It was thirty years ago almost today that Jamison/Thomas Gallery opened in downtown Portland, entering a very small gallery scene and injecting it with something fresh: a broader sense of what defined art, beyond academe and boardroom collections. It grew out of the little Folkcraft Gallery, which William Jamison had set up as a sort of gallery and shop (I once picked up a couple of small rag rugs there, to add a shot of rustic color to my tiny apartment of the time) and where the younger Jeffrey Thomas went to work. When it morphed into Jamison/Thomas, the new gallery kid in town upended expectations and opened its doors to a lot of brash new talent, much of which fell into “outsider” territory, a natural fit for a gallery with roots in folk art.
Twenty years ago Jamison died from the effects of AIDS, one of the multitude swept away in the years of the plague, but he’s never been forgotten. Two prime city galleries – Froelick and PDX Contemporary – have direct links to Jamison/Thomas, and scores of artists’ careers have been aided by the gallery’s openness to fresh ideas.
On Wednesday, Thomas opens the show Jamison/Thomas Gallery: 1985, at his new gallery Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art in the emerging Slabtown gallery district of Northwest Portland. Among the ’80s artists represented will be a lot of familiar names: Gregory Grenon, Rick Bartow, Tom Cramer, Stan Peterson, Mark Bullwinkle. Deb Norby, Baba Wagué Diakité, Eric Stotik, and others. The exhibition, besides being a look back at what a significant slice of the city’s contemporary art scene looked like three decades ago, is also a fundraiser for the William Jamison Scholarship at Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Thomas calls the show “a time warp of sorts,” and “an unvarnished exhibition that will showcase ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’ of the 1980s mainstream art scene in Portland. No punches are pulled. Some artworks remain as fresh and relevant as the day they were made. Other art reminds us of a specific period in history, the Reagan years, when the world started moving towards design-based explorations of surface patterns and effects over deeper emotional content.”
Twyla Tharp on Paris and the right to assemble. The sterling choreographer Twyla Tharp, whose company performed in Portland a month ago in the White Bird dance series, has been writing a journal for the New York Times, and today she wrote about the terrorist attacks on Paris, and what such breakdowns mean to the everyday process of culture, for which the arts are an exploration and a metaphor. How, in the face of atrocity, does the show go on? Tharp writes: “Ultimately we go on with no mention of this obscene parallel reality abroad. But our pre-curtain announcement, ‘Turn off cellphones as a courtesy to fellow audience members,’ seems poignant to me as I think about courtesy, as I think about gatherings, and as I realize that performance cannot take place without the right to assemble. … my focus is jumbled. The world is on fire again.” Amid the flames, the world of the stage may seem irrelevant, and yet it is precisely for such things that individual rights, the cultural value of living and letting live, exist: to guarantee the small, and personal, and perhaps irrelevant. And from such seemingly inconsequential things rise the larger principles of civility and how humans choose to live with themselves and one another. For artists and all of us, Beckett might have framed the situation best: I can’t go on. I must go on.
A few things to consider this week:
- Dali Quartet at The Old Church, On Thursday, Friends of Chamber Music brings the Venezuelan quartet, all graduates of their country’s El Sistema music training program as well as of American conservatories, for a program of Latin American classics.
- Tomás Svoboda’s Clarinet Concerto: On Friday and Sunday, the Portland Columbia Symphony features the legendary Portland composer’s 2013 concerto, featuring its original soloist, Michael Anderson. Also on the program: Reznicek’s Eine Lustspiel Overture, Dvorak’s New World Symphony.
- Original Practice Shakespeare’s Twelfe Night. The OPS shtick of controlled anarchy in the supposed manner of the Elizabethans works best with the comedies, and this one (complete with Original Practice Spelling) is one of the best. It’s at McMenamins Mission Theater on Wednesday evening only. Kids are welcome with adults (and with a 6:30 p.m. curtain and 5:30 doors-open, it’s OK on a school night), and the show (but not the food or drink) is free.
- Dogfight at Staged!The Portland premiere of the 2012 Off-Broadway hit, a musical that sweeps its audience back to 1963 and the budding pressures that would soon explode in Vietnam, continues through November 29. The talented Paul Angelo directs the Staged! production, which is at CoHo Theatre.
Great films, great Northwest. The Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival has been an annual Portland attraction since way back in 1973, and this year’s edition, the 42nd, ends on Wednesday. ArtsWatch has been keeping its eye on the action. Lily Hudson interviews Thomas Phillipson, who’s run the show for the past 15 years, and departs after this one. The diversity of approaches by the region’s filmmakers continues to impress him: “(T)he work is so varied that any summing up seems feels forced and exclusive.” And Hudson and Erik McClanahan take a look at some of the festival’s highlights, including Ian Berry’s documentary Make Mine Country, about the continuing impact in the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia of the country music that American GIs stationed there in the 1940s brought with them. The film, Hudson writes, offers “plenty of space for the joys and sorrows of Golden Age country to echo through this most unexpected of locales.”
Adriana Baer talks about leaving Profile Theatre. Seemingly at the top of her, and her company’s, game, Profile’s energetic artistic director announced this fall she was leaving. She sits down with Marty Hughley for ArtsWatch to talk about why, and what the future might hold. Baer on the knotty process of running a company: “Every AD I’ve ever talked to spends more time, by a huge margin, administrating, fundraising, budgeting, producing – left-brained stuff – than artistically creating.”
Golden Retriever review: Fashion over form. Tristan Bliss gets all hot and bothered about the music ensemble’s show at the Old Church: “(U)pon arrival I quickly realized that I was in for a show that badly wanted to be cool. Wanted to be cool above anything else, including creating or listening to emotionally engaging music.”
Vanessa Van Obberghen: Emotional data. Mack McFarland decodes the Antwerp-based artist’s exhibition idealSTATE at Portland’s Worksound International: “Van Obberghen aims to share the malevolent side of data. its easily manipulative character, an unreliable, un-representable frenemy whose intentions are never clear and subject to outside influence.”
Orlando, from page to stage. Martha Ullman West takes in Sarah Ruhl’s play Orlando at Profile Theatre and traces its pedigree back to the audacious Virginia Woolf novel on which it’s based: “The book ends with: ‘And the twelfth stroke of midnight sounded; the twelfth stroke of midnight, Thursday, the eleventh of October, Nineteen hundred and Twenty Eight.’ That’s where Ruhl’s play ends, too. And if Woolf’s five-hundred-year family saga in three hundred pages is impressive, Ruhl’s distillation of it in less than two hours of stage time boggles the mind.”
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