Matt Stangel


Portland2016: Disjecta goes gigantic

Contemporary art center Disjecta continues its biennial tradition with Portland2016, the most geographically extensive exhibit in Oregon art history

Last Saturday marked the start to Disjecta’s fourth biennial survey of local art, Portland2016, and for the first time in the contemporary art center’s history as a biennial maker, galleries and alternative spaces outside of Portland have been enlisted to host satellite shows. In total, 25 galleries are participating in Portland2016—fifteen located outside Portland—and the exhibit is being billed as the biggest art show to ever occur in the state. The aim is to expose more people to local art, exchange talent between cities, and “activate” new communities.

This time around, interdisciplinary artist, educator, and writer Michelle Grabner took the helm as curator. She comes credentialed with an extensive background in the arts, currently teaching drawing and painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and recently serving as co-curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial, one of the art world’s most prestigious surveys of contemporary American art.


Anya Kivarkis and Mike Bray, installation, University of Oregon White Box, Portland2016/ Photo by Matt Stangel

Anya Kivarkis and Mike Bray, installation, University of Oregon White Box, Portland2016/ Photo by Matt Stangel

Filling 25 galleries with content is no small task, but Grabner rose to the challenge, selecting 34 artists and artist teams from the initial 400+ who applied—dedicating certain sites to single makers and other locations to smartly cherry-picked groups.

Other ArtsWatchers will be chipping in reports on those out-of-town shows. I’ll be talking about the local shows, a few locations at a time. Last Saturday, I hit up the opening reception at Disjecta—and over the following week, University of Oregon’s White Box in Old Town and the c3:initiative in St. Johns.


Nice Work! #5 Doug McCune’s “Under the Surface”

"Nice Work!" features projects, individual works, and artistic endeavours we think you might like.

Artist: Doug McCune

Title: “Under the Surface”

Medium: Lasercut wood

Gallery: Diode

Show: Deviant Cartography, inaugural solo exhibition, April 2015 by appointment

The Artist On The Work:

“San Francisco is presented as a wooden box, seemingly sleek and clean. You’re invited to open the box to see what’s under the surface, revealing a map of sex offender hotspots. This map reminds us of the often invisible aspects of our cities we either can’t see or choose to ignore.”


The Critic’s Experience:

Software engineer by trade, data artist by practice, Doug McCune works with the raw layers of information that exist behind what is commonly seen.

In his data visualization show, Deviant Cartography, McCune focuses predominantly on Portland and San Francisco crime statistics, rendering three-dimensional maps out of data sets spanning drunk driving through prostitution. While many of the pieces in the show invite a debate about the significance of crime maps—do hot spots indicate high concentrations of criminal activity or areas of elevated enforcement?—“Under the Surface” was the piece that I found most unsettling.


“Under the Surface” greets the viewer as a stately, high-gloss wooden box in the shape of San Francisco. It looks like something you’d find on a coffee table between two high-backed chairs in the private library of a third-generation coal magnate. Maybe there are some Cohibas in there? No, no cigars. Pull off the lid, and the locations of San Francisco’s sex offenders are described in reverse-topographical lasercut layers of wood.


The data-sharp wooden box and the destructive sexual crimes it illustrates combine for a nauseating contrast—tidy renderings of chaotic realities—drawing me in with form and appearance and pushing me away once that visual appeal segues into the significance of the map.

Submit to “Nice Work!” right here. Please introduce yourself, provide a link to your art, and mention any current projects you think we’ll dig.

“CTRL ALT PDX” Navigates Normalcy

Digital storytelling firm WILD made a site-specific video game about Portland!

CTRL ALT PDX comes into view at the corner of SE 25th Ave. like a little piece of Vegas: 750 square-feet of window space converted to a glowing interactive gaming environment.

On the westward wall of 2502 SE Division, a four-projector array within the building fills the windows with white rain atop a nightfall of black. On the north-facing wall, passersby are invited to dial a number and start playing.


After calling in and using my phone’s keypad to enter a unique four-digit code, an operator instructs me to design a character—hair, shirt, pants, name—and begin my journey through an alternate Portland in which the evil Mr. Bossman has taken over the city and imposed normalcy on the masses.

“Ugh, what time is it? I must’ve fallen asleep,” says a female voice, setting up my mission. “My head is killing me, I can hardly see a thing in this rain. I just need to get home. Will you stay on the line with me while I figure this out?”

Before I can object or oblige, our unnamed protagonist is interrupted by a Micromanager—a character in Mr. Bossman’s fold who attempts to give our rain-blind homerunner a “mindless occupation, just like the rest of us.”

To avoid assimilation into “tame Portland,” I press 1 on my keypad to write the Micromanager a sonnet, disintegrating the foe’s squeaky little soul to darkness, and our lead lady slips away into the safety of the rain.


Nice Work! #4 Erika Ceruzzi’s “Gray Area”

"Nice Work!" features projects, individual works, and artistic endeavours we think you might like.

Artist: Erika Ceruzzi

Title: “Gray Area”

Medium: Cotton sweatshirt, appliqué, embroidery, frame

Gallery: Muscle Beach

Show: Gate E, group show, Feb. 20 – Mar. 25, 2015

The Artist On The Work:

“[My] intentions are first of all to see ‘Gray Area’ as a blank ‘standard’ sweatshirt found at any Models or Sports Authority. It’s a basic ‘blank’ serving as template/surface for my embroidered drawings. A ubiquitous item that is only unique by a logo or tag, probably somewhere on the chest or stitched onto the lower part of the garment.

Gate E

‘Gray Area’ is referring to the heather gray– which kind of escapes a standardization in color because there are so many shades out there.

I’m adapting a process and language of customized apparel. I’m mis-using the machinery in this industry to create spontaneous drawings and constellations of marks. The ‘ribbon’ appliqué is a hand wrap for boxing or weight lifting—I’m drawn to the ribbon form—and wanted to find something at the same retail space where the sweatshirt came from. The ribbon form is calligraphic, rhythmic. It’s frozen into a gesture, like the embroidery marks.”

The Critic’s Experience:

For me, Erika Ceruzzi’s “Gray Area” is all about the emotional potential of competing forces. She starts with a plain, store-bought, gray sweatshirt—a tame, standard garment– that she makes wild when traditions of sculpture, time-based action, and fashion combine into frantic and meditative designs. Like a guitar solo played on a sewing machine, urgent zigzags of appliqué travel from arm to chest, where embroideries are more cautious and shapely, rendered with great technical care while retaining the quality of loose-wristed brush strokes or doodles made unintentionally more intricate over time.

Gate E

When my gaze reaches the embroidered “24” below the neckline, it involuntarily refocuses to the left breast, where the number occurs again, though stretched and warped in repetition. The accumulative visual effect happens like a CAPTCHA field—pings of rational information amidst noise and chaos– attempting to verify if, indeed, you are human. With more time, oppositional elements extend into the tactile attributes of her chosen materials—the comfortable mental image of an old sweatshirt is interrupted by the violent connotations of the boxing hand-wrap (that used as appliqué)—solidifying Ceruzzi’s interplay between the nonchalant and the aggressive.

Gate E

Submit to “Nice Work!” right here. Please introduce yourself, provide a link to your art, and mention any current projects you think we’ll dig.


Nice Work! #3 Mark Rogers’ “Lunar Harvest”

"Nice Work!" features projects, individual works, and artistic endeavours we think you might like.

Artist: Mark Rogers

Title: “Lunar Harvest”

Medium: Oil paint, wood panel

Gallery: Pony Club

Show: Power From Beyond, solo exhibition, March 2015

The Artist On the Work: “Lunar Harvest is a painting showing an alternate history tale in which pilgrims interact with extraterrestrials. It is an open-ended story. I think part of the fun in my art is hearing about the viewer’s interpretation of my paintings. I like all the ideas that float around in my mind when I think about Aliens from another country interacting with Aliens from another world. Lunar Harvest was inspired by a) my love of all things occult, and b) a visit to the Oregon Historical Society. The painting is part of my “Power From Beyond” exhibition which is currently on display at the Pony Club Gallery, 625 NW Everett St #105 Portland, OR, until the end of the month.”


The Critic’s Experience: Snore yourself awake and it’s the mid-episode recap of a History Channel alien show. Sound bites of subordinate premises puff up into a balloon pony of conjecture; hypothetical scenarios stack as evidence for extraterrestrials who, as you’re persuaded to believe, aided in the construction of the pyramids here on Earth. The alien-built polyliths could stand in for just about any fantasy you’d like to present as emotional truth. The host’s hair stands up as if an intern follows his every move with a box fan. As if he’s permanently astounded by “science.” He speaks from a place that’s just familiar enough with the rhetoric of epistemological responsibility and historical record to defy the intent and core significance of both. He apes academic mannerisms for the sake of cosmetics and persuasion. It’s New Years Day and you snooze in and out of the program. Is extraterrestrial life real? Have aliens been to Earth? Did they collect pink crystals in puritanical robes?

Submit to “Nice Work!” right here. Please introduce yourself, provide a link to your art, and mention any current projects you think we’ll dig.

Nice Work! #2 Howard Finster’s “Landscape with Jewls”

"Nice Work!" features projects, individual works, and artistic endeavours we think you might like.

Artist: Howard Finster

Title: “Landscape with Jewls”

Medium: Diorama; paint, wood, plexiglass, “jewls,” etc.

Gallery: Portland Museum of Modern Art

Show: Space Is My Future, solo exhibition, Jan. 31 – Mar. 14, 2015


IMG_4160The Artist On The Work:

“I don’t apologize for my mestakes on this work

for I got my education from my mestakes

A miss printed coin is worth much more than a perfect one

Men are more liable to notice your mestakes

More than your good work”


The Critic’s Experience:

Selecting a quote for sacred folk artist Reverend Howard Finster’s “Landscape with Jewls” wasn’t easy. He passed in 2001, so I can’t inquire about the piece as I would with a living artist. But that seems to be a moot point. The more of Finster I encounter, the more his paintings, sculptures, dioramas, and everything else appear to operate like quotes in and of themselves. His works are adorned with biblical scripture and personal musings, words signifying language and ideology as much as they do Finster the man—the sleepless preacher scrawling sermons and mantras on whatever flat surface presents itself.

Finster is responsible for Paradise Garden, a sprawling sacred art environment created on a multi-acre plot in Georgia, and was featured in the 1984 Venice Biennial, to which he famously commented, “Brother, I’ve been to Venus several times and I don’t need to go back.” A true Appalachian charmer.

Submit to “Nice Work!” right here. Please introduce yourself, provide a link to your art, and mention any current projects you think we’ll dig.

Introducing Surplus Space’s “Neighborhood Gallery Grants”—A Conversation with Gabe Flores

Surplus Space wants to seed five new artist-run galleries. But they need your help...

Alternative spaces. Everybody loves ’em, but we don’t often talk about how much of a pain in the ass labor of love it is to launch and maintain one. Not only do alt galleries require money that could be spent elsewhere, space that could be used for other purposes, and time time time, but they commonly exist in the gray areas between grant qualifications and traditional funding options. By and large, alt spaces fend for themselves.


Local artist, curator, and Surplus Space Director Gabe Flores knows this better than most.

“I used to sell plasma to make the bills at Place,” says Flores of his four years co-curating and co-directing the now-defunct, installation-focused gallery that was located on the top floor of Pioneer Place mall.

The same week that Place’s long-standing, rent-free lease was pulled for hosting a controversial performance about suicide alongside projects that reacted to consumer culture, Flores launched Surplus Space—a gallery located within the walls he calls home. Designed as a model for others to follow when starting residential exhibition spaces, Surplus transformed a dilapidated Northeast Portland hoarder’s nest into a multi-room stage for the arts, showing work from both established and up-and-coming artists in a near-constant stream since its 2014 launch.

Now, Surplus Space is starting Neighborhood Gallery Grants—which currently seeks $4700 in funding via Indiegogo—in an attempt to seed five gallerists-to-be with the money, labor, and know-how to transform their homes into exhibition spaces.

We sat down with Flores at Surplus Space to talk about what he’s learned as a curator in Portland, why he’s opted for the home-based gallery model, and how he plans to show others the load-bearing concepts of an artist-run space.

Below is a condensed version of that conversation conducted via email.


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