ArtsWatch Weekly: past imperfect, present tense

In the Northwest, images of horror and hope from the past and present. Plus a West Side story, a flamenco flourish, and a divine voice.

ARTSWATCH IS ABOUT ARTS AND CULTURE IN OREGON: It’s embedded in our name. But culture is a fluid thing, coming at us from all corners of the world, and, through our libraries and museums and musical notations, from the enduring fragments of previous times and places. It comes to us. We go to it. Everything mingles in the process. One of our number is on the nothern tip of the Olympic Peninsula right now, a ferry ride across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, where depending on the weather she might be greeted on the shoreline by a bagpiper in a kilt (although the Unipiper remains a resolutely Portlandian attraction, rain or shine, sleet or snow). Another ArtsWatcher is working her way across Andalucia, taking hundreds of pictures as she goes. Our music editor is settling back into the gentle rains of the Pacific Northwest after a sojourn in Bali with some masters of the gamelan.  

Parmigianino, Antea, ca. 1535, oil on canvas, 53.7 x 33.8 inches, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples; at the Seattle Art Museum through Jan. 26, 2020.

On occasion we indulge in a quick trip north to Seattle, and in case you do the same, you might want to drop in on the Seattle Art Museum, where the exhibition Flesh & Blood: Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum opens today and hangs around through January 26. It time-travels through Renaissance and Baroque Europe, and includes 39 paintings and a single sculpture from the collections of the Naples museum.

We’re showing one of the “nicer” paintings here, Parmigianino’s idealistic 16th century masterwork Antea, about which the Frick Collection in New York, writing about the painting’s visit there in 2008, declared: “By creating an impossibly beautiful woman who, nonetheless, seems real enough to step out of the picture and speak to us, Parmigianino invites us to dwell on his unrivaled capacity to conjure a transcendent illusion. He challenges the viewer to consider the relationship between desire and art, inspiring emotion both sensual and elevated.”

But Flesh & Blood also includes several works that speak more savagely and far less idealistically to our own often savage and aggressive age. Foremost among them, at least in that sense, is Artemisia Gentileschi’s 1610 painting Judith Slaying Holofernes. (A second version, painted ten years later, is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.) Gentileschi paints herself as the heroine ruthlessly decapitating Holofernes, whom she paints as her mentor Agostino Tassi, who had raped her. It’s a revenge that echoes down the centuries, straight into the #MeToo era, and it opens in Seattle just as Ronan Farrow’s book Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy To Protect Predators, in which he writes about the powerful moneyed roadblocks he faced in reporting the Harvey Weinstein story, is released. 

Among other paintings that stretch across the centuries and settle nervously into our own is the sly Spanish satirist Jusepe de Ribera’s carousing 1626 Drunken Silenus, which might have been deposed in a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Then again, as evidence of the sheer technical genius and essential goodness that are also part of the continuing human story, you might spend some time with El Greco’s 1571-72 Boy Blowing on an Ember, a painting that transcends time. Great art has a way of doing that.

Stephen Hayes, Livingston, TX 2-11-19, 2019, oil on canvas over panel, 60 x 60 inches, at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN OREGON, things get deceptively more tense at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Northwest Portland, where the exhibition In the Hour Before: This Land … continues through Nov. 2. Stephen Hayes, a master Northwest landscape artist, has assembled a series of paintings of American sites that have been been disrupted by traumatic gun violence. Hayes, Portland curator Linda Tesner, and Portland artist Tad Savinar will talk at the gallery about the exhibit and its undercurrents, at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Oct. 19.


MUSIC: BAROQUE GROOVE, BEING THE SONG


Mezzo soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout at Friends of Chamber Music concert, October 2019. Photo courtesy FOCM. 

ANNE SOFIE VON OTTER, THE SUPERB SWEDISH MEZZO SOPRANO, was in Portland last week along with pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout for an intimate Friends of Chamber Music concert, and they gave both a literal master class to a select group of young Portland Opera singers and a metaphorical master class to their concert audience. “The pairing of singer and accompanist couldn’t have been more perfect,” Katie Taylor writes in Being the Song. “Both artists combined relaxed, spontaneous delivery with meticulous attention to detail and delivery that was never anything less than divinely subtle.”

  • A BAROQUE GROOVE MASTER AT WORK. Matthew Neil Andrews sits down for a fascinating interview with percussion superstar Colin Currie and part-time Portlander composer Andy Akiho about their collaboration on a new work commissioned by the Oregon Symphony – a piece that employs, among other things, Chinese ceramic bowls and “substantial marimba.”

THEATER: BRIDGE SIDE, WEST SIDE, ALL AROUND THE TOWN


West Side Story struts its stuff at Stumptown Stages. Photo: Paul Fardig.

STUMPTOWN STAGES PACKS THE WINNINGSTAD THEATRE with maximalist energy and visual appeal in its energetic and exhilarating revival of the classic musical West Side StoryBennett Campbell Ferguson writes in his review Go West, young fans. Neither production nor play is without missteps – including, Campbell stresses, the book’s stereotypes about Puerto Rican Americans – but the show “is also energetic and exciting enough to entice newcomers and charm steadfast fans.”

  • DRAMAWATCH: LIGHTING THE FUSE ON ARTHUR MILLER. Meanwhile, theater editor Marty Hughley sits down with Fuse Theatre Ensemble’s Rusty Tennant and Sara Fay Goldman to get the Fuse take on another American classic, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge – “a blue-collar family drama with something of the quality of epic tragedy.” 

DANCE: TAP, JAZZ, FLAMENCO AND MORE


Dancer Ana Rosa, at Artichoke Music in Portland with Flamenco
Cubano on Saturday, Oct. 19. Photo courtesy Espacio Flamenco

WHAT’S COMING UP IN DANCE IN THE NEXT WEEK? Check Jamuna Chiarini’s October DanceWatch to get the lowdown. The young tap, jazz, Lindy and swing star Caleb Teicher brings his company to Lincoln Performance Hall in the White Bird series tonight through Saturday; Flamenco Cubano lights up Artichoke Music Saturday only; The Holding Project throws a dance party on Northeast Sandy Boulevard on Sunday.
 


AROUND OREGON: AN OVERFLOWING CALENDAR


Dyann Alkire’s The Shape of Their Stories II, acrylic and India ink on Claybord, 16 x 20 inches, is among the art at the Sitka Art Invitational. 

THE SITKA CENTER FOR ART AND ECOLOGY huddles close to the Oregon Coast, north of Lincoln City and south of Neskowin. But one of the innovative art center’s crucial annual events takes place in Portland, at the World Forestry Center near the Oregon Zoo. The Sitka Art Invitational, which draws close to 3,000 people and has works for sale by about 150 artists, is Nov. 2-3 this year, with a party and presale the day before. Lori Tobias has the details, plus a whole lot of events coming up on the coast.

This week’s calendar is overflowing in wine country, too, from a powerful fiber arts show in McMinnville to some Cuban jazz in Newberg and a lot more. David Bates delivers the story.
 


END NOTE: ‘THAT’S ALL RIGHT. I’LL WAIT.’


Harold Bloom on the Charlie Rose television show in 2005. Wikimedia Commons

HAROLD BLOOM, THE GREAT AND CONTROVERSIAL LITERARY CRITIC known for his championing of the Western Canon, died on Monday at age 89, and the memories, appreciations, and occasional good-riddances have been pouring in. Bloom was held in some disdain by more contemporary critics who had taken aim at the Canon or sought to expand it from its primarily European roots, and Bloom fired back, dismissing their work as constituting a “School of Resentment.” The critic James Woods gives a nuanced appraisal in the New Yorker, and in his latest column, ArtsWatch’s David Bates notes: “I realize [Bloom’s] literary conservatism has fallen out of fashion, and to be sure one can justifiably take issue with many of his views. But there was brilliance there, too. … let us continue to read the late, great Harold Bloom, take what we need, discard the rest, and move on.”

In his affectionate yet pointed reminiscence for The New York Times, Dwight Garner echoes Woods’ assertion that Bloom, who wrote more than 40 books, worked perhaps too voluminously and a tad too swiftly: “A story used to go around about him back in the 1990s. A graduate student had telephoned him at home. Bloom’s wife answered and said, ‘I’m sorry, he’s writing a book.’ The student replied: ‘That’s all right. I’ll wait.'”
 


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