Hoffman 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.


Penelope Umbrico's "5,332,272 Suns from Flickr (partial) 4/22/09"/Courtesy San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

By Graham Bell

A peculiar thing happens when you cannot see into a photo; when there is no illusion, no visual depth, no window into a captured moment. Representative photographs are windows into a world (whether real or imagined), and the general practice when viewing them is to look through the medium to get at the subject. Rare is the audience member who notices the glossy finish before the picture it contains.

For painters, it is easier to give in to total abstraction. They start with materials that must be built up in order to make something recognizable. For photographers, the film and camera are specifically designed to capture the world through photons, delivering varying levels of reality.

A traveling exhibition mounted by the Aperture Foundation, “The Edge of Vision: Abstraction in Contemporary Photography,” now showing at the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College, brings together a cadre of international artists interested in the ways that the photograph and photographic process can be used in art making. Curator Lyle Rexer has taken the idea that abstraction has always been an inherent part of the medium and taken it to extremes.

Accompanied by a catalog of the same name, “The Edge of Vision” presents a stark contrast to the figural, landscape and otherwise representational works of other photographers who rely on the more documentary aspects of the camera. Instead, these artists set their focus on a more formal depiction of the very limits of what the medium has to offer.


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