PDX Contemporary

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.


Joe Rudko: The photographer’s eye

At PDX Contemporary, Joe Rudko pieces together an exhibition from 100-year-old photographs


The experience of seeing Album, a series of medium-scale photo assemblages by photographer Joe Rudko at PDX Contemporary, is a slow burn. Initially, it is difficult to be sure what you’re looking at and why it matters, but the work continues to unfold and astonish as you walk through the gallery.

In “Sky Through Trees,” which greets you on a near wall, Rudko pieces together torn black-and-white photographs featuring parts of trees in every conceivable state—leafy, bare, snow-covered—to create a puzzle-like composition. Solitary trunks, meandering limbs, and feathered deciduous branches fit together like a hundred memories recalled all at once, the darkness of the wood always offset against light clear skies. Rudko constructs a frame for the new composition out of the retained white borders of the photo pieces along its perimeter.

Joe Rudko, "Sky Through Trees", 2016, torn photographs on paper, 15" x 11"

Joe Rudko, “Sky Through Trees”, 2016, torn photographs on paper, 15″ x 11″

Rudko treats images of clouds, shadows, and water similarly in three other pieces—each assemblage offering a collective imagining of a single subject. The work takes on a remarkable dimension when you discover that every photo in the series came from a trove of thousands, taken between 1902-2005, that Rudko found in an abandoned shed in Washington. In each piece, the artist highlights an image or a theme that kept presenting itself as he was sorted through a century’s worth of snapshots. In this way, Album conveys what matters to us most.


DE May: Inside a studio, darkly

Sabina Poole's survey of Oregon artists' studios around the state continues with Salem's mysterious DE May

The assignment to photograph D.E May was met, at first, with little enthusiasm. Only because I looked at the address written on the Google Document: Salem, Oregon, it said.

It is not like I am a stranger to Salem. I’m not, I lived there for 10 years, and I’d always thought of it as tediously flat and uninspiring. But then, I had never met May, either.

May will entirely change your opinion of what he calls “Islandsalem” in a heartbeat.

Artist D.E. May, who, by choice, works in relative darkness in his studio. Usually a thick blind is pulled down over the window in the left of this photo. /Sabina Poole

Artist D.E. May, who, by choice, works in relative darkness in his studio. Usually a thick blind is pulled down over the window in the left of this photo. /Sabina Poole

I am an analog-appreciating girl. So when I received from May’s gallery representative, Jane Beebe (PDX Contemporary) the proper directives and etiquette to be in touch with the artist, I listened intently.

Writer’s Note: In the summer of 2014, I began my travels around Oregon to photograph the artists who had received studio visits from the curators and critics of the Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art 2011-2014, The Ford Family Foundation and the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts Curator and Critic Tours and Lectures program for the years since the program’s inauguration in 2011. I travel light, only one camera, no lighting equipment, one lens. My goal is to show these artists in their environment—authentic, uncontrived, at ease.

May reluctantly answers his phone. (“You have to call, let the answering machine pick up, and start talking…He will either pick up and take the call or leave it. In any case, leave a message, he might call you back. Or he might not.”) I would learn later that he got his first phone in 1999 at the age of 47—it was a landline. Add to that he doesn’t “do” email, and there seemed no real electronic way to communicate with this man. I was instructed that if I did dare call, no contact should be attempted prior to 1:00 pm (“You know, because he stays up really, really late. He does that night thing.”) He was sounding more and more interesting. And, all of this in Salem?!
After a few post-1 pm calls to the aforementioned answering machine during which I talked away to myself quite happily all the while imaging May in a room vacantly listening-in, there was an out-of-breath pick-up. Within a short amount of time we had arranged to meet and photograph May at his studio. Then he read me his actual address, a a downtown Salem location, and, he added, “It’s kind of hard to find, I’ll put up signs.” Undeterred, I packed up my camera and made the drive down I-5 on a brilliantly sunny, summer day. The broad and bright light of day would make a perfect, natural light source, and I was confident. This was going to be good.

I arrived, realized I was precariously near a Salem theatrical landmark, parked my car at the city curb, and looked for the door. The location was in a downtown cluster of mixed-use buildings, in a rather non-descript area I had never really noticed before. The number I was instructed to look for was stickered on a glass door heading up a flight of stairs. And there, true to his word, stuck to the door with looped over masking tape, a 3 x 5 cardstock handwritten sign: “Sabina—Upstairs.” I pulled the sign off the door, and ventured up the narrow stairway; another sign waited for me on another door, “Sabina: This Way” it instructed with a small arrow. Then another that finally said: “Sabina—Knock.” I knocked, and the door was instantly opened by a gentleman in a porkpie hat. Quite dapper, I thought. “DE May, I presume?”

And, there I was inside the two small rooms that comprise May’s studio. I won’t try to describe the detail and organization of the space—it was intricate, to the point of beautifully obsessive: fantastically catalogued materials, brilliantly coordinated, tabulated, classified, boxed, stacked and shelved. Pieces and parts of a mind and thoughts represented in snippets and piles of maps, papers, stamps, blocks of wood, of the most eccentric quality and quantity; a place of imaginative cleverness and ingenuity. I was stunned, then, oddly comfortable in a very ‘spirit of efficiency’ kind of way.

Work laid out for more attention by the artist, D.E. May and his studio space./Sabina Poole

Work laid out for more attention by the artist, D.E. May and his studio space./Sabina Poole

This studio defied narrative. Instead it filled one’s head with intentions of being elsewhere—travel and adventure and possibility—was it the maps, entirely covering one wall? Or the books of collected stamps? The small pieces of paper, letters and notes to be or never to be written? The prospect of what might go on those pieces of paper: ideas to be recorded; notes to be printed? Parts and parcels to be conveyed? Or maybe pieces joined, stacked, assembled, categorized together in some way as yet unimaginable?

In May’s studio, there were punctuated light sources, mostly table lamps on desks, but, curiously, all the windows were boarded up, covered with brown perforated fiberboard, thick shades pulled over the fenestration. Light struggled to find ways in from the glorious summer day outside, barely making the room any lighter than a solitary desk-lamp-lit room late at night. Obviously, this was light May was accustomed to and preferred—the shelter of eclipse. That’s when May began to tell me about how he loathes daylight. He described how he and his friends sleep the day and function during nighttime—a nocturnal existence. He blocks out the light, if he has to be up during the daylight hours, to find it tolerable.

Finding pieces to work with, D.E. May keeps his materials intricately organized and boxed./Sabina Poole

Finding pieces to work with, D.E. May keeps his materials intricately organized and boxed./Sabina Poole

What else did I learn? May hasn’t had a car since 1977, but if he drove one now he’d prefer one from the Citroen DS series from the 1950s. He visits a local dive bar almost every night and visits the city library almost as often, but he admits, he is not a reader of books. He mentions a current search to obtain a 1965 Val Surf skateboard, and a casual yet ongoing attempt to pen a screenplay for the past 30 years. It’s a murder mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes and Marcel Duchamp together in New York City.

May collaborated with the shoot, sitting here and then there, showing me his work-in-progress, placing himself at his work spaces, letting me shoot from angles and distances throughout the studio, talking about his work and the darkness in the room. I encouraged him to turn off whatever lights he did not normally have on and pull shades all the way down on windows as he would have if I were not there. At that point, we were left in a dimness; the lights cast very concentrated spheres of illumination. May’s porkpie hat threw a silhouette of distinction.

When I got home, I jotted down some notes to remember May by and my visit to his Islandsalem studio. I wrote:

“HATES daylight, only likes to be up and about in the dark—hence his darkened windows, and all the shadows. He wants to be in shadow…. darkness is key to his work, and ethos. Interesting relationship with goldfish.”

And, no, I will not be saying anything about the goldfish.

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DE May’s exhibition of new work, No Specific Region, opens November 5 at PDX CONTEMPORARY gallery, 925 NW Flanders. I’ll see you there.

DE May, untitled (674 front view), 2015 graphite, colored pencil and ink on found postcard 3 1/2" x 5 3/8"/Courtesy PDX Contemporary

DE May, untitled (674 front view), 2015
graphite, colored pencil and ink on found postcard
3 1/2″ x 5 3/8″/Courtesy PDX Contemporary

Next week: artist Julia Oldham.

The Ford Family Foundation with the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts are pleased to announce the upcoming October 2015 release of the book, Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art, 2011-2014. Connective Conversations is The Ford Family Foundation’s Curator and Critic Tours and Lecture Series program, conducted in partnership with the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts. The full-color book will be available at the 2015 Oregon Arts Summit’s Visual Arts Ecology workshop, supported by the Foundation; and, subsequently, available for purchase [locations TBA]. The book is a collaborative work representing the series launched in 2011, which brought national curators and critics to visit Oregon artists in their studios across the state, to present lectures and to participate in community dialogue. The book contains images of the 70 Oregon artists and their studio spaces visited between 2011-2014.

Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art, 2011-2014 | The Ford Family Foundation and the University of Oregon Curator and Critic Tours: Edited by Kate Wagle | Design and Layout by Pace Taylor | Photography by Sabina Poole | Advised by Carol Dalu and Kandis Brewer Nunn.

Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art is part of The Foundation’s seven-pronged Visual Arts program launched in 2010 to honor the interests in the visual arts by the late Mrs. Hallie Ford, a co-founder of The Foundation. Principal goals of the overall program are to help enhance the quality of artistic endeavor and body of work by Oregon’s most promising visual artists and to improve Oregon’s visual arts ecology by making strategic investments in Oregon visual arts institutions. Some program components The Foundation directs; others, it elects to work with regionally-based institutions such as it has done in partnering with the University of Oregon with the first four years of the Curator and Critic Tours and Lecture series. Such collaborations are invaluable in maximizing the delivery and impact of the program components for which The Foundation is most grateful.

May is MFA season Gallery Guide

MFA exhibitions around town, Kyle Simon at the Museum of Modern Art and more...

May is MFA exhibition season here in Portland, and the University of Oregon and the Oregon College of Art and Craft are out in full force. Between the two institutions they fill four galleries: White Box, Disjecta, Upfor, and PDX Contemporary.

MFA exhibitions are difficult to curate and difficult to write about because while we want to find something in common between these artists who have been living and working together for years now, there very often isn’t beyond that fact and that they’re all in the same room together. And that’s a good thing because if they were all similar it would have meant their creative vision was subsumed by the group experience, when what they attended the program for is the opportunity to refine their individuality.

I recommend you go to these exhibitions to see what kind of art is coming out of these programs and if you like it. Take the curatorial essays with a grain of salt but do read them. Like an iceberg, a great deal of the artistic process is beyond our view, and these exhibitions reveal a great deal that we might not otherwise see. It’s the coming months and years that will make or break these artists’ careers and the fun is watching their trajectories.


White box second yearWhite Box – The eight master of fine art graduate students in their second year of candidacy share “an interest in the constructed environment” according to Megan Pounds who wrote the catalog essay, “which naturally manifests itself differently in every practice.” Either the viewer enters an unfolding narrative, or they finds themselves immersed in an environment constructed by the artist. I believe this means there will be some interesting installation work in this exhibition. The artists are Anya Dikareva, Summer Gray, Krista Heinitz, Steven Joshlin, Daniel P. Lopez, Sarah Mikenis, Stephen Nachtigall, and Rachel Widomski. First Thursday Opening Reception, May 7 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm.


Disjecta MFA

Disjecta – The culminating work of ten candidates for the master of fine arts program at the University of Oregon are exhibited without “strict physical boundaries demarcating the end of one artist’s work and the beginning of another’s in this exhibition.” Translation: don’t expect wall labels, but look forward to a map of the exhibition instead. Christie Hajela also discuss the “Derridean conception of différance” in her catalog essay for the show. The artists are Farhad Bahram, Fei Chen, Matt Christy, Alex Krajkowski, Anne Magratten, Andrew Oslovar, Brandon Siscoe, Megan St. Clair, John Tolles, and Jessie Rose Vala. Opening reception Friday, May 8 from 6:00 – 9:00 pm.


Through The Wind Shield by Morgan Buck, 2015; muslin, acrylic, organza, wire mesh, and pins; 85 x 70 x 48 inches. Courtesy the artist and OCAC. Photo by Jason Horvath.

Through The Wind Shield by Morgan Buck, 2015; muslin, acrylic, organza, wire mesh, and pins; 85 x 70 x 48 inches. Courtesy the artist and OCAC. Photo by Jason Horvath.

Upfor and PDX ContemporaryWITH/AND, the Oregon College of Art and Craft’s inaugural Thesis Exhibition of the MFA in Craft. “With” implies merging (coffee with cream) while “And” conveys a quality of autonomous association (salt and pepper). WITH/AND explores the intersectional nature of Art and Craft, revealing a space where ill-defined boundaries touch or blur. Featuring work by Amanda Beekhuizen, Brittany Britton, Morgan Buck, Daniel Harris, Megan Harris, Jason Horvath, Colin Kippen, Nicole McCormick and Amy Turnbull. Opening reception on Friday, May 15 from 6:00 to 8:00pm. Through May 27.


Kyle Simon at MoMAMuseum of Modern Art – While participating in a residency in the south of France, Kyle Simon became intrigued by the network of archaeological cave-sites in the surrounding areas. The image of cave exploration took root in his psyche, and developed into an exhibition, The Catacombs. Inspired by archaeoacoustics, the study of sound as a methodological approach in archaeology, Simon explores the translation of vibrations into sound, and acoustic content contained in ancient artifacts. The centerpiece of the show is a machine built by the artist to record sound waves onto ceramic objects. Opening reception Friday May 8 at 8pm. Through June 20.


An installation of Willem Oorebeek’s Blackouts, as documented in the newspaper, De Witte Raaf.

An installation of Willem Oorebeek’s Blackouts, as documented in the newspaper, De Witte Raaf.

Yale Union – Closing out the month is the first solo exhibition in the United States of work by Willem Oorebeek. The artist reflects on the representation of the human figure in The Vertical Club by cutting out certain personalities from print media, re-printing them lithographically at warped scale, and pasting directly onto gallery walls. Meanwhile in BLACKOUT, he overprints existing publicity images, covers, and pages from magazines and newspapers, with a coat of black lithographic ink. This ink makes the image only visible when the light on the black surface is seen from a particular angle. The suppression of an image’s function or look contributes to making these ubiquitous images more visible, so that we look with greater attention. Opening reception Saturday, May 30. Through July 19.


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!

Worksound goes International in time for this month’s gallery walks

Introducing Worksound International alongside Storm Tharp, Ann Hamilton and more...

I know. We are still recovering from the whirlwind of experimental, new media, and performance art the Time-based Art Festival brought to town earlier this month, and a new round of gallery opening sounds…tiring. But many of the  October shows really aren’t to be missed. And this month features the launch of a new gallery dedicated to showcasing and connecting international artists with the local Portland scene.

Established by Modou Dieng, Jason Doizé, and Jesse Siegel, Worksound International launches its inaugural exhibition with Furniture Porn, paintings by Mark Takiguchi, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Pacific Northwest College of Arts (PNCA). Modou Dieng is an associate professor of painting and drawing at PNCA, the founder of the previous incarnation of Worksound, and a locus of Portland’s art scene.  Maybe you remember the mural that was his contribution to Disjecta’s Portland Biennial? His co-conspirators are Jason Doize, curator of FalseFront studio in Northeast Portland, and Jesse Siegel, a San Francisco artist recently transplanted to Portland.

Takiguchi_SpreadTogether they’ve restructured the Worksound space in Southeast Portland to create a platform from which local artists can access global perspectives. Mark Takiguchi’s work explores how commercial forces direct and define desire in our globalized economy. Furniture Porn uses abstraction to examine the dissonance between the presentation of interior design and the supposed happiness brought on by living in a well ordered home.

Worksound International will have the opening reception for Furniture Porn and launch its first season of exhibition programming on Friday, October 3 from 6 to 9 pm at 820 Alder St. Portland, OR. Furniture Porn: Paintings by Mark Takiguichi will be on display from October 3 through November 23. Hours: Friday and Saturday from 2 to 6pm, and Sunday from 1 to 4pm.


Victorian Antler Dance, 2014, Gouache, acrylic, pastel and colored pencil on paper

Victorian Antler Dance, 2014, Gouache, acrylic, pastel and colored pencil on paper

Charles A Hartman Fine Art – The newest body of work by Anna Fidler, A Dream within a Dream, features supernatural landscapes host to silhouetted figures performing ambiguous rituals. Inspired by the horror-mystery film Picnic at Hanging Rock, local scenery, and Gothic poetry, these works explore transformation through a topographic style of working on paper. Fidler’s paintings celebrate the euphoric, rebellious, and mythical power of ritual and landscape.



Foreigner, 2013, acrylic on panel.

Foreigner, 2013, acrylic on panel.






Upfor Gallery  – While I’m all for art off the beaten track now and then, the placement of Ralph Pugay’s contribution to Disjecta’s Portland2014: A Biennial of Contemporary Art at the corner of Southeast  Grand and Morrison made it difficult to appreciate the disquieting humor Pugay is known for: Viewers risked injury at the busy intersection. Which is why I’m all the more excited his first solo exhibition at Upfor, Critter, will include new acrylics of absurd narratives in which the mundane and the fantastical converge.


Needle in the Timestack, 2014 paperback book slices, wood, bookbinder's adhesive

Needle in the Timestack, 2014
paperback book slices, wood, bookbinder’s adhesive

Elizabeth Leach Gallery – In what we can only hope will become an annual event, Ann Hamilton is once again being exhibited in Portland. The show includes works originally commissioned to be a part of a 2009 installation for the Guggenheim Museum in NY. Book Weights is in conjunction with the Henry Art Gallery’s exhibition, Ann Hamilton: the common SENSE which will be on view at the Seattle gallery October 11, 2014 – April 26, 2015.


Eugène, 2014, oil on panel

Eugène, 2014, oil on panel





PDX Contemporary Art – Tiger is an exhibition of Storm Tharp’s painting with an emphasis on portraiture. Despite including an investigation of the history of painting and the historical debate over various theories of painting, Tharp’s work is accessible in that it is both figural and abstract and references such well-known artists as Eugene Delacroix, Lucian Freud, and Picasso. Central to his work is “the development of character and the human endeavor.”


HAP Gallery Special Edition: Pavo et Mus musculus, 2014 C-print, series of 30.

HAP Gallery Special Edition: Pavo et Mus musculus, 2014, C-print, series of 30.





Hap Gallery – Creatio is an installation designed specifically for Hap by artist Wendy Given, who recently designed a piece for the Portland Building Installation Space. Given’s practice is guided by her interest in natural philosophy, history, folklore, myth and magic. Through photography, drawing, sculpture, and installation, Given investigates multicultural creation mythology through current interpretations of archetypal symbolism to reflect on modern culture’s mode of assimilating and processing myth.


Finally, here are the links to two great maps of the many galleries and art institutions of Portland that have great shows beyond the scope of this humble 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!

July First Thursday/Friday Gallery Guide

Featuring 'Continuous Glissando' at Hap, PDX Contemporary, Nationale and more

While I know many of you will be busy with BBQ’s, camping, hiking and the other myriad ways we enjoy the outdoors here in Portland, I don’t want you to miss out on the great art we have coming to Portland this month so here’s the July installment of my totally biased gallery guide. Keep in mind that with the 4th of July falling on Friday this year, east side galleries have opted to push their receptions back to the 11th and 18th.


Oregon ArtsWatch Archives