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On the forced closing of Place Gallery

Or: How can you be in two places at once when you're nowhere at all?

Four years ago, Pioneer Place Mall did a very groovy “Portland” thing by beginning to provide and subsidize some of the empty spaces on the third floor of its Atrium Building to people and organizations wishing to open art galleries. Last month, the owners of the mall, General Growth Properties (GGP) rescinded that agreement with, Place, the first gallery that took them up on their offer way back when. Seems there was bad blood.

Oregon ArtsWatch’s Barry Johnson wrote about the closing shortly after Place Director, Gabe Flores, made it public on the gallery’s website. Since then, other arts writers have weighed in on this abrupt end to the gallery’s lease agreement, including our own AL Adams writing for The Mercury, Richard Speer for Willamette Week, and Jeff Jahn on his site, portlandart.net. There was also a short segment on the local FOX affiliate, KPTV.

An appropriate sentiment/Gabe Flores

An appropriate sentiment/Gabe Flores

I won’t go into all of the details of the dispute between the building’s management and Flores (that’s what the links are for) ), but it seems to stem from the content of the art from the final show in the White Gallery portion of Place’s two spaces, and then Flores’ response to the objections by the powers-that-be. It’s worth a read. (link) Flores adds that the reason given for his eviction was that GPP had found a tenant to pay full rent for the space (Place was only responsible for paying utilities), yet he remains convinced that this was nothing less than a bum’s rush. The only response from GPP that I know of (GPP evidently did not respond to requests for a statement for any of the above listed articles) is a rather cursory and noncommittal written statement given to KPTV: “We do not publicly discuss tenant lease agreements, but please know Pioneer Place is very much a fan and in support of the arts,” GGP General Manager Bob Buchanan’s statement read. “Our goal is to create a unique and enjoyable shopping experience for all our customers.”

Before I get too deep into this opinion piece, I should disclose that I had an exhibit of my own work at Place last year. I have also written about the gallery on a couple of occasions, for both Portlandart.net and Oregon ArtsWatch. (One review was less than glowing.) I have had many conversations with Flores over the years and have grown to admire his fertile mind and enthusiasm for the local art community, even though sometimes both can get the better of him. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with his torrent of ideas, and his desire for inclusiveness has resulted in more than a few half-baked exhibitions (more often than not due to the presenting artist). The first couple of years of programming did not give me much hope for his ambitious little start-up, yet Flores and the gallery persevered, and the programming gradually improved.

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by KATIE TAYLOR

Editor’s note: Monday Double Shot is ArtsWatch’s new, aspirationally weekly jolt of non-standard arts watching. Katie Taylor applies her YouTube browsing to a curatorial purpose, in this case fondling in Beethoven. We hope you enjoy!

Figure 1:

Furtive pawing from first violin at 4:25.

Figure 2:
Tentative groping from cello at 9:54 growing steadily pervier through 11:11. May be more accurately described as fondling. First violin seems to be enjoying. First violin is a bad influence.


Your barista is Katie Taylor, a Portland-based writer, opera singer, director and librettist. Contact Katie at mondaydoubleshot@gmail.com.

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Musicians from Classical Revolution PDX performed at Holocene in March Music Moderne

Musicians from Classical Revolution PDX performed at Holocene in March Music Moderne.

There are people who really like the mathematically determined music of the 20th century Greek-French composer Iannis Xenakis—more than just acknowledging its undeniable historical importance. There are also people, I am told, who enjoy being rolfed, walking barefoot across hot coals, participating in fight clubs, and being lashed by whips. I think these all must be the same people.

Enduring the relentless pummeling of the Portland premiere of Xenakis’s 1978 exercise in dissonance Ikhoor at Sunday night’s closing March Music Moderne, just after enjoying so many other concerts featuring young (and sometimes not-so-young) Oregon composers at the same festival revealed just how far midcentury modernism that MMM celebrates strayed from appealing to a broad audience — and how Oregon composers are leading the way in bringing music in the classical tradition back to its rightful, central place in the hearts and minds of anyone who loves music, not just the dwindling niche who dig discordance.

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Paul Roberts gives a lecture-recital and master classes in Portland this weekend.

Paul Roberts gives a lecture-recital and master classes in Portland this weekend.

by JANA HANCHETT

 “There are two aspects of preparation,” explains concert pianist, master class clinician, and writer Paul Roberts about learning to play a classical composition. “One is simply practicing at the keyboard. The second really interesting aspect is reading around your piece. For example, you find out who Liszt was, then you discover that he drew inspiration from Petrarch; you therefore become very interested in Petrarch and discover how Liszt identifies with Petrarch. You then in some way bring that to bear on your interpretation, and that is when things get a bit difficult.

“In the final stage, which is most mysterious of all, you figure out what you’re actually thinking about when performing these pieces. For me, when I am playing I don’t think of the poetry at all. I’ve sublimated all the preparation into the music, but I’m profoundly aware that somewhere along the line that preparation has gone into my interpretation of the music.”

 Roberts will demonstrate his penchant for preparation February 22-24 during his mini-festival called Performance and Communication, which includes a lecture-recital and two free master classes. Roberts first came to Portland through Portland Piano International in 1991 and has since given more than 50 master classes to Portland’s piano students. At his lecture-recital “Liszt, Love and Petrarch: The Pianist as Narrator,” Roberts will elucidate the connection between composer and his inspiration. Franz Liszt composed three sonatas each inspired by a Petrarch sonnet for voice and piano in the 1840s, and then made his more popular version for solo piano that Roberts will perform in Portland.

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Getting to know you: Whiting Tennis at Hallie Ford Museum of Art

And a little extra for the sake of contrast

It is sometimes difficult to look at a particular artist’s exhibition and not have a cascade of forerunners’ names wash through one’s mind. Of course, whether readily perceptible or not, every artist has been influenced by someone who came before; likewise, a viewer’s appreciation of said art may rely on and benefit from a knowledge of that art history. Yet, much like this writer trafficking in the comfort of truisms, that influence resonates louder and longer in the work of some artists than it does in others.

The Whiting Tennis exhibit, “My Side of the Mountain,” is at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem through March 23. The title for the show comes from Jean Craighead George’s book of the same name. The book tells the tale of a young man who leaves his city home at a young age to make a new life for himself on some family acreage, where he proceeds to make a living off the land. Written for a young audience, it comes from a time when this country was still making the dramatic shift from a largely agrarian to urban society, and the skills the main character develops to survive were becoming lost to the larger culture.

When Jenni Sorkin reviewed Tennis’s 2008 exhibit at Derek Eller Gallery in New York, she made mention of this book. I also find some comfort that Tennis’ work reminded Sorkin of the artist David Smith’s work. But Tennis’s drawings, paintings, and in some instances, his collages at Hallie Ford brought Smith to mind for me, not his sculpture. Then again, it wasn’t just echoes of Smith; a whole generation of artists sprung to mind, from Picasso to Smith and even the Northwest’s very own Louis Bunce. Nor would I be too far out of line to suggest that Tennis’s sculpture echo some work by his contemporary, Cris Bruch, or owe a debt to the likes of Martin Puryear, but only in Bruch’s and Puryear’s more architectural pieces.

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Saxophonist Marty Ehrlich solos in a concerto by Portland composer David Schiff, conducting right, with Third Angle. Photo: Tom Emerson.

The snow may be a-blowin’ in Oregon this weekend, but so are the soloists in various concerts around our snowy state. Please double check with the venues involved if you plan on attending any of the shows mentioned here to make sure they’re still happening, and allow extra time to traverse slippery roads. Update: when we hear about cancellations and postponements, we’ll try to remove them from this post when possible. Presenters, feel free to note such changes atOAW’s Facebook page.

Third Angle New Music, Thursday, Jimmy Mak’s, Portland. One of Oregon’s finest composers continues his re-connection with jazz as David Schiff adds a new movement to his ongoing cycle of concertos for improvising soloists and chamber orchestra. The first two installments (Mountains and Rivers, which 3A premiered in 2008) feature two of America’s top avant jazzers, pianist Myra Melford and University of Oregon faculty trumpeter Brian McWhorter, and the new third concerto, Clouds and Stars, spotlights yet another, saxophonist Marty Ehrlich. The program also features originals by the eminent Oregon jazz guitarist Dan Balmer, uncategorizable New York composer/visionary John Zorn, and McWhorter.

Melford and Ehrlich, also a veteran improvising duo, play at Portland’s Reed College on Saturday in a tribute to the late Reed alum Larry Karush, the pianist who premiered the first concerto in Schiff’s series.

Leon Atkinson, Friday, The Old Church, Portland. The host of NPR’s Guitar Hour show, a protege of Andres Segovia, plays classical and jazz guitar music.

Oregon Chamber Players, Saturday, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Portland. Still more CPE Bach (his Symphony #2 and Handel, along with music by Holst, Glazunov, and more.

Ilya Poletaev, Sunday, Reed College Performing Arts Building 300, Portland. The prizewinning pianist and McGill University prof (a frequent guest of the Boston chamber orchestra A Far Cry, which appeared in Portland last month) brings one of the Baroque’s pinnacles, J.S. Bach’s monumental Well Tempered Clavier, book two, which he’ll perform on, variously, harpsichord, fortepiano, and modern piano to show how the music has been performed in different ways throughout history. Since Bach wrote the WTC to demonstrate the beauty of the many tunings available to pre-industrial musicians (all now ignored by the overwhelming majority of performances in the 20th century’s compromised, standardized equal — that is, unWell —  temperament), this historically informed recital may offer a glimpse into the true depth of Bach’s genius and the full glory of his music.

3 Leg Torso, Sunday, First Presbyterian Church, Portland. The quintessentially uncategorizable Portland ensemble’s deliriously delicious chamber music embraces classical, tango, klezmer, Latin,  Roma, jazz and myriad other music, but sounds like nobody else.

Oregon Brass Society, Sunday, First Methodist Church, Eugene. This tribute to the late composer Todd Johnson, whose life this concert celebrates, features the premiere of his Transformer, an original work for the aboriginal Australian didjeridu and organ.

ORCHESTRA

Portland Baroque Orchestra, Saturday, First Baptist Church, Portland. PBO stretches beyond its name and into the Classical era that followed the Baroque, in a program that includes a gorgeous, sometimes anguished, sometimes buoyant cello concerto by CPE Bach featuring the stalwart cellist Tanya Tomkins; a horn concerto by Haydn featuring British hunting horn specialist Andrew Clark on the now-rare instrument it was written for (which is to the modern horn as steel cut oats is to Cheerios); one of Haydn’s most dramatic mid-period symphonies, #49; and Mozart’s A Musical Joke, which really is funny and fun. Friday and Sunday’s performances have been scrubbed, and the renowned British keyboard master and conductor Richard Egarr also had to cancel his appearance (for non snow-related reasons), and luckily busy PBO artistic director Monica Huggett was available to step in for the home team, which is like having Willie Mays available to pinch hit for Hank Aaron.

Oregon Symphony, Saturday, Smith Auditorium, Willamette University, Salem, and Sunday and Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. Featuring merely the greatest of all orchestral works, Beethoven’s Symphony #7 (which, given the orchestra’s sterling work of late is worth a return visit even if you’ve been there often), the concert also includes Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto, with the acclaimed cellist Johannes Moser, and a most welcome OSO debut: the major 20th century Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski’s powerful 1992 Symphony #4, which premiered almost exactly 20 years ago in Los Angeles.

Starlight Symphony, Sunday, Tualatin Presbyterian Church. Baroquaholics who missed their fix because PBO went all Classical-era this weekend can get their Bach, Telemann and Handel (Water Music and Royal Fireworks music) here, in a concert featuring the fine soprano Flora Sussely and flutist Ellen Berkcovitz.

VOCAL

Portland Opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, Thursday and Saturday, Keller Auditorium, Portland. See Angela Allen’s review.

Matthew Hayward and Angela Niederloh, Friday, Cedar Hills United Church of Christ, Portland. The frequent Portland Opera performers sing two of Robert Schumann’s famous song cycles, The Poet’s Love and A Woman’s Life and Love.

University of Oregon Opera Ensemble, Sunday and Monday [newly added performance], Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene. Read my preview of this new production of two great American one-acts: Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief (memorably done in Portland recently by Opera Theater Oregon) and Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti (memorably done recently by Portland Opera).

Want to read more about Oregon classical music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!

Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

Theater and comedy merge at ‘ALL CAPS’

And looking ahead maybe some of the psychological help we all so desperately need

Lance Banks and The Red Thespian in "ALL CAPS"/Photo: Jason Traeger

Lance Banks and The Red Thespian in “ALL CAPS”/Photo: Jason Traeger

By REBECCA WAITS

Anyone who has ever been to a stand-up comedy open mic or befriended a theater major knows that sometimes, character-based comedy can be cringe-inducing. That’s why it was so exciting for me (full disclosure: I’m a comic) to see actor/comedian Scott Rogers’ curated show of local actors and comedians, ALL CAPS, displaying the best and most surreal character creations.

It’s also refreshing to watch familiar faces inhabiting someone besides their stand-up stage personas. For them, it’s exciting to trick theater-goers into a comedy show! These performers are bringing new work to Fertile Ground in ALL CAPS, but they’re also bringing fierce, energizing comedy to a new audience. Says Rogers, “Theatre crowds and comedy crowds have the same desire—connecting with performers, their work, and going for a ride—even when that ride is dark and silly.”

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