ArtsWatch Weekly: Nero’s fiddle, Louis Bunce

… and oddly, as a pitched political battle sweeps the nation, life goes on. How will the arts world respond to the extraordinary events of the day? How, if at all, will this most divisive and pugilistic of administrations respond to the world of art? Shoes could drop at any moment: the administration has already stated its intent to kill the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, and to end federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While Nero threatens to cut off the fiddles, here are a few highlights of what’s going on in and around town.


IT’S FIRST THURSDAY this week, when many galleries open their new monthly shows, so visual art is on our minds. The Portland Art Museum has opened Rodin: The Human Experience, a major show of 52 bronzes, and Constructing Identity, an important overview of historical and contemporary work by African American artists.

Louis Bunce, “Apple”, 1968. Oil on canvas. 41” x 48”//Courtesy Hallie Ford Museum of Art

And the invaluable Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem has opened Louis Bunce: Dialogue with Modernism, a retrospective on the late Oregon artist, who Paul Sutinen, in his ArtsWatch review of the show, identifies as a key figure in the city’s cultural life, the catalyst for making Portland a city of modern art. “It is an important show,” Sutinen declares. “It is a great show. It is accompanied by a monograph on Bunce by Roger Hull. It is important. It is great.” And then he explains why. See the sort of thing that the Savonarolas of the federal purse are eager to upend.

The Russo Lee Gallery is featuring more drawings and paintings by Bunce (1907-83) spanning several decades, plus new work by the meticulous, imaginative, and always fascinating Eric Stotik.

Eric Stotik, Untitled LR291 (Child with Branches), 2016, acrylic on wood panel, 7 x 6 inches. Russo Lee Gallery.

Blue Sky Gallery has an intriguing-looking double feature of photographers in February. Katrina Kepule creates mysterious visual fictions from her home in Latvia, and Magda Biernat, a Polish artist living in New York, focuses in this show on images from the Arctic to the Antarctic of the evidences of global warming.

The Cooley Gallery at Reed College has just opened Iconoclastic, a group show that focuses (speaking of Savonarola, as we were above) on “the purposeful destruction and censoring of images and representational objects, and aniconism, the refusal to produces images,” through history.

Camerawork Gallery features The Refugees’ Dreams, the German-born Portland artist Friderike Heuer’s photomontages of European landscapes from a time, as she says, when “nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise” and “art can remind us of democracy’s core values.” Nero notwithstanding.


Intisar Abioto, from “The Black,” 2017. © Intisar Abioto

White Box at the University of Oregon’s northwest Portland outpost opens The Black, a wide-ranging show by photographer Intisar Abioto of images from two years’ traveling over three continents to capture “the deep, broad, infinite, and incalculable presence of Black people around the world.”

Blackfish Gallery features Rita Alves’ contemporary adaptations of anamorphosis, a drawing technique with roots in the Renaissance, which has been used in the past for everything from Victorian children’s novelties to concealing pornographic images. Her distorted images reveal themselves when reflected in mirrors. Plus mixed media drawings by Robert A. Nelson.

Eutectic Gallery gets into the artistic/political fray with Nasty Women (maybe you ran across the term on the campaign trail), a group show including Christine Bourdette, Heidi Schwegler, Meryl Patakay, and others. Part of the proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.

“Lock Up Your Daughters,” Maggie Condit, from “Nasty Women.” Eutectic Gallery



A FEW THINGS ONSTAGE for your calendar this week:

Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue. Profile Theatre kicks off its season of plays by Quiara Alegría Hudes with this Pulitzer Prize finalist, the story of a 19-year-old Marine lance corporal who returns to the Iraq War with a leg injury and a lot of questions.

Forever Dusty. Leah Yorkston stars at Triangle in this musical about Dusty Springfield, the blue-eyed soul singer (Son of a Preacher Man) who epitomized Swingin’ London back when England swung like a pendulum did. Dusty was cool.

Kúkátónón gala. The excellent, long-running African children’s dance troupe is throwing its annual fundraising bash, and the beat should be lively. 6 p.m. Saturday, Madeleine Parish Hall.

Kúkátónón: let the good times roll. Naim Hason Photography

Super Bach Sunday. About the time the Patriots of Beantown and the Falcons of Atlanta are beating each other up in an annual ritual of mayhem called the Super Bowl, the Bach Cantata Choir will be singing a whole lot of, well, Bach at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church. 2 o’clock Sunday. Nothing deflated. Guaranteed.

Global Voices Lab. Boom Arts’ international plays in translation mini-fest runs Friday through Sunday at PSU’s Lincoln Hall Studio Theatre (and again Feb. 11 at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus). This weekend, plays from Austria, Indonesia, Turkey, and Peru. Next week: South Africa and Nigeria.

Will Hornyak’s Lessons from Scheherazade. The fine Oregon storyteller gives his twist to the tales of the Arabian nights in this fundraiser for Open Hearts Open Minds, which runs arts programs in Oregon prisons. 7 p.m. Sunday, First Unitarian Church.




ArtsWatch links


“We’re All Mad Here” … so let’s party. A.L. Adams ventures down the rabbit hole at Shaking the Tree and discovers actor Matthew Kerrigan and fabulist Lewis Carroll are a very good match.

Life and our own sensation disorientations. Jamuna Chiarini takes in the opening of choreographer Tahni Holt’s Sensation/Disorientation at White Bird and discovers an affinity with a bowl of Moroccan lentil soup.

Poetry and politics collide in Neruda. The great Chilean poet, politician, and hedonist makes a much better subject for a film than most movies about poets, Marc Mohan writes.

Portland Taiko: rebuilding community through music. Brett Campbell listens in on the Japanese drumming ensemble, which has been undergoing a powerful revival under director Wynn Kiyama.

Kid power: Fly Guy, 1980’s Teen Musical. A couple of original musicals add a dash of youth and a dollop of energy to the closing weekend of Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival.

River Lullaby and seasonal abstracts. Gary Ferrington previews the Riverside Chamber Symphony’s Friday concert Water Is Life in Eugene.

Broken tulips, tethered lives. Sara Fay Goldman’s solo show Tether at Fertile Ground illustrates the beauty and sorrow of ADD, Christa McIntyre writes.

Orchestra Becomes Radicalized: Instruments of resistance. Saxophonist Patrick McCully checks in on some jazz/classical/experimental musicians making music about oppression.

Carnivora: torture to watch. If Matthew B. Zrebski’s new play at Theatre Vertigo isn’t gratuitous or exploitative, “I don’t know what is,” A.L. Adams writes, and adds: “By all means, go in for this confrontation, but you may leave needing an exorcism. Or at least a drink.”




About ArtsWatch Weekly

We send a letter like this once a week to a select group of email subscribers, and also post it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.

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