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!

Rodrigo Valenzuela: Tenuous constructions

The art exhibition at Upfor doubles as a construction site linked to other Pearl construction sites

By Rebecca Mackay Rosen Carlisle

As Portland developers continue to fill the city with cranes and condo buildings, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s solo show Hedonic Reversal at Upfor uses video, photography, and a complex process of image construction to both deconstruct and build anew.

The experience in the gallery is like viewing documentation of previously unknown urban ruins. I can’t help but wonder how an anthropologist might decipher the scene—what once existed here? Valenzuela’s large-scale black and white photographs line the walls of the gallery, creating a sense of expansion as the spatial constructions within the work recede into rich blackness. The works confront viewers at a human scale, but these windows only deceptively invite, as on further inspection they reveal a cacophony of line and plane in improbable space.

Detail from Rodrigo Valenzuela 's "Hedonic Reversal"/Courtesy Upfor

Detail from Rodrigo Valenzuela’s “Hedonic Reversal”/Courtesy Upfor

Valenzuela’s photographs contain manufactured spaces, created through a process of visual and literal layering. He physically builds constructions in his studio, which he then photographs, reconfigures, and re-photographs on a backdrop of earlier photographs. The use of high contrast, sharp focus, and rich, velvety black make it hard to distinguish objects from photographs of objects layered within the work. There is spontaneity in the construction, and playfulness in the photographs of constructions in front of photographs of drawings on photographs of constructions.

The mind-boggling layering is somehow serene, like an abandoned construction site, until one tries to pick apart the convoluted puzzle. This layering simultaneously creates a flattening effect and a skewed sense of space, rife with visual confusion and impossibility. Drawn elements speak to architectural plans, but also call attention to surfaces, creating a tension between what appears dimensional and what flattens within the image.

Maria TV (5 min) from Rodrigo valenzuela on Vimeo.

The careful balance of construction and destruction found in the photographic images in Hedonic Reversal can also be found in Valenzuela’s accompanying video Maria TV, which investigates issues of race, class, and media portrayal. For this work, Valenzuela hired Spanish-speaking female immigrants to reenact monologues from Telemundo soap operas, and coupled them with personal histories. The destructive characterizations from television are exposed as fabrication, as the women share stories about constructing lives for themselves, as well as the constructs of family roles, notions of identity, and finding a sense of place.

Detail from Rodrigo Valenzuela's "Hedonic Reversal"/Upfor

Detail from Rodrigo Valenzuela’s “Hedonic Reversal”/Upfor

Valenzuela’s exhibit places the viewer in a tenuous sweet spot between curiosity and concern. One might look at Portland’s soaring rents and gentrification and feel the same thing. In Hedonic Reversal, beautifully crafted images of destruction, creation, and ruin, and interwoven video of fictionalization and identity, lead to the question: What is lost in construction?

Rodrigo Valenzuela’s Hedonic Reversal continues at Upfor gallery, 929 NW Flanders, through April 4, 2015. Closing reception 6-8 pm April 2.

The Ides of March Gallery Guide

Rosemarie Beck takes over Portland, a group show at Gallery 114 and more...

This month I am excited to share with you an exhibition of the multi-disciplinary work of Rosemarie Beck (1923-2003) hosted in venues across the city. Co-organized by the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, Portland Community College Rock Creek, and PSU College of the Arts, Lyric Truth: Paintings, Drawings, and Embroideries by Rosemarie Beck includes Beck’s joyous figure drawings, dense and colorful embroideries, and large, rigorously organized paintings inspired by themes from classical mythology and literature.

Rosemarie Beck, Two with Horses, 1964, oil on canvas, 24 x 30in., Collection of Nora Beck, Portland (photo by Loren Nelson)

Rosemarie Beck, Two with Horses, 1964, oil on canvas, 24 x 30in., Collection of Nora Beck, Portland (photo by Loren Nelson)

Beck, the daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, was a painter, needleworker, musician and journal writer with ties to the New York School. While many of her peers opted for abstract expressionism, Beck pursued an independent vision that moved craft traditions out of the domestic sphere and into the artistic. Lyric Truth’s exhibits and PSU symposium bring Rosemarie Beck’s work to the Pacific Northwest audiences for the first time in a widely accessible retrospective at three locations across the city:

Paintings are on display at Lincoln Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave., Portland: February 5 – May 3, 2015.

Embroideries are on display at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, 1953 NW Kearney St., Portland: January 14 – March 22, 2015.

Drawings are on display at the Helzer Art Gallery, Portland Community College Rock Creek, 17705 NW Springville Rd., Portland: February 9 – March 13, 20015

In addition, First Thursday, March 5 will feature an all day multidisciplinary symposium, which will explore themes in art, poetry, music and drama in conjunction with the exhibition. Programming includes a panel that will discuss genre and medium, while another will focus on her literary inspirations, and docent led tours of the PSU exhibit will also provide an informal way of engaging with her paintings.

Culminating the day will be a keynote address by Samantha Baskind, professor of art history at Cleveland State University, who will place Beck in the broader context of American art in the late 20th century. The lecture will be this year’s Sara Glasgow Cogan Endowed Lecture in Judaic Studies.

Additional support for Lyric Truth comes from PSU’s Department of History, Friends of History, School of Art and Design, and from Lewis & Clark College.


Reminder! Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art – “The Sum of Its Parts, Part 2,” opens Wednesday, March 25.


Toast of the Town, Trish Grantham, 2015.

Toast of the Town, Trish Grantham, 2015.

Augen – If you think you’d never see an artist with obvious anime influences in their work at Augen, think again. Trish Grantham: Mystics, Stripes, and Thieves is a show of the artists layered works inspired by animals, kawaii, and the ever-present Portland “put a bird on it” in varying degrees of realism. Also a muralist with an Etsy shop, Grantham is one of those artist-of-all-trades who makes their aesthetic widely accessible.






David Slader, "Anything Not," digital pigment print, 56 x 56 in.

David Slader, “Anything Not,” digital pigment print, 56 x 56 in.

Gallery 114 – A longstanding, artist run gallery recently celebrating their 20th anniversary, presents the figural oil paintings of Joanie Krug, abstract oil paintings of Nathan Rhoads, and all-digital works of David Slader in an exhibit titled, “Exposure,”  March 5 through 28. There will be a First Thursday opening reception for the artists March 5,from 6 to 9 pm.  Gallery hours are noon to 6 pm Thursday through Sunday and 3 to 9 pm First Thursday.





Hedonic Reversal No. 12 by Rodrigo Valenzuela, 2014.

Hedonic Reversal No. 12 by Rodrigo Valenzuela, 2014.

Upfor  – Rodrigo Valenzuela’s work addresses issues of income inequality, class and racism both directly and obliquely. The monochromatic photographs of Hedonic Reversal recreate urban decay and ruins in the artist’s studio. Divorced from the social conditions that typically underlie “beautiful ruins” photography, the images question how our aesthetic response is altered by the absence of poverty and suffering.






An example of Jeff's investigatory approach to life's layers.

An example of Jeff’s investigatory approach to life’s layers.

Duplex – Jeff Sheridan is fascinated by the interior cyclicality of the universe. Using watercolor and ink washes, and inspired by geologic science texts, he attempts to make sense of this huge spinning reality by depicting microcosms, or space stations, or living petri-dishes that peel away the layers to reveal what really makes everything work. Psychic Heaves will have a reception First Thursday, March 5 from 6 -9pm.


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!

June First Thursday/Friday Gallery Guide

Featuring Transportraits at Newspace Center for Photography, Augen's 35, Upfor, more

The following list is my totally biased guide to some June exhibitions I am looking forward to, and links and maps to additional First Thursday/First Friday participating galleries to make this a somewhat comprehensive resource. I’m featuring shows at Newspace Center for Photography, Augen Gallery, Duplex, Hap Gallery, Hellion, and Upfor Gallery, but please include what shows you’re looking forward to and why in the comments below!


Year-end indulgence

This arts writer’s version of a sculptor’s requisite bed piece

I have a number of reasons I don’t like to do year-end reviews or best-ofs; or rather, I have written them in the past, shouldn’t have, and would avoid doing so if I could kick the overriding need to reflect and make an accounting that comes with December.

The Art Center in Corvallis

The Arts Center in Corvallis

First of all, my art viewing, like my arts writing, is a some time thing, which makes me considerably less than an authority. I’m mostly a stay-at-home guy who hangs out in my low-residency (formerly referred to as my dungeon) basement working on other projects and occasionally scanning Facebook for updates from other artists, writers and friends in general. That said, I guess I do look at a lot of art because I follow links. (I suppose if I was a serious info junkie I’d hang out on Twitter instead, but social media = social contract and who has the time?) What I don’t do often, but should, is make the trip to larger cities within fifteen to seventy miles of my home to look. I know I’m missing a lot of worthy, non-virtual exhibits. For instance, there’s always Ditch Projects in Springfield, and Disjecta has considerably improved their programming over the years, as has Corvallis’ The Arts Center. I do regret not getting to these and many other venues more frequently.

Secondly, I want to find it prudent to avoid superlatives, which a summary “grading” of the previous year’s events surely implies. While this may make me a poor (reluctant) critic, admittedly, I have my favorite artists and have opinions about what galleries show consistently good work or are not afraid to push the envelope, but there’s this little voice in my head that asks “Who am I to make such pronouncements?” (See above paragraph.) It has the faint odor of boosterism, self or otherwise, which oddly enough becomes exclusionary. (As my mother says, “Don’t interrupt your work if it speaks for itself.”) To my mind this can quickly become the drugged teat from which malcontents suckle their spew. I’ve seen it happen. The hunger. The horror. The hunger.


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