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VizArts Monthly: December rules

This month's Portland visual arts exhibitions jump through the centuries and land firmly in the here and now

The year may be winding down, but the art scene sure isn’t. This month, you can visit the Japanese Garden to catch the only US stop of an international exhibition of Hokusai’s Manga, or see Japanese art from twelve centuries under one roof at the Portland Art Museum. For something more local, there’s the opening of a big new gallery project by Albertina Kerr, The Portland Art and Learning Studios. Also of note, PICA will be hosting the Precipice Fund awards and winter social not far down the street. Heading further north, you can catch a good show at Disjecta and its newer tenant, Carnation Contemporary. If you’re a fan of independent galleries, you can catch the last-ever show at Grapefruits, or enjoy the reliably engaging programming at Ori or Nationale. Whatever you’re in the mood for, brave the cold and the rain and you should be able to find something good out there this month.

Yosa Buson: Thatched Retreat on Cold Mountain – detail

Poetic Imagination in Japanese Art: Selections from the Collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles
Through January 13, 2019
Portland Art Museum,1219 SW Park Avenue
PAM is ending the year with a bang – in addition to the knockout American realism exhibit, you can still catch this gorgeous exhibition spanning 12 centuries of Japanese art. Selected from the collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles, this exhibit highlights one of the strongest themes in this remarkable private collection – art closely related to poetic traditions in Japan.

  • Waka and the Courtly Tradition, featuring work rooted in the poetry and culture of the waka traditions of the ninth through 12th centuries
  • Ink Painting and the Zen Milieu, tracing the adoption and flowering of Zen Buddhism in Japan and the monochrome ink painting style that emerged with it
  • Literati Culture, showcasing the lyrical, romantic landscapes from the 18th and 19th century turn to Neo-Confucian philosophy
  • Modern Innovations, surveying 20th-century innovations of 20th-century artists in Japan as they engaged with traditional techniques in a modern, often highly personal style

Worth noting: the exhibition includes an installation of a traditional Japanese teahouse and newly-commissioned, fully-illustrated catalogue.

Page from Hokusai Manga

Page from Hokusai Manga

Manga Hokusai Manga
December 1, 2018 – January 13, 2019
Portland Japanese Garden, 611 SW Kingston Road

Sure to be a crowd-pleaser, one of the most famous Japanese artists of all time, Katsushika Hokusai, meets modern Japanese manga. Prints and illustrations by the world-famous artist of the iconic print the Great Wave off Kanagawa will be juxtaposed by with work by top contemporary manga artists. A traveling exhibition this will be the only chance to see this show in the Us. Hokusai Manga refers to an 800-page edition of prints, released between 1814 and 1878 in 15 hand-bound volumes, which was the origin of the term that is still in use today to refer to Japanese comics and animation. Materials accompanying the show provide wealth of historical and cultural context, thanks to a curatorial team including many prominent Japanese scholars and art directors.

alienated rhy thm

Alien ate d Rhy thm

Alien ate d Rhy thm
Through December 22
Ori Gallery, 4038 N Mississippi Avenue

If you’re not into the white-cube aesthetic, artists Hiba Ali and Jonathan Chacón have got a show for you. Noticing the prominence of a particular shade of orange in the branding and marketing of a variety of gig-economy services such as Caviar, Ali has literally painted the gallery orange, maintaining that “contemporary color of labor and danger, it is racialized and classed.” Ali engages Amazon’s “customer obsessed” mascot, Peccy in her video Abra to further discuss these issues, and has brought soap bubbles into the discussion of economic bubbles. Chacón’s installation is a text piece using the medium of foam puzzle tiles, adorned with objects and laid out throughout the gallery floor. This engaging, inventive show brings diverse methods and materials to focus on the question “How do queer people of color, repetitively move through environments designed to work against them?”

Holiday Sale - Installation view with chandelier

Holiday Sale – Installation view with chandelier

Exhibit 1 – Holiday Sale
Through January 30
Portland Art and Learning Studio
4852 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

Portland Art and Learning Studio is a new, 10,000 square-foot outsider art gallery established by the Albertina Kerr foundation. Serving nearly 200 artists, the mission of the studio is to “achieve fulfillment by reframing perceptions around intellectual and developmental disabilities through creative practice and community building.” The inaugural exhibition features a mural and large canvases by Studio member Sakari Muhommad, and a “a series of richly textured and experimental weavings” by Native American textile artist Ricky Bearghost. Hanging from a chandelier in the center of the gallery, his weavings include found materials such as sticks and bottle caps, as well as handmade ceramic beads. As many of that artists served by the Studio experience disability and are members of vulnerable populations, gallery director Daniel Rolnik maintains the importance of creating space in the arts for their voices. “Our artists are proud of who they are and we feel fortunate to be able to support their desires to have their works shown to the art world,” says Rolnik.

Object with drawing from Provender

Object with drawing from Provender

Provender: Georgina Lewis and Sarah Rushford
Through December 23
Grapefruits,211 N Kerby Ste D

An exhibition of experimental drawings and process-related prints and photographs that represent current work by Boston artist Georgina Lewis and Portland artist Sarah Rushford. Former co-director of Ortega y Gasset Projects in Brooklyn, Rushford has recently returned to drawing after establishing herself as a video artist. Both artists use experimental drawing “as a means of coping with anxiety, fear, and paralysis that they feel emotionally, in their careers, in their art processes, and especially in their civic lives…” If that sounds heavy, you will appreciate the unexpected thread of play and happenstance that carries through the laregly-monochrome installation. Process-based graphite drawings, small sculptures and assemblages, and other materials have been thoughtfully installed in various ways that play well with the rough-hewn charm of Grapefruits.

This, sadly, is the final show by this scrappy gallery known for hosting innovative shows by emerging artists and creating a comprehensive resource guide for artists in Portland. However, former members of Grapefruits are in talks to start a new project in the same space, a small warehouse unit with a loading dock down the same dead-end alley in Portland’s North Industrial district where PNCA recently opened studios in the former Ouroboros glass factory. Look for further developments in 2019.

Netta Fornario by Ty Ennis

Netta Fornario by Ty Ennis

The Marble Fountain: Ty Ennis
Through December 30
Nationale, 3360 SE Division

In this solo show by Nationale favorite Ty Ennis, “melancholic dreams” mix with holiday lore and art historical references in this dreamy show of half-remembered figures, scenes, and moods. “When we are young, the world appears full of magic,” Nationale says in the press release. “We are the center of our universe—we know of little beyond our guided travels. Time equals now.” Ennis’s loose brushwork evokes this less-rationalized, perhaps more-lived way of seeing the world with a steady intensity.

A puzzling light and moving - installation view

A puzzling light and moving – installation view

A puzzling light and moving: Kate Newby
Ongoing
Lumber Room, 419 Northwest 9th Avenue

A meditative, eclectic show that collects found materials, handmade objects, and site-specific constructions to reflect on a process of “prolonged engagement” by New Zealand and New York-based artist Kate Newby’s prolonged engagement. Through site visits, conversations, and exploring our city, Newby has been making and thinking about items in this show for the last two years, and it is likely to continue for some time. Walking among the objects hanging in groups from the ceiling and stacked in corners of Lumber Room’s Pearl-district loft hopefully can spark that that sense of quiet, ongoing thoughtfulness within the viewer.

Between Here and The Machine

Between Here and The Machine

Carnation Contemporary
November 30-December 23
Carnation, 8371 N Interstate Avenue
In this show, three prominent West Coast artists utilize a variety of analog and digital forms to interrogate what Carnation calls “the ubiquity of mediated images.” Bean Gilsdorf, Rhonda Holberton, and Anthony Discenza negotiate different arenas in which we create, share, and consume images in the age of Instagram and increasingly powerful smartphones. Each artist uses a variety of tools to draw attention to and disrupt the many layers of processing and interpretation that modern images go through. Archival news photos, low-fi 3D modeling, hand-sewn soft sculptures, and image composites are all fair game in this show.

One of Portland’s newer independent galleries, Carnation Contemporary occupies space in the  Disjecta building.

Still from "Dislocation Blues"

Still from “Dislocation Blues”

I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins
December 2 – 30
Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Avenue

This exhibition is presented as a dialogue between the artistic practices of Carolina Caycedo and Sky Hopinka. Caycedo’s video work pays homage to Langston Hughe’s poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers and emphasizes the political and cultural roots of ecological destruction and the populations that suffer its effects most in our current society. Hopinka’s work addresses “considerations around homeland, the preservation of language, and the undefinable spaces between the known, the sought after, and the unknowable.” His film, Dislocation Blues, refutes the broader narratives of the protests at Standing Rock with individual stories from members of the resistance. Drawings, sculptures, and found objects as well as more video work from both artists further probe the conversation around these pressing issues.

VizArts Monthly: It’s not ALL blossoms and tea ceremonies

This month, as allergens arrive in record numbers, we have some escape routes to recommend

How does the rhyme go? April showers bring… April flowers, May flowers, May showers, occasional heatwaves, and record pollen levels? Something like that. As the city warms and brightens this May, a colorful range of shows are popping up like the unstoppable cascade of blossoms and flowers filling our streets. Celebrate World Collage Day, learn about the life of a wonderful outsider artist, or enjoy a tea ceremony with five world-class artisans from Kyoto. If all the sun and color is overwhelming you, sit back and enjoy the strangeness of Getting to Know You(tube) or the meditative calm of Heather Watkins fabric arts at PDX Contemporary.

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VizArts Monthly: Revolving by degree

A new year opens, inch by inch, and lines of flight are revealed

The Earth inches around the sun a fraction less than one degree between December 31 and January 1, and yet somehow I still believe that something momentous has occurred. “Thank the far-flung heavens that 2017 is over,” I exclaim aloud to myself and anyone within hearing distance. People roll their eyes in agreement, make the universal gesture of disgust (raising the index and middle fingers toward the mouth), even snarl audibly—these are the times we live in. We are hoping for better, or at least no worse, a psychological imperative, maybe.

I resolve, I resolve, I resolve. And for some minutes, hours, days, under the spell of those resolutions, I may feel a new lightness in my step. All the same, I know that the environment that produced those universal gestures of disgust hasn’t changed very much during that one degree of revolution (will someone out there check my math?).

Fortunately, the culture itself, our local culture, still has the elements that offered me support during 2017, no matter how grotesque it seemed. I’ll paraphrase Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in “A Thousand Plateaus” (and pardon me if it’s wildly inappropriate here): In 2017 there were “lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories”; but I also found “lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification.” Mostly I found them manifest and represented in the creative acts of art I bumped into during the year, and even in the society itself occasionally, often prompted by a state of mind initiated by the arts.

Lines of flight. Movements of deterritorialization and destratification. Deleuze and Guattari’s book was published in 1987. And yet…I’m sifting through the experiences the culture offers looking for those same things some 30 years later. Degree by degree, as the Earth revolves. Which maybe itself is a line of flight.

Some art exhibitions opening in January that may destratify your consciousness?

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By PAUL MAZIAR

Especially if you’re an Instagram user, you might be keenly aware of the fact of the increasing ubiquity of images, the preoccupation that people seem to have with content. I think a lot gets lost when we fall into the kind of materialism that goes along with viewing, documenting, ‘using’ things in this way—with pics, snaps, posts. That’s not to say it isn’t fun or flatout unworthy of our time. But to express an impression by way of, say, painting—an act that takes invariably longer, with more concerted effort than snapping a pic—can convey the deeper sense of content that the medium brings to bear. I think that’s why I keep coming back to looking at paintings, why so many do.

This past weekend, I saw a series of paintings by New Yorker Sophie Larrimore, in her exhibition at Nationale titled Sunday Painting. Looking at her work, which continues at Nationale through November 26, I’m reminded of Willem de Kooning’s puzzling statement that “content is a glimpse” and all that it implies—and also what it doesn’t. The curious forms in Larrimore’s paintings appear, then seem to go away, replaced only by contours and shapes, to return again looking somehow more intact than before. The world these forms inhabit is a magic one, clearly composed in similar fashion. And by magic, I of course mean the ordinary, deliberate, rigorous, but altogether impossible work, made to cause enchantment, bewilderment, that a visual artist like Larrimore does. This kind of content, made out of sensation, gives way to further sensation.

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Nationale: Through the lens of ‘Foreigners’

At Nationale gallery, Modou Dieng, Bukola Koiki, Victor Maldonado, and Angelica Millán explore the complexity of the immigrant experience

By MACK CARLISLE

The four artists in the Foreigners exhibition at Nationale gallery explore the duality of life as a foreigner: of belonging to more than one culture, of finding sense and the personal in the complex and ever-shifting American culture. There is no singular American experience. Since colonization, the United States has been a landing pad for people seeking something new, as well as those brought forcibly through the slave trade. And yet it is only recently that the artworld has begun to show notable interest in the diversity of its makers, evidenced by statistics on the race and gender of artists represented in galleries, art fairs, and museums, or in the segregation of museums.

The decisions gallerists and curators make about who will be shown and who is deserving of the public eye are slowly changing, but they are changing, and I would like to believe that the white male monopoly on the art world is crumbling. In this moment, when simply existing and demanding to be seen can be a political action, these four artists convey the sense that although origin is not a singularly defining feature, it impacts the overall experience of life, and as such is carried and displayed in every step.

Foreigners
Nationale, 3360 SE Division St.
On view through November 13, 2016
Modou Dieng, Bukola Koiki, Victor Maldonado, and Angelica Millán

There are few symbols of political place more widely understood than flags. Modou Dieng has painted a European flag in black, white, and gold—the original blue and yellow scarcely evident beneath the surface. The obscuring of specific areas creates a new flag, one with black and white stars, and a subtle window-like grid. The title “Goodbye Blue Sky…” refers to the blue of the flag, which represents the sky by design.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: all aboard for Eugene

A Eugene cultural tour, Anne Boleyn's music book, a little shop of horror and a full gallop, monkey business, Yetis, two top art shows, "Hughie," roots music, Alien Boy, guns galore, spirit of '76

There are lots of good reasons to go to Eugene that have nothing to do with Ducks or football. Sure, the presence of the University of Oregon has a lot to do with the quality of things down the valley: two of ArtsWatch’s favorite things, for instance, the Oregon Bach Festival and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, are intimately tied to the university, and a lot of what’s good about Oregon’s new-music scene emanates from the halls and studios of the university’s music department. But the university is far from the only game in town. However you keep your cultural scorecard, Eugene – population roughly 160,000, metro area another 200,000 added to that – consistently hits above its weight.

Here at ArtsWatch we like to keep tabs on what’s happening in the Emerald City, and lately that’s been quite a bit. For starters, check out Gary Ferrington’s Arts Sampler: Eugene by train for a car-free, arts-stuffed weekend, a sort of cultural travelogue for Portlanders looking for a close-to-home adventure. Go ahead, plan an autumn getaway. And if you like, feel free to slip in a football game or a track meet on the side, too.

Portland-bound Amtrak Cascades at Eugene Station.

Portland-bound Amtrak Cascades at Eugene Station.

We’ve also picked up some good features from some top Eugene writers:

— Photographer and arts journalist Bob Keefer, author of the invaluable Eugene Art Talk online journal, has undertaken an almost year-long project of following the development of a new version of The Snow Queen for Eugene Ballet, with a fresh score by Oregon composer Kenji Bunch and choreography by EB’s longtime artistic director, Toni Pimble, who is recognized nationally as a creator of vivid and original ballets. Keefer will write about ten installments leading up to the premiere next spring, and ArtsWatch will reprint them once they’ve debuted on Eugene Art Talk. Here’s Episode 2, focusing on designer Nadya Geras-Carson.

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The Best of a Bad Situation

Elizabeth Malaska's paintings at Nationale use the canon for their own purposes

The desire to express a deep appreciation for an artist’s work while knowing that when it comes to writing about that work one feels somewhat out of one’s league… This may be the highest praise an arts writer can give an artist. And while attempting an essay may not do the artist any favors, such it is for me with painter Elizabeth Malaska’s When We Dead Awaken II at Nationale.

First of all, the title has a curious phrasing and demands extra effort to decipher its meaning. It has the flavor of an echo, as if it could be attributed to some older text, a poem perhaps. Sure enough, a quick check of Google brings me to Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It’s the title of his last play, which is about a male sculptor and his long-lost, female model/muse. One day she reappears and, as it turns out, she has been driven mad by his fame and the loss of her role as his dedicated model. Furthermore, she feels as though her soul has been taken in the experience, and from that moment on she has considered herself dead. Somewhat paralleling her disposition, the artist considers her largely responsible for his masterpiece, the work that put him in the spotlight, yet he has felt empty ever since. No surprise (this is Ibsen, after all) they both die tragically in the end.

Having found a context for the title by reading the play, I could have let my research end there had I not then had a similar intuition about the title of one painting in the exhibit, “Not to Pass on Tradition, but to Break Its Hold over Us (the Archive and Its Shadow).” The phrase cannot be random, and in fact, the non-parenthetical part comes from a 1972 essay by Adrienne Rich, the title of which is “When We Dead Awaken – Writing as Re-vision.” I believe it is from here Malaska draws her most direct reference. In short, Rich makes the argument that women need to find a way to write with their own voices, unburdened by the male-dominant narrative that is embedded in the canon. If we consider that this is also Malaska’s goal in painting, then we might do well to take a closer look at this particular painting as perhaps being most directly related to this effort.

Not to Pass on Tradition, but to Break its Hold Over Us (the Archive and Its Shadow)/Elizabeth Malaska

Not to Pass on Tradition, but to Break its Hold Over Us (the Archive and Its Shadow)/Elizabeth Malaska

Here my feeling of ineptitude arises. First of all, as with many of Malaska’s paintings, I find myself wishing I had a deeper knowledge of art history, for the references in her pictorials are many, and presumably full of meanings I will likely fail to grasp. I can, however, hope to provide the reader with a descriptive gist of it all, and in the doing, perhaps come upon some insights.

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