Blackfish Gallery

VizArts Monthly: December edition, signs and whispers

The arts exhibitions in Portland are full of wonders and portents, never before seen in these parts.

We have reached the threshold of the December First Thursday/First Friday matrix of arts openings. You may enter, restoreth your sanity and perhaps purchase an item or two or three for special people on your holiday list. Or you can return to the soulless clicking of online shopping! For my money (what little there is of it), I’d prefer to give those special people arts experiences (tickets, memberships, actual art, music) or the means to make them themselves (paints, instruments, dance class) than participate in the random circulation of consumer goods I know are close to obsolescence even as I fork over the cash. And that’s just a small part of the problem with them—though I’m in danger of arguing myself out of the ho-ho-ho spirit if I dive into this particular rabbit hole.

Anyway, I’m better off bundling up and hitting the galleries. Below, a few of the gallery openings that caught my eye, then a list of shows at a few institutions that you might want to see before they come tumbling down, and finally some ArtsWatch stories in the visual arts realm that are worth some attention, at least in my book and I hope in yours.

Upfor Gallery: Michelle Grabner curated last year’s Oregon Biennial at Disjecta, and she’s also an artist, deeply involved in using domestic fabrics as source materials. Anne Crumpacker also uses traditional materials and traditions, in this case bamboo and the Japanese art and crafts tradition. Does freedom await us inside the “empty” areas of those patterns and designs?

Blackfish Gallery: Ellen Goldschmidt’s new paintings explore the past, via family photo albums. “These pictures ponder the inner life of a child sensitive to her perilous environment and the lingering echoes of emotional trauma experienced in the shadows. It’s not the whole story, but it is my attempt to create, in the language of paint, a partial memoir of my emotional life.”

Ellen Goldschmidt, “Essential Male”, acrylic on board in birch frame, 23.5 x 23.5″/Blackfish Gallery

Froelick Gallery: Speaking of memories and images of the past, Micah Hearn turns to his Southern roots in his first solo show at Froelick Gallery.

Micah Hearn, “Mantle and Sink”, acrylic, oil stick on canvas /Photo Mario Gallucci

Charles A. Hartman Fine Art: For the past year, Rachel Davis has been keeping a visual notebook, a “Book of Days,” to record her responses to the tumult around us—political and environmental. She writes, “…this new US political landscape and its ripple effect around the world required its own visual language. With how rapidly events have changed from day to day, it necessitated working on something small to respond to with immediacy. The equivalent of a painted tweet.”

Rachel Davis, “May 1”, Watercolor on paper,
5″ x 5″

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Somehow Wayne Coyne’s King’s Mouth has the perverse effect of showing us how capitalism ends—inside a big, shiny installation with a foam tongue to lounge on as a light show synchronized to Flaming Lips songs fills the cavity around you. Or maybe that’s just me. Coyne is the frontman for the rock band Flaming Lips, but he’s also followed other artistic pursuits. This installation, which also includes Coyne drawings completed on the road, continues at PNCA’s Center for Contemporary Art & Culture through January 6 in the 511 Gallery. PNCA’s public art spaces will be filled with lots of other cool stuff this month, too.

Wayne Coyne’s “King’s Mouth” is at PNCA, for your edification/Courtesy of PNCA

Is Cloud of Petals an invitation into a “safe” future, where roses are stripped of their thorns? Is it a warning? Or is it a strange environment that you make sense of in your own way? Maybe it depends on your mood. The second exhibition by Disjecta’s curator-in-Residence Julia Greenway is an installation by Sarah Meyohas, and we’ll let them explain:

“…the artist organized a crew of 16 men to pluck the petals off 10,000 roses. These performers selected and photographed each petal according to the artist’s stringent guidelines. The images were then uploaded to a cloud server, where they became “inputs for an artificial neural network”, an algorithm that builds, connects, and intertwines to create a system that is self-learning, rather than programmed.

Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer is lead into Disjecta’s darkened and cavernous gallery space. Headsets are suspended from the ceiling, displaying the virtual environments created from Meyohas’s network of petals. Also on view is Meyohas’s 30-minute highly saturated 16mm film, documenting and contextualizing the scope of the artist’s unique process at Bell Labs.”

The exhibition continues through January 13.

Cloud of Petals Teaser from Sarah Meyohas on Vimeo.

This is the last weekend to see Bill Will: Fun House at Lewis & Clark College’s Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art. Maybe think of it as a very large, 3-D, experiential political cartoon aimed directly at our times. “In the context of state terror and mystification, clinging to the primacy of the concept of truth can be a powerful and necessary form of resistance,” Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue in their analysis of the post-modern condition, Empire. Laurel Pavic reviewed Will’s show for ArtsWatch.

Bill Will, “Bloat”/Photo by Robert M. Reynolds

The show closes on December 10.

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is back in the state of Oregon—it last showed here in 2015, and I happened to rub a few words together about it, including these:

“So, a consideration of Ai Weiwei is going to be messy, a mixture of art, history, politics, and cold, hard cash. He’s responsible directly for some of the confusion—I’d even say it’s part of the point of what he does. But a lot of it is indirect, the world’s interpretation of Ai, how it deals with the freedom of artists (and other citizens) and entangles them in its self-defense mechanisms.”

The installation continues at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Oregon through June 24, 2018.

Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, Bronze with gold patina, Dimensions variable. Private Collection. Images courtesy of Ai Weiwei.

*****

 

Recent ArtsWatch stories with a visual arts bent that you might want to consider?

What is the artistic gaze? How is it shared? Artist friends Friderike Heuer and Henk Pander go eye to eye in the studio—he with his paintbrush, she with her camera—and produce a deep double portrait. Heuer tells the story in words and photos.

Hannah Krafcik reports on the extraordinary artists at Field of View, a program of Public Annex that places developmentally disabled artists in artist residencies in the Portland area. The story of how Public Annex came to be winds around the complex history of the State of Oregon’s treatment of this particular community.

Paul Sutinen continues his series of interviews with prominent Portland artists, this time talking with Lucinda Parker.

Sutinen: I think that Frank Stella said something to the effect that you learn more from your fellow students than from the instructor.

Parker: You learn a lot from what they do. There’s no question about it, that you learn a tremendous amount by watching people make stuff—and it’s the making of it, the stroke-by-stroke, the changing of it—that’s why you have to be in a studio. If you go by yourself to your own studio and think you’re going to learn art, the echoing chamber of your isolation make it hard for you.

What Mel Katz says is true: it takes 10 years to learn how to use a studio.

You have to learn how to get in a groove, to provide your own criticism of yourself, you have to learn how to appreciate what you’re doing, and you have to learn how to look over your shoulder and it out front at the same time.

That’s all we have time for today, I’m afraid. But the comments section is open for your suggestions for upcoming or ongoing arts events. Don’t be shy!

Art notes: new grads, old pros, big names, prison art

From Picasso to new college art grads, a quick guide to July's First Thursday and other gallery openings

First Thursday, the monthly walk of openings in the city’s art galleries, is this week, with a few holdovers and a few shows opening on slightly different dates. A few of the many new exhibits to watch for:

David Slader in the studio. His new exhibit opens Thursday at Gallery 114.

 

Erin Law, Lewis & Clark College, “Untitled 2,” 2017. Plywood, paint, plant, video loop. 84″ x 18″ x 36″. Blackfish Gallery.

Recent Graduates Exhibition 2017 at Blackfish. For the 22nd year, Blackfish presents its group showing of work by art school graduates from colleges and universities, private and public, throughout Oregon. With two each, selected by their respective schools’ art faculty at fifteen schools, that’s thirty artists. This is always a good opportunity to see the work of up-and-coming artists just entering the market. In the curious lingo of the art world, they’re known as “emerging artists,” a title that seems to be almost magically attached to young artists until at some point they mysteriously become “mid-career” artists and finally become … what? Veterans? Eminences grises? Old masters? Geezers? (Portland has, as you may know, a thriving Geezer Gallery.)

Miró and Picasso at Augen. Meanwhile, a couple of fully emerged artists – Pablo Picasso, a Spaniard who was active in France, and Barcelona-born Joan Miró, who worked in Paris and his native Spain – are showing prints and, in Picasso’s case, some ceramics, too. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re good artists to know. Paired nicely with a back room show of prints by the veteran Northwest artist Thomas Wood.

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… 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.

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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.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: let the good times reel

NW Film Center's "Reel Music," plays about D.B. Cooper and Ben Linder and a guy named Fly Guy, atlas art from post-Gutenberg days

“Tradition!” Tevye the milkman barked, and with that emphatic proclamation the song and dance reeled on. The traditions that last the best are the ones that constantly reshape themselves within the structures they’ve set up, and certainly the Northwest Film Center’s Reel Music Festival, which spools into its 34th annual edition on Friday, fits that category. The basic idea is the same as always: pull together a whole bunch of films about music and musicians (documentaries, primarily), but do new ones every year, and let the good times roll. Or reel.

Thelonious Monk with his band in 1959, from “The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith.” Credit 2016 The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, FilmBuff

This year’s edition, which runs through February 5, kicks off with a foulmouthed film about the Rolling Stones (Robert Frank’s 1972 Cocksucker Blues) that followed the band on tour after the Altamont debacle, and was so raunchy and revealing about the seedier side of rock that it was shelved, and is only rarely seen. Here’s your chance. You might want to pair it with the more genteel, if that’s the right word, The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé!, filmed on last year’s Latin American tour. I like the looks of 1957’s The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith, filmed by the Life Magazine photographer when he lived and worked in an illegal loft teeming with artists and musicians and house parties and jam sessions in Manhattan’s Flower District during a golden age of jazz; A Poem Is a Naked Person, a cinematic portrait of Leon Russell directed by Maureen Gosling and the great Les Blank that was unreleased for 40 years because Russell, a co-producer, didn’t like it; and Mose Allison: Ever Since I Stole the Blues, Paul Bernays’ portrait of the essence-of-hip pianist and singer who was yet another member of last year’s sizable artists’ march into the final sunset. You, no doubt, will find your own favorites. Check the schedule and put on your toe-tapping shoes. It’s a tradition.

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Art: new images for a new year

The first First Thursday of 2017, and other January visual arts events

Well, we pretty much got out of 2016 with the shirts on our backs, and suddenly here we are in a fresh new year.

January brings some intriguing visual art possibilities, including a major retrospective on Oregon master Louis Bunce (1907-1983) opening Jan. 21 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem. On the same day in Eugene, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art opens Sandow Birk: American Qur’an, a visual exploration of how the Muslim holy book intersects with American life. On Jan. 17 the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College opens youniverse: past, present, future, by veteran Portland artist Tad Savinar, focusing on works conceived in Florence, Italy, in 2014 and 2016 and on prints, paintings, and sculpture from 1994 through 2011.

And the Portland Art Museum has several things coming up this month to help fill the Andy Warhol void: Rodin: The Human Experience, a show of 52 bronzes opening Jan. 21; Constructing Identity, a major look at the work of contemporary and historical African American artists from Henry Ossawa Tanner to Faith Ringgold and beyond, opening Jan. 28; and the Portland Fine Print Fair 2017, which brings together offerings from 20 top dealers, and which the museum hosts Jan. 27-29.

MORE IMMEDIATELY, THURSDAY is the first First Thursday of the art-gallery year, and galleries across town will be opening new monthly shows. (Some have holdovers, or different opening dates.) Here are a few shows that have caught our eye. There’s lots more, so get out and explore on your own:

Carl Morris, “Voyage Unknown,” 1946, oil on canvas, 52 x 32.5 inches. At this point his art is moving away from figurism but not yet into the abstract expressionism for which he’s best known. Photo: Russo Lee Gallery

The iconic Oregon artist Carl Morris (1911-1993) has a show at Russo Lee Gallery, sharing space with Alex Hirsch. Morris moved from WPA-style murals (the Eugene post office) to his own form of earthbound abstract expressionism that kept vital touch with the mysteries of the Northwest landscape. Morris was at once regional and wise to the movements of the international art scene, and this exhibit covers roughly 50 years of development.

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It’s the final week of February, which means we’re entering last-chance territory for a lot of gallery shows, even with that bonus leap day tagged to the end. So like the White Rabbit trying to catch up on a few very important dates, last week I hit the streets. For starters, I walked into the artist-run Waterstone Gallery for the first time since it recently moved into the old Quintana Gallery space at 124 Northwest Ninth Avenue. The gallery is long and lean and crisp and clean and welcoming, with a side opening into the Annie Meyer Gallery next door: in its heyday, the late lamented Quintana occupied both spaces.

Shu-Ju Wang, "Annuvadah," gouache, color pencil, Print Gocco, cold wax on paper mounted on board, 8.5 x 6.5 inches.

Shu-Ju Wang, “Annuvadah,” gouache, color pencil, Print Gocco, cold wax on paper mounted on board, 8.5 x 6.5 inches.

Shu-Ju Wang was handling the gallery that day – the members take turns – and her own show, Imbue/Imbuere, was installed in the gallery’s front half, where it will remain through next Sunday, the 28th. In the back half was a selection of work by other gallery members, many of whom reside at that fertile intersection where craft and art meet. There were carved pieces by R. Keaney Rathbun and Stan Peterson that were appealingly reminiscent of folk art, for instance, and a big brawny mixed media piece by Ann Lindsay. The move’s been good, Wang said, maybe because Powell’s City of Books is that much closer, and because the gallery now has a couple of popular daytime eateries, Pearl Bakery and Fuller’s Coffee Shop, on either end of its block. At any rate, people are stopping in, and if the number of red dots on the wall labels is any indication, they’re doing some buying, too.

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Friderike Heuer’s spaces between

At Blackfish, the photomontage artist's series "Zwischenräume" considers a world under constant surveillance

In February, metal sculptor Steve Tilden and glass artist Jen Fuller’s collaboration Stories, a series of works rooted in Greek myths, fills the main sections of Portland’s Blackfish Gallery. It’s augmented by Free Fall, a large selection of photomontages by Friderike Heuer based on air disasters (think Daedalus and Icarus), each one incorporating an image from one of Tilden and Fuller’s pieces, as well. Blackfish’s intimate back room gallery is given over to another of Heuer’s photomontage series, The Spaces In Between, dealing with the ever-presence in the contemporary world of surveillance. For the past few months I’ve been looking at the images from Spaces, off and on, and thinking about them. In January I sat down with Heuer, and we talked about the series and the ideas woven through it.

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“I want to be alone,” actress Greta Garbo famously sighed in the 1932 movie Grand Hotel.

Fat chance, artist Friderike Heuer seems to reply in her series of montages Zwischenräume.

In Heuer’s world, which is also ours, everybody watches everybody, and there is no true alone.

The images in Zwischenräum – which translates from the German as Spaces, or, as Heuer more loosely has it, The Spaces In Between – are fraught with the realization that we are relentlessly, inescapably, seen. Created with analytical precision from her own photographs and remnants of mostly 20th century northern European paintings, they are teeming with portents of spying and entrapment: infrared cameras, piercing eyes, chain-link fences, metal locks, microphones. Sometimes the implements of surveillance are prominent: brute reminders of conformity through force. Sometimes they’re almost unnoticeable: the hidden persuaders of advertising; the quiet collators of computer and cell phone data mining. Always, they are there, even as the people in these fascinating and nervously crowded images seek to dodge them – to find “the spaces in between,” those private refuges from the probing eye.

"Rotkäppchen"

“Rotkäppchen”

Heuer’s 24” x 18” archival jet prints on German etching paper are seductively combined, and narrative but fractured – pieces of story with the plots cut out. Her images, overlaid and manipulated and streaked with lines of paint, are like collages, but not quite. “I do everything on the computer,” she says. “It makes it easier and harder at the same time. What’s harder is making it seem like a coherent piece. In collage, no one expects the jags and breaks not to be there. There’s a fluidity to these that you don’t ordinarily see in collages. People look at them and often don’t see that they’re montages. They’re like paintings.”

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