: It seems like the guiding question here is ‘How do we make ourselves understood’ so maybe that’s a good place to start. Who do you see as the ‘we’ in that question and to whom are we making ourselves understood?
AC: In this case the word ‘we’ actually means ‘I’. The structure of the sentence sets up a reflexivity - the ‘we’ applying to the process of ‘making ourselves’ – that replaces collectivity with plurality. The question frames the question ‘how do I make myself?’ as a like effort to be performed independently by multiple individuals side by side.
TA: As a provocation, the question presumes some barriers to understanding-
AC: -limitations, I would say-
TA: -yeah, limitations. I’m wondering what some of those might be and how you or some of the others involved have tried to negotiate that here.
AC: Any vocabulary or lexicon has a set of components. It’s limited for practical purposes, but there’s always the potential to expand. The question of ‘how’ is more of a process of accumulating options or alternatives or existing forms rather than pointing out their limitations. The how is kind of equivalent to saying what are all of the different ways in which-
Streetcar Stop for Portland (detail inside at night) photo Jeff Jahn
Jorge Pardo's work raises questions about the artificial separation of art, design, architecture and the orthodoxies that shape the way we consume all of them as cultural products. For his 1998 exhibition at MOCA he paradoxically shifted the site from the museum to a home at 4166 Sea View Lane, which he had built for the exhibition. Afterwards he moved in, upending the entire patron/institution/artist dynamic. He now has a similar, but more extensive project in the Yucatan called Tecoh. Rather than simply show in white box galleries he has even created installations that function as lighting for restaurants. In 2010 he was awarded a MacArthur fellowship. In 2008 he was commissioned to reinstall LACMA's pre-Columbian galleries but for PORT he came to speak about his Station for Portland Streetcar, commissioned by the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC).
Jeff Jahn: You are originally from Cuba?
Jorge Pardo: Yes I was originally born in Cuba and my family emigrated to Chicago in 1969. I was six so it is where I spent most of my life as a child. I pretty much grew up there...(more)
Interview with Jeff Fleming of the Des Moines Art Center
In Portland, the artists as a scene create most of the civic art energy but there is a lot we can learn from other places, especially even smaller cities that do things exceptionally well. Des Moines Iowa is one of those places, they don't just have community... they have one that insists on excellence. The Des Moines Art Center with its world class architecture and contemporary collection is certainly their crown jewel so (disclosure) when my significant other had an exhibition there earlier this year I took the opportunity to speak with their director Jeff Fleming.
Fleming has a real passion for art that is coupled with a great deal of connoisseurship and discretion, which is why he is one of the most admired museum directors at one of the most admired (and focused) art museums in the country.
Jeff Fleming, Director of the Des Moines Art Center
Jeff Jahn: What a pleasure to finally get to speak with you, a lot of museum directors that I have spoken to over the years really admire what happens here. From the first time I visited this museum I was really struck with just how good the collection was, even how consistently good and fresh the pieces felt in the galleries. It brings up questions about smaller cities in so called flyover states.... if you have something good how do others find out about these gems that are frankly hidden right out in the open? In particular, so many Midwestern cities have such great things... they aren't New York or on the West Coast yet these museum have a serious value set that might be somewhat of a dieing breed. Sometimes on the West Coast I sense more emphasis is placed on just getting people inside the doors and selling tickets. Whereas here you've done away with the admission fee and I am interested in how something so excellent and accessible came into being in a small but still important city like Des Moines. Are there lessons we can learn on the coasts?
Jeff Fleming: There are many questions, so we'll just target some of them. One of them, I don't think this community takes us for granted. They do appreciate us, at least as far as I can tell and they do acknowledge that this is a place of quality and they are very proud of us. It is a wonderful thing. We have both been in several communities and I have lived in a place where the community did not necessary appreciate the institution. I see this as a very very different place.
JJ: How did that occur?
JF: Well from day one there was and continues to be the very best you could be in order to participate on a global scale.
On the occasion of the Portland Japanese Garden's Noguchi exhibition this past May I had the honor of speaking with Marc Treib one of the world's foremost historian/critics on Noguchi, land art and the design of public spaces. He is the author of numerous books including, Noguchi in Paris: The UNESCO Garden (2003), Settings and Stray Paths: Writings on Landscapes and Gardens (2005) and Space Calculated in Seconds (1996). He is Professor of Architecture Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley. This is the final weekend for the Noguchi show (PORT also interviewed its curator) at the Portland Japanese Garden.
Noguchi at the Portland Japanese Garden (photo Jeff Jahn)
JJ: You are in Portland because of your relationship with Noguchi's work and the Japanese Garden's 50th anniversary show. In particular you focus on "the sites", be it a public space or former studio. I've been to the Houston sculpture garden, The Long Island Studio and the California Scenario. I haven't been to the UNESCO
or the studio in Japan, which looks amazing. There is something about the Japanese garden format that laid the groundwork for his work which wasn't just object oriented sculpture but an environment for experience that speaks most to me.
Steve Kurtz: Current events. The original idea was to talk about human sacrifice in relation to war-what's acceptable and not acceptable. It took years to get this show organized (mostly due to funding problems). Fortunately, by the time the show was finally possible and the budget appeared, it seemed even more appropriate in spite of one of the wars being "technically" over. Newtown had just happened, and the VA announced that the military was facing its most significant public health crisis ever, given the soaring suicide rate among veterans. For the first time we are losing more combat vets to suicide than we are to the enemy. Just presenting the numbers related to suicide gave us an avenue to talk about the war, to talk about military service, and in some ways to talk about the political economy of war. So all the elements just fell into place. We took the edge off with the block party, though.
TA: Which is hopefully going to be a lot of fun... (more)
Isamu Noguchi was a brilliant sculptor and ideological innovator who pushed and challenged the notions of space and form into unprecedented territory. His oeuvre extended from freestanding sculpture into public parks and industrial design. To Noguchi, all of his work was art, and all of it maintained the inherent potential to shape the way we live and think. His legacy reverberates infinitely in today's art and design world as we endeavor to continue efforts to raise consciousness and pique the intellect through the shape of our created environments. I had the chance to talk with Matt Kirsch, the associate curator of the Isamu Noguchi Museum, the other day about Noguchi's art and life. . .(more)
Yohaku is the Japanese term used to refer to the abundance of white space within visual composition. This white space is also referred to as the the ideological "nothingness" of Chan Buddhism in China and Zen Buddhism in Japan: the nothing that is everything, a powerful entity. . .(more)
Although today Portland is full of conceptual and new media artists, when I first moved here there was really only one active practitioner on display, Bruce Conkle. His phantasmagorical time and sense scapes have evolved over the years making him the dean of eco art in Oregon. All the while his work has celebrated the odd boundaries between the natural and unnatural, ideal and real in his work and life (he does have a mock wood grain tattoo after all).
Conkle's work isn't shrill or a scold so much as a court jester putting on a subtle Blackfriars style roast regarding the state of the planet and humanity's role in its current situation. Thankfully nature isn't always portrayed as friendly. As an artist he has exhibited at Brazil's A Gentil Carioca, New York's Jack the Pelican, Living Art Museum in Iceland as well as the Gobi Desert with Eco-baroque, his collaboration with Marne Lucas. He's also the lone conceptual/new media artist (ie craft or handling of media is downplayed to play up conceptual content) to receive the Hallie Ford Fellowship (in 2010). The first crop of 9 Ford Fellows will have an inaugural exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in January 2013.
Gary Wiseman: It has been said that it is impossible to place you within a school of painting. However, you have been extremely influential and could be seen as having established an entirely new school of painting. What is the philosophy of the Luc Tuymans school? What is its lineage?
Luc Tuymans: Nothing, I hope, because I am not planning on making a school. Even the article, I mean, though well meant, about the Tuymans Effect [Jordan Kantor], I thought it was a bit difficult, I mean, it is not because of the fact that ten years later Havekost crops the face of which he makes a portrait the same way I did, that it is the same painting. Because it is painted totally differently. The same goes for the other people in that article. So I think that... (more)
Working with Ellsworth, an interview with Mark and Rae Mahaffey
Installation view of Ellsworth Kelly/Prints at the Portland Art Museum (all photos Jeff Jahn)
Ellsworth Kelly is the world's greatest living abstract painter and the extensive show of his prints on view right now at the Portland Art Museum details just why. Part of the exhibition's greatness is the way it exudes the generous charm of the sublime, not unlike a sunset on the beach or a baby's smile. It's hard to believe that simple line and color can be so powerful, but it is and bears up well under close scrutiny where slight variations in form or color can matter so much. The exhibition itself is a slightly different version of LACMA's critically received show and everyone should take this viewing opportunity, which presents so much depth and breadth from a single artist. It is a perfect summer show.
Kelly is perhaps single-handedly responsible for showing how formal work need not follow Clement Greenberg's edicts of material as form. The lesson that it isn't the material but the message... in this case, one of gracious reception and reciprocity, which made Kelly the lynchpin of Dave Hickey's 2001 art world shattering Beau Monde exhibition at Site Santa Fe... the exhibition that made beauty worthy as a subject again.
His prints carry that spirit in a way that is perhaps even more approachable than the paintings and sculpture and we thought the occasion of his exhibition, culled from Jordan Schnitzer's vast collection was a great excuse to talk to Portland's very own master printer Mark Mahaffey and his wife Rae about what it was like to work with the man.
Jeff Jahn: So Mark, you started at Tyler Graphics and then went to Gemini GEL where you worked on Ellsworth Kelley's prints?
Mark Mahaffey: Yeah in 1989 I was hired away from Tyler to work for Gemini GEL. His (Ellsworth) was actually the... (more)
Richard Serra (2012) photo & interview by Paul Middendorf
Set for an encounter with the art and the man I scurried into The Menil Collection to attend the meet and greet press event
Serra Drawing: A Retrospective. There was already quite the crowd
forming, so I made sure to get a quick glimpse of the show before the rooms
filled up with people. Here is a short description from the Menil Press
Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective is the first-ever critical
overview of the artists drawings, as well as the first major one-person
exhibition organized under the auspices of the Menil Drawing Institute and Study
Center. The exhibition - which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
York, traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and now concludes
at the Menil Collection - traces the crucial role that drawing has played in
Richard Serra's work for more than 40 years.
B.Wurtz, Portrait of the Artist by Amy Berntein, 2012
B. Wurtz is a lyrical formalist, a classicist, and a provocative senator of the mundane. He poetically points to the sidelines of our daily lives in an effort to point out the beauty and significance of an immense reservoir of objects discarded as refuse. From what we regard as worthless, he culls a rich vocabulary with which to form his oeuvre. Talismans of culture are formed out of plastic bags and wire as Wurtz asks us to pay attention to our surroundings and to the moments that actually make up our lives. . .(more)
Chris Burden: Let's see. The Ghost Ships. They came about by being asked by Mary Jane Jacobs who had been chief curator at MOCA in LA but was now working in Chicago as an independent curator. She was in charge of the Spoleto Music Festival, the art component of it, in 91'. She invited 20 different artists to do projects as part of the music festival, I was one of them. I had been conscious of this boat designer Phil Bolger who was known for making these seaworthy small boats that were ocean capacity and were real simple to build. He was an anti-yachting kind of guy. So I proposed that... (more)
Kristan Kennedy is the visual art curator at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. With this year's Time Based Art Festival just around the corner (the festivities kickoff this Thursday), I kidnapped her mid mad dash to talk about her insights into the city of Portland, its art scene, and the evolution and orchestration of the most exciting art event of the year, TBA. . .(more)
Murderer and the Victim: An Interview with Silvia Levenson
Silvia Levenson's Something Wrong? (2005)
Silvia Levenson is an international artist who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1957 , lives and works between Buenos Aires and Italy. Her work is part of Fine Art Museum, Houston; USA, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe; Corning Museum , Corning USA; Bullseye Glass Company, Portland, OR; Alexander Tutsek-Stiftung , Munich, Germany and many others. She was in town this last weekend for Bullseye's BECon 2011 and Crossover so I had the opportunity sit down and talk with her.
Alex Rauch and Silvia Levenson (Photo Steve C. Immerman)
AR: Your interplay between title and the work seem salient. How important is word play for your pieces? Do the titles imbue more meaning?
SL: Yes-for me titles are an important part of the work. I work in the space between reality and imagination. The title's help me extend... (more)
The Beginning of the End Of Us: a Conversation with Deborah Kass
"Day After Day", 2010, Oil and Acrylic
Deborah Kass's paintings are revelations. Written and designed with brighter times in mind, she appropriates art history and pop culture in order to comment on the now as well as the then. Recontextualized and upended, the result is an existential question shrouded in glamour. Employing seduction and nostalgia, . . .(more)
Best known for her multiple series of portraits of lesbian, butch, and transgendered women, Catherine Opie is a remarkably versatile photographer with an eye for the powerfully personal and the formally sublime. Images from her series Girlfriends are currently up at the Portland Art Museum (through February 6, 2011). I caught up with her after her lecture at the museum to discuss identity, politics, historicity, and minimalist photography.
Now that we have put a little critical distance between 2010 and started 2011
it's time for PORT's curatorial roundup. It's been a few years since we have
done this so we are due again. Check out 2008
Participating curators: Mack McFarland, Terri Hopkins, Stephanie Snyder, Blake Shell, Victor Maldanado, Kristan Kennedy, Kelly Rauer, myself, Namita Wiggers, Elizabeth Lamb and Linda Tesner... (more)
Robert Storr is one of today's most eminent curators as well as an artist and arguably a philosopher. Currently he is dean of the Yale School of Art. He was the artistic director of the 2007 Venice Biennale and Curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA for over a decade. I had the opportunity to listen to him lecture this April at the Donald Judd conference "Invenit non fecit." I spoke with him after the conference and he agreed to this interview.
Q. Kirk Varnedoe has had a huge influence on many, how has his example influenced you and your work?
A. Those most influenced by Kirk were his students, and beyond that people who worked under his direct supervision on the various exhibitions he organized. Frequently his assistants were... (more)
Installation of Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies) at the Portland Art Museum
Mark Grotjahn's Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies) is currently on display at the Portland Art Museum until October 17, 2010. The exhibition includes a series of very large drawings with a remarkable tactile and material quality. Mr. Grotjhan is represented by the Gagosian Gallery in New York and Blum and Poe in Los Angeles.
What was it like growing up in California? Did you go to LACMA in Los Angeles or SFMOMA in San Francisco?
I was born in Pasadena, but we moved to the Bay Area when I was nine months old. In terms of museums that formulated, shaped or exposed me to art, it was SFMOMA. Having said that, I did see the first King Tut exhibition at LACMA in the '70s.
Was there anything about growing up in the Bay Area that continues to influence your work today?
I grew up in Marin, and I'm sure being in the redwoods and fresh air was probably good for me. I played baseball.
Were there any artists who were influential to you growing up? What about California artists like Robert Irwin or John McLaughlin?
In my late 20s, McLaughlin became important to me because he made rigorous abstractions and was the first California artist to break out and have an international career. But I read Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual In Art at age 15, I liked Paul Klee, and looked at my grandfather's books on Picasso.
GW: Lets start with a brief synopsis of your work.
CA: I started out doing media dance combining dance with video or film. I worked
Cunnigham for years. I have done feature length documentaries, multi media
video installations, I've done live electronic performances and since 2003 I
have been mainly focused on exploring different ways of using live video with
performance or as performance or in installation.
Charles Atlas Tornado Warning, TBA install (photo Jeff Jahn)
CA: I had a retrospective and I realized that I wanted to show recent work.
But all my recent work is live so there is nothing that exists. The last two
pieces I have done have not been live - no live elements - but are influenced
by the work I did in live video - so I could install something and then leave.
Which was good. This piece - I made the first version of it in 2008 and I showed
it in a gallery in London - It's called Tornado Warning. It was conceived as
a two space piece, for two adjacent rooms... (more)
Jessica Jackson Hutchins in her Studio, Portland, 2010
Jessica Jackson Hutchins' work is a mined animal. Its disparate elements are found and forged from the mud of surrounding detritus and soliloquy. Her work culls from a playful existentialism; Kafka telling a rare joke. It is raw and irreverent and does not adhere to trend or pomp but instead concentrates on a vibrant subterranean mythology. Hutchins is the conduit through which these things are born. They are seismic musings of the absurd and profound, informed by both philosophy and what it is to walk down the street. They are totemic fragments of the efforts to describe pain and joy as lived. They are the spiritual mud and love pie made by the freest child, who dips her hair in ink and, with the swank of the mime and the prophet, draws with it. As I walk into her studio, she purposefully presses a turquoise magnetic letter "C" to the surface of one of her piano prints to be shipped to London the following day. . . .(more)
GW: You spent a lot of time in Northern Europe it seems?
NK: I have a mother who comes from Finland. So I have spent part of every summer
of my life growing up there. It's a place that my family convenes in every year.
It is a little island off the south coast. It's very, very far away mentally
at least. from the rest of my life. Very different from Brooklyn where I live.
This Island has, over the years, become a really important place for me to go
to on occasion to make work. There are a lot of projects that...(more)
I met Adam Stennett on a sunny, Saturday afternoon in May. Seated
on a park bench outside the Portland Art Museum, we discussed the development
of Stennett's working process, growing up in Oregon, and his life in Brooklyn
since 1994. Stennett's video piece, Mouse Swimming Overhead, is featured in the
Disquieted exhibition. Disquieted closes Sunday May 16, 2010.
Adam Stennett in the South Park Blocks, Portland Or.
"...you have to grab them from across the room and then punch them when
you get them up close." - Adam Stennett
Gary Wiseman: Let's begin with your impressions of the [Disquieted] exhibition.
Adam Stennett: First of all when Bruce [Guenther] contacted me and said that
he had a video of mine that he had borrowed from the collection of Ben And Aileen
Krohn, and then he started telling me about the exhibition and who was going
to be in it, you know, it was kind of like my dream team. So many artists whose
work I really reacted to... (more)
Hannah B. Higgins is an Associate Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago.
She is also the daughter of the Fluxus artists Alison
Knowles and Dick
Higgins and noted author of Fluxus
Experience, and will be lecturing in tandem with Gestures of Resistance
this Thursday at 6:30 pm at PNCA.
> Is there a right or better way to experience "primary phenomena or
The point of a primary information orientation is not that there is one way
or a better way to access it. Walter
Ong's writing on sense ratios and hierarchies demonstrates that the ranking
of sensations is cultural (the primacy and isolation of vision, the low rank
of smell, for instance, reflecting western values). So sensation is always filtered
through values and value systems... (more)
Inigo: In the beginning I was interested in uncompleted projects. These
uncompleted projects were also located historically in a similar sort of period
- these were projects by individuals in a period of modernity. So I was interested
in Eisenstein's Glass House because that was the title of what would be his
first film in the US. Which was to be based on We (the novel by Zamyatin)... (more)
Bill Gilbert has been the Lannan Foundation Chair in the Land Arts of the American
West program at The University of New Mexico since 2000 and is the author of
Arts of the American West. He took time to answer a few of PORT's questions
on the eve of his talk for The Museum of Contemporary Craft this
coming Wednesday at PNCA:
Bill: Heizer has gone back and forth on this one. I really appreciate his ability
to be inconsistent and answer depending on how hes feeling or who his
audience might be at any given time in the over the forty years it has been
since the piece was completed. We artists all have complicated relationships
with our work. So, I understand the... (more)
Inigo Manglano-Ovalle was born in Madrid, Spain in 1961, lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. He was educated at Williams College and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and he has exhibited his works widely since his first solo exhibition in 1991. Ovalle teaches at the University of Illinois and has been a MacArthur fellow since 2001.
Recently I took a trip to the East Coast to see Manglano-Ovalle's two shows Gravity is a Force to be Reckoned with and Happiness is a State of Inertia(Max Protetch Gallery). This is the conversation we had about his work in the Max Protetch Gallery on February 5th before the opening.
Gravity Is a Force to be Reckoned With at Mass MOCA (photo Dylan Lathrop)
East/West interview with galleryHomeland by Gary Wiseman
East/West storefront in Berlin, Mitte district (all photos: Jackie Friscia)
Gary Wiseman - East/West is an innovative project. It is very compelling to me. The first
time I heard Paul mention something about it was two years ago.
Paul Middendorf - That's about right
GW - Tell me about the development of the project, who you're working with,
who is involved...
PM - Sure. I guess the earliest incarnation of EAST/WEST
happened in 2007 when galleryHOMELAND
went, representing Portland, to the Art Basel Fair, in Switzerland. We did a
project called Attache' Case where we brought 15 artists [work] in this case
that we showed at the various fairs like Scope and we would bring it outside
Art Basel, we went to Munster, Germany to see the the sculptural fair that happens
every ten years, went to Documenta, presented at some places there. Through
these travels we were forming many relationships. I was also, for part of the
time, traveling with Leah Stuhltrager, one of the main directors of Dam, Stuhltrager.
GW - The gallery you work with in Brooklyn?
PM - Yah. So, basically in Basel, Switzerland we had met a lot of European
[specifically] Berlin gallerists. We were fascinated by a lot of the similarities
that we shared in projects and artist relations. So...(more)
Somewhat predictably, Tom Cramer's most recent show is his best to date (and it ends October 31st). It is an inventive mixture of
cosmic energy, German Romanticism and hard nosed discipline, which helps make his work both
unique and exquisite. In fact, for at least the last decade Tom Cramer has been
Portland's best selling artist and what's more with his art cars, murals and
totem statuary, no artist is more ubiquitous. Perhaps no artist represents Portland's
character more, being at once both hermetic and brash, Cramer embraces the contradictions
of making "earthier" art that is anything if not transcendent. He's
also a bridge between the Portland artists of the 60's and the latest tidal
wave young émigrés and was way overdue for an interview with PORT.
We interviewed him in his North Portland home and here's what Portland's all
but official artist laureate had to say.
What do you learn from your students - and how does/has that impacted your own practice?
I have been thinking a lot about this question. Before I took the recent rotation as department chair of Fiber and Material Studies at SAIC more...
An interview with Gregory Green in his installation on Sunday.
WCBS Radio Caroline
The voice of the New Free State of Caroline 96.7fm Portland Oregon.
A .5 watt "pirate" radio station for the period of 09/06/09 -12/13/09 stationed in the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis and Clark College.
Of all of Portland's many longstanding art world figures, none commands the
respect of younger generations more than Mel Katz. He's an impressive sculptor
who hasn't grown so comfortable with his reputation that he's become stagnant.
Though I've watched him for a mere decade, Katz appears to be the opposite
he seems to get more curious and take more risks as the years go by.
What's more, no other local artist deserves a serious retrospective than Mel
Katz (though one wonders what institution could do it justice?).
Mary Randlett, Mel Katz, (Summer, 1972)
Katz was also a driving institutional force for the PCVA and PSU's art program
and during the 70's was somewhat single-handedly responsible for Portland not being
isolated from the art world and contributing to the careers of major artists. In fact, the Portland Center for the Visual Arts
was ahead of the time doing shows with Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Carl Andre,
Robert Irwin, Chris Burden and Donald
Judd etc. He's the dean of artist driven initiative and intervention in
Portland and he has more in common with the constant waves of new artists than
CS Price... (more)
East Meets West: An Interview with Sanford Biggers
Sanford Biggers, Blossom, 2007
Sanford Biggers is a New York artist whose 2007 work Blossom will be at the APEX Gallery at the Portland Art Museum starting on May 16, 2009. Bigger's work is a fusion of east meets wests, Buddhism meets Hip Hop, that takes places from the train yards of Los Angeles, Zen Temples of Japan to the galleries of New York.
I read that you grew up in South Central Los Angeles. What was that like?
I grew in the early seventies in Los Angeles. I was influenced largely by the artwork that my parents had in their home which were prints by important American artists like Elizabeth Catlett, Charles White, John Biggers and Ernie Barnes.
It was largely figurative and Afro-centric images which were influential for me as well the graffiti that I would see on the streets of Los Angeles and in the train yards.
It seems like your art experiences were coming out of your home rather than say being influenced by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) or the Pasadena Art Museum. Is that true?
As a kid, I mainly only went to museums on field trips, so my earliest experiences with art were in my parent's and their friends' homes. I did, however, spend time as a teenager at LACMA and California African American Museum where I took art classes on weekends.
You mentioned that you remember being exposed to graffiti while you were growing up in Los Angeles and it would go on to influence your later work. What was your relationship to graffiti at the time?
I spent a lot of my teenage years with a graffiti crew going out and bombing (spray-painting), various walls and train yards with graf murals. That was a big part of my early years as a B-boy and I still reflect on some of those forms that I was interested in and I try to bring them back into my work.
A few years ago, I did a few different types of sand paintings, one of which was a graffiti version of the Sanskrit word/sound, "OM". It was made of colored sand, poured directly on the floor. A technique that was not too dissimilar from that of Tibetan monks.
Sanford Biggers, Mandala of the B-Bodhisattva II, 2000
All she wants to do is dance (Fran) 2009 courtesy Lehman Maupin
Mickalene Thomas is
toast of New York for her rowdy painted and rhinestone riots of patterns and
personality, finishing up a successful solo show at Lehman
Maupin. The work has consistently struck me as some of the boldest being done today. She's also a former Portland-based model who left to study
art at Pratt then Yale (she discovered her interest in art at PSU). She still visits Portland frequently and we have a lot
of mutual friends... but for a change PORT caught up with her in her Brooklyn
studio to talk about her first New York solo show, her work and what is next.
Jeff: Forgive me but I have to ask, why rhinestones?
Mickalene: At the beginning I didn't know why. One, I always worked in different materials
like sequins and glitter, all of these untraditional craft materials that I
seemed to gravitate towards for my process. Once I started using... (more)
Portrait of Okwui Enwezor by Jeff Weiss, Courtesy Bard College
I had the lovely opportunity to speak with Okwui Enwezor this month as he was in town to speak at the annualFATE conference that took place the weekend of April 3rd. Enwezor is currently the Dean of Academic Affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute and has curated a variety of renowned exhibitions around the world. He took some time early one morning to discuss his views on subjects ranging from the notion of excellence in education to his take on the recent election of Barack Obama as president. . . (more)
MK Guth: I wanted to start with the basics like, what is your background? What brought
you to art? Where did you go to school? Where was your area of focus and does
that connect to how you are making work now?
Laura Fritz: Well, I grew up in the Chicago area and I started out being really interested
in lights in darkened rooms. They fascinated me. Sometime between Preschool
and Kindergarten age there was this one grocery store that had an aisle where
the lights weren't working. It was the peanut butter and jelly aisle and all
the jars were just glowing because the aisle next to them allowed light to come
through the side. I would just run up and down the aisle because I thought it
was so interesting... (more)
Jonathan Lasker at PAM
Jonathan Lasker is a painter's painter. His work has answered the call to move and change and be something relevant during an era when the medium of paint was pronounced dead. Lasker's oeuvre speaks to the notion of possibility and invention within the ideas of material and symbol while speaking to the experience of this time as well. Over the last thirty years, Lasker has distilled this language into something almost audible, wrought with the eloquence of a haiku. I had the opportunity to speak candidly with Lasker about his life's work at the Portland Art Museum, where his work will be on view until January eleventh.
PORT: Do you see a great disparity between the east and west coasts? . . .(more)
Storm Tharp in the studio, October 2008 (photo Jeff Jahn)
Appeal to Heaven," Tharp's last solo offering in Portland, in 2007, caught
the artist at his most consistent: a gallery of uniformly sized ink portraits
and some peripheral text pieces. It was a successful cementing of his promise,
and many speculated that he'd found 'his thing.' At a solo show that closed last
month at Galerie
Bertrand & Gruner in Switzerland, as well as a two-person show at Nicole
Klagsbrun in New York this month, Tharp has continued to develop and display
this tangent of his work. But in "Arm & Arm," Tharp ventures into other
realms, exploring a newly intimate and familial conceptual terrain...(more)
Vito Acconci at the Nevada Art Museum's Art + Environment Conference
Vito Acconci at the Nevada Art Museum's Art + Environment Conference, 2008
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Art + Environment Conference at the Nevada Art Museum, October 2-4, 2008. Guided by the comments of the Lead Moderator William L. Fox, who is also the Lead Strategist for the Art + Environment Intiative, it was three days of excellent and thought provoking presentations from artists, writers, curators and even a biologist. The intention of the conference had been to bring to together as many ideas and perspectives on the environment as possible to see how ideas from different disciplines might cross polinate. It was under these circumstances that I had the opportuntiy to speak to Mr. Acconci. The interview ranged from Marina Abramovic's recreations of Acconci's performance art and that of others from the 1970s and Acconci's perspective on his current architectural practice.
In your early work, how did you know that using the experience of your body would be enough to make art? You understood early on that you did not necessarily have to create a painting or a sculpture but that your body and your experience could be the raw material for a new kind of art experience.
Because of the time. It was the late '60s and early '70s and the common language of the time was one of finding oneself, as if the self was something to contemplate. It was as if, at the time, that the self was a kind of precious jewel to concentrate on. Also it was the time of face-to-face encounters and encounter groups with an emphasis on person-to-person relationships. There were a lot of books at the time about non-verbal language, you know, how do people sit facing each other or whatever. It was a time when a lot of authority figures were being toppled, demonstrations against the Vietnam War, which was probably the most important thing about the time. It was also the time when the first Feminist writings were beginning to emerge. It was a time when, I do not think that I could say all of us, but some of us started to think that there was something wrong about art. There is something wrong about museums. We would ask questions like why do museums have no windows or few windows? Is art as fragile as all of that? Probably the answer is yes but, in other words, a lot of us wanted to see if art could be a kind of encounter. Can art be a kind of interaction? I am still not sure, but it was something that we wanted to explore. (More...)
Cloepfil's Museum of Arts and Design (photo Michael Oman Reagan)
Arcy: Now that your generation is in charge you can see where ideas and institutions
can lead you astray or have deep value having grown up during Vietnam
you can see both sides of the equation. What are the implications of the solace of organization and the danger
of thinking as a culture rather than as an individual?
Brad: Well I wonder if seeing those images of bamboo being mowed down by machine
guns night after night didn't produce a quest for more connection. I mean there
was a period of art and a period of architecture when they kind of serialized
culture; where the LA school of architects turned everything into collage, where
the attitude was, "the world is chaos, so we will make architecture chaos."
It's a kind of caricature almost, or can you create a counter voice and create
something that is still? I definitely think I'm in the counterforce camp...(more)
Fritz Haeg's Animal Estates @ Reed's Cooley gallery
Fritz Haeg is one of those people for whom definitions like; architect, artist,
curator and activist, miss the broader picture of his efforts. For example, even
though he was part of the 2008 Whitney Biennial and will be addressing the Frieze
art fair this year, he could care less about conquering the art world.
Instead, he wants to change the way we see and engage the world and his contribution
to the Suddenly: Where
We Live Now show at Reed's Cooley Gallery is both a resource and a prompt
for engagement. In this show about understanding our shared environment and
Animal Estates projects draw attention to many the wild animals that also
live in Portland. The show end's tomorrow at 6:00 (with Fritz in attendance)
so get on down to see this show while you still can.
Jeff: Tell me about the Animal Estates project at the Cooley gallery's Suddenly:
where we live now?
Fritz: On the perimeter there is this Animal Estates repository or archive
where each city adds material and it keeps growing from city to city. Each place
is represented in very... (more)
Art and Architecture: An Interview with Brad Cloepfil Part I
Allied Works Architecture
Maryhill Overlook, 1999
Photo by Sally Schoolmaster
Brad Cloepfil is the principal of Allied Works Architecture in Portland, Oregon. Allied Works is a nationally recognized architecture firm that has recently completed projects like the extension to the Seattle Art Museum, the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis and is currently finishing the Museum of Art & Design at 2 Columbus Circle in New York. PORT recently sat down with him to ask about the impact artists have had on his work.
How did your early experience with art feedback into your own creative process?
When I was younger, I tended to be influenced by the raw experience of the work itself. At first, I wasn't even aware of who created a work, whether it was Richard Serra or Robert Irwin, it was the experience of the work itself that was important. The experience makes you ask yourself about the spatial quality of that type of work and about the ideas that those artists are exploring. It just resonates with you. I wasn't seeing anything comparable in buildings. It just seems like those guys understood more about the intentions of the 19th and 20th century architecture than the architects did. They had clarity of thought and a practice that was built on the exploration of material that became very important to me. The singular act of focus to create a work of art was really impressive. I saw Richard Serra's Circuit at MoMA and it is just four pieces of steel propped up in the corners of the room. The physical presence and the mass of the steel and its ability to radiate space into the small gallery was for me a very architectural experience that I could relate to much easier than the so-called "architecture" that was being produced at that time. The experience is about the material and the way that the material is made. It was also easier to learn from the artists because their work is so pure. By that I mean, the work that I was interested in was focused on the exploration of only one or two ideas.
Circuit II, 1972-86
Hot Rolled-Steel. Four Plates
Each: 10' x 20' x 1"
I will see where it takes me from here: A conversation with Ed Ruscha
A portrait of Ed Ruscha by Dennis Hopper from 1964
Ed Ruscha is one of America's greatest painters. During the last forty years of producing an amazing body of work, he is best known for his recontextualizations of words and environments. These often jarring juxtapositions have helped us to reexamine the world we live in. An exhibtion of Ed Ruscha's work will be at the Portland Art Museum from June 14 to September 21, 2008.
I read that you studied with Robert Irwin at the Chouinard Art Institute. What was he like as a teacher?
That's right. Well, he was very rigorous and interesting. He was a task master. He taught a watercolor class and he went through elaborate steps to teach every student how to prepare the paper for the watercolors. You would have to prepare this paper by wetting and stretching it and the paper would be taut like the head of a drum. Irwin was a committed abstract painter and he was a vital person in my estimation during my early years. It just went on from there. He was one of several people that I studied under. Although I got quite a bit, not just from the teachers, but also from the students themselves, just being in that atmosphere.
At one point you mentioned that in the sixties, you were the biggest collector of your own work. What was that like?
There is more than a shred of truth there. It was about 1961 when I really got swinging into my own art. I had it for a few years before I exhibited it, and I didn't sell too much of my early work. Even during exhibits I would only sell one or two things. So I held on to quite a bit of my own work during the early years. (More...)
Ghost Ship, 2001
Satin finish UV laminated C-print
30 by 40 in. 76.2 by 101.6 cm.
All images Courtesy Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.
Kurland has spent the past decade staking her claim in the vast territory
of American myth. Her color landscapes, most often stages and backdrops for
figurative tableaus, are portals to an adjacent world, a Siamese twin world
comprised of unseen moments from this one.
Kurland earned early accolades for her neo-romantic scenes of teenage girls
adrift in the overlooked spaces of suburban wildlands. Tough, tender and imbued
with the awkward grace of those years... (more)
"There is no true way except for that which is true for oneself. My way does not invalidate the way of anyone else."
-Carl Andre in an interview with Paul Sutinen in 1980
144 Blocks & Stones, 1973 (Detail)
Concrete blocks and found and store bought rocks and minerals
Installed at the Portland Center for Visual Arts in March 1973
Image courtesy the PCVA Archive at the Portland Art Museum
(c) Carl Andre 2008
Here are ten questions that I asked Carl Andre about his installation 144 Blocks & Stones at the Portland Center for Visual Arts, March-February 1973.
In the early correspondence for the exhibition at the PCVA, the installation was described as a "scavenger" show. When did you decide to use river stones and concrete blocks for the installation?
When I arrived in Portland.
When you were looking for river stones, what qualities were you looking for? The found river stones were complemented by specific geological samples purchased from stores. How did you decide which samples to buy? Do you remember where you found the river stones?
I selected ones that interested me. I found them in the local river.
Looking for stones by a local river for the installation at PCVA
Image courtesy the PCVA Archive at the Portland Art Museum
Between Heaven and Earth: The Work of James Lavadour
Star House, 2008
oil on panel
24" x 30
"My main interest has always been about the properties of paint, what paint does. One of the things that paint does is that it is organic and does the same sort of things that dirt does, anything in the natural world does. It has the same processes: erosion, sedimentation, flow... I saw in that microcosm of a landscape. I saw the same processes in watercolor settling in on a piece of paper as rivers and mountains. That was the first principle that struck me early on and I realized that ever since I was a child I was fascinated by those particular processes.
I realized that I had two basic things that I work with in my paintings: the first is organic flow which is the landscape. The second was an architectural grid or abstraction which is based on the human perception or response to the natural world. Those two ideas have always been my right hand and my left hand. They were polar opposites of one another. I used to do either abstracts or landscapes. At this point, they intersected in this collision. After that I had no idea what was going to happen then. The abstracts became more like landscapes and the landscape became more like architectural structures with a cellular structure that had spaces within spaces within spaces.
When I experienced that microcosm of the cosmos, everything else just fell away. (More)
Whether you are an artist or an art lover, curators are the people in your community that you need to know and the job involves a lot more than simply selecting
who gets to show in a space.
year's roundup was hugely popular and this 2008 roundup will take things
even farther. It is still by no means comprehensive as Portland has seen an
explosion in interesting alternative spaces. It goes without saying that there is a whole new crew in Portland
Participants for 2008 are: Bruce Guenther, Linda Tesner, Josh Smith, Nathan
Gibson, Patrick Rock, Namita Wiggers, Kristan Kennedy, TJ Norris, Paul Middendorf,
myself, Stephanie Snyder, and Damien Gilley... (more)
"I have no life," confesses MK Guth with a chuckle. "But that's off the record." What the overachieving Portland artist means, of course, is that outside of an accelerating art practice that has her touring a new project across the nation-state-hopping her way to the Whitney Biennial-and heading the new Masters in Visual Studies program at PNCA, she doesn't have a lot of time for hobbies. But Guth seems to be taking both her hectic schedule and success in stride. The Wisconsin transplant, who has lived and or shown in Portland for...(more)
Mary Henry- Metaphor, Acrylic on canvas 1995.
Image courtesy of PDX Contemporary Art Portland, Oregon
I wasn't sure what I was expecting as I drove up to Seattle with my wife on an early on a Saturday morning in June. I knew that I was traveling to meet with one of the great painters of the Northwest, Mary Henry. I was familiar with her paintings with their beautiful colors and meticulous craft. The paintings have such a remarkable clarity that they ring with a distinctive tone, not unlike hitting a bell at a Japanese temple. Perfect, complete and clear. More...
Elliott Erwitt is one of the most exceptional and prolific photographers in the field today. Born in 1928, he's been photographing steadily (and indulging in his hobby on the side) for over half a century. Erwitt's Leica has captured iconic figures from Che Guevara to Marilyn Monroe, as well as countless slices of daily life, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of dogs, and the ever-evolving social landscape of America, Europe and points beyond. A selection of images culled from his latest book, entitled Personal Best, is on view at the Portland Art Museum through April 29th. Mr. Erwitt recently spent a few days in Portland in order to deliver a lecture at PAM, and kindly shared a little of his time for the following interview.....................(more)
Curators are the people you need to know in the art world and Portland is full of them. To begin 2007 we thought we'd poll a few of them and learn a little more about how they see their roles. Now prepare yourselves, this is one long article. Also, as expected the term curator was incredibly loaded. Some reserve the term only for nonprofit work, others admitted to acting in a curatorial role without actually claiming to be curators. For some being a curator seemed to be like breathing. To be sure there are as many types of curators as there are curatorial roles. From old pro's to rookies, these 13 are only a sampling of the curatorial voices in town:
Terri Hopkins by Joe Macca (detail)
Terri Hopkins: Director & Curator of the Art Gym, Marylhurst University
How did you get into curating? It was a circuitous process of career
sampling and elimination. I prepared for a career teaching art history, which ............(much more)
Artist Marne Lucas and I took brief respites from our densely packed holiday schedules to sit down for an electronic bi-coastal conversation about her current exhibition, Sitting City: Portland Artist Portraits. The images of local artists created for Sitting City were partially funded by a RACC (Regional Arts and Culture Council) project grant, and represent a small cross-section of Lucas's ongoing project of capturing the appearance and essence of her artistic peers.....................(more)
Jackson's Viking Burial Ship at PS.1's Greater New York show (2005)
Isaac D. Peterson
Matt D. Jackson (P.I.C.A. artist in residence)
I was thinking about what we discussed earlier about the new structure of information, and I noticed in one of your sculptures you made this connection between Punk Rock and a Viking ship. This is one of those associations that couldn't normally exist in a linear structure but clearly Punk Rock culture may have some Viking undertones.
That piece was really a suicide piece.
It was a funeral pyre, right?
Well, it wasn't historically accurate, but I'm not even concerned with that, I'm concerned with maybe the Hollywood representation of Vikings. Basically I had come to the point where I realized I was fulfilling someone else's legacy of making art. I was operating within this formal strategy that was completely developed by my predecessors. You know from Modrian to Reinhardt to Philip Guston to Jonathan Lasker. Basically what they were making were super-narrative abstract structures. I realized that what I was doing was something that was not entirely a part of my generation, and that my ideas and creativity were constantly struggling against this. I wanted to put it all to rest, so I started making this funeral vessel for my own ideas and it took the form of this very heroic funeral practice. Of course the whole idea is pure Hollywood myth, there would be no artifacts of these ships if they had all been set on fire and pushed out to sea. I would say that that definitely didn't happen, but I wasn't as concerned with that. I was more concerned with heroic death and how it was represented in the media. I wanted to focus on death in relationship to all of this iconography. The sail refers exactly to a pattern from a specific Mondrian painting, and that leads in to the idea that these modern icons have narrative potential.
That seems pretty radical to think of Mondrian as having narrative potential.
But it is! We've gone there! It's on clothing, it's on swatches, it's on furniture!
Regardless of what Mondrian intended, the work has acquired a narrative.
Yes, and that's the world that we live in. I think of the Brancusi heads I'm making now, they are stacked up like cannonballs. The original sculpture was called the Sleeping Muse, and its eyes are closed, but in my version their eyes are wide open! The Sleeping Muse has been awoken from its slumber of the last 83 years. It's a statement about modernity to think of Brancusi used as a cannonball. We are at the tail-end of the industrial revolution, and that thing that was calm and banal is essentially being used to knock you out.
I wanted to ask you about your interest in Bosch and Breugel.... (more)
Well Within the Realm... A Casual Conversation with Hamza Walker
The back-story for this interview is that I met Hamza in Cincinnati as a graduate student. He was a guest lecturer in our visiting artists program and sat in on critiques for a couple of days. I bumped into him again at the Affiar, I'm transcribing this conversation as faithfully as I can remember it...
Isaac: Hi Hamza, do you remember me from Cincinnati? I was on the visiting artists committee and we went out to dinner after your lecture. My name is Isaac.
Hamza: Oh yeah! What was that place called?
Hamza: That's right.
Isaac: Some of your critiques became the stuff of legend in Cincinnati.
Hamza: Oh really?
Isaac: Yeah, there was a color field painter you were critiquing and you told him to look at Frank Frazetta....