Duplex Gallery

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.


Looking for a reaction(ary)

Ryan Woodring at Duplex in Portland

I’ve had a hard time finding a good starting point to talk about Ryan Woodring’s show, Decimate Mesh at Duplex in Portland. Do I first explain the title of the exhibit so that readers will understand the special-effects software that allowed him to create the videos in the exhibition? If I chose that direction, it would seem to me that I’d be burying the lead, so to speak, because all of the art—the videos, the sculptures and the print on the wall—has been made in response to the destruction of artifacts by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in the Syria and Iraq.

The Middle East is a quagmire of domestic and foreign politics and policy; thick and deep with responsible parties. Regardless of efforts to find solutions, there seems to be little chance of change that suits international agendas, largely because each strategy dismisses or fails to comprehend a history of any length more than 100 years prior, let alone a millennium.

Even a timeline of the last 25 years seems to be forgotten. For instance, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, an impressive number of Kuwait’s ancient treasures found their way into the antiquities market via the Iraqi government. After Desert Storm, no-fly zones imposed on Iraq left archeological sites largely unmonitored in the north and south of the country. This not only made those sites vulnerable to looting, but since additional sanctions relegated a great number of Iraqis to abject poverty, it made these sites ripe for the picking. And remember the looting of the Iraqi museums just days after the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom? (We had been warned ahead of time that this would likely happen.) How about the aerial bombing of mosques by U.S. jets? These things should still be fresh in our collective memory.

Not to mention bloodshed. It, too, seems to be part and parcel to this ongoing, spreading conflict. Even if ISIL insists there is no financial gain in raiding sites holding antiquities, and the destruction they wage is solely on religious grounds, this past week ISIS murdered the Syrian antiquities scholar Khaled al-Asaad because he refused to tell them where more artifacts were hidden for safekeeping. Yes, despite statements made to the contrary, it may be safe to assume they are financing their campaign with more readily transportable relics; and, just to keep the international aspects of this conflicted region intact, there are similar doubts about the Iraq war not being about money or that a half million Iraqis did not die.

All forms of fundamentalism, religious or otherwise, confuse unidimensional thinking with universal truth, and with this comes convenient justifications for most any atrocity.



Holiday Gallery Guide

Celebrate The Magic Garden Strip Club at One Grand Gallery, and support local artists and galleries this holiday season...

These days we’re all defined by our tastes – whether it’s in music, fashion, or food – so don’t forget the visual arts when considering what to buying your friends and family this holiday season. Art is a gift that they can experience over and over again. Art makes the rooms in your home unique, and it’s the best way to support an artist and the local art scene.  With that in mind, let me direct you to the posters that will be for sale under $100 this month at One Grand Gallery.

Magic Garden Last CallIn case you haven’t heard, the Chinatown strip club Magic Garden is closing its doors at the end of December after more than 40 years in business. To celebrate this Portland staple, One Grand Gallery put out a call for poster art “inspired by vintage posters, historical images of the dancing nude, and through re-imagined images, typefaces and symbols of all kinds” for its exhibition Magic Garden: Last Call. With a long history of the nude form in art and painting, there’s plenty of source material to inspire the artists.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn a little history: Magic Gardens opened as a lesbian club back in the ’60s. And while some of you might think my inclusion of an exhibition dedicated to a strip club to not to be your tastes or politics, I’ll just say that the times that I’ve visited Portland’s strip clubs I’ve been impressed with the strength, athleticism, and artistry of movement the women on stage exhibited. These qualities are well worth celebrating in art. Magic Garden: Last Call runs December 530, with an opening reception 7-10 p.m. Friday, December 5.



Confiscated Junk Ship 25713 (The Sellard Ship)-FinalRetouch copyDuplex Gallery – I’m making a point to include this show because even though Eric Petitti is from Boston, the paintings in The No Place People are influenced by Portland’s Shanghai tunnels, and the history of shanghaiing, or as it’s known on the East Coast, pressing. This show is a historical exhibition of a fictionalized future. In presenting his work in this way, Petitti asks us how we construct our own “Historical Truths” through the (mis)representation of people and past events. Duplex also has an online store where works from previous exhibitions can be browsed through and bought.


Michael VahrenwaldHap Gallery –  Michael Vahrenwald photographs banks, built with sumptuous materials and in neoclassical styles, that now host fast food restaurants, retail stores, mom-and-pop shops, and churches. These photographs document the layering of style and functionality as the symbols of the permanence and optimism of the American economy give way to the changing wealth, class and power aesthetics in the United States. Hap Gallery usually commissions a unique series of works from each artist to be sold for less than $100, so you can please the architecture enthusiast without breaking the bank!




elizabeth malaskaNationale – Anyone critical of the patriarchal lineage of modern art has a lot of material to work with.  Which is why there are so many visible references to the “great artists” in Elizabeth Malaska’s paintings. At first glance we might see a vase filled with lily pads, a standing woman, and a chair in front of a tapestry. Closer looking reveals the gun in her hands, and the head a sculpture under the chair. These details and others create an unfulfilled narrative tense with premonition. Elizabeth Malaska: When We Dead Awaken is perfect for the feminists and art lovers in your life!


Buffalo FetishQuintana Galleries – Interested in Native American art and culture? Quintana Galleries has a wide range of works available including Zuni fetish items, Arctic sculpture, Northwest Coastal art, Southwest jewelry, Northwest Coast prints and jewelry, basketry, and Southwest pottery. In addition to supporting contemporary native artists and their creative traditions, don’t forget to sign the petition to get the Washington Redskins to change the name of their football team from a racial slur against fellow Americans.


MitsuOkubo_SpiderlandWorksound International – Spiderland is an installation of drawings by Mitsu Okubo that examines what happens when the body finds itself in conflict with its environment. An LA native with Japanese and Mexican parents, Okubo sought intimacy while growing up with his loud extended family. These contradictions, along with his interest in comics, horror, and porn, feed his work in such a way as to create beautifully grotesque imagery. Whether this will show up in this exhibition is just one reason to go see the show for yourself.


Finally, here are the links to two great maps of the many galleries and art institutions of Portland that have intriguing shows beyond the scope of this brief guide:

Portland Art Dealers Association Galleries and Alliance Members

Duplex Collective’s Gallery Guide

Don’t forget to mention the shows you’re looking forward to below in the comments!

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives