Laurel Reed Pavic

Laurel Reed Pavic is an art historian. Her academic research dealt with painting in 15th and 16th century Dalmatia. After finishing her PhD, she quickly realized that this niche, while fascinating, was rather small and expanded her interests so that she could engage with a wider audience. In addition to topics traditionally associated with art history, she enjoys considering the manipulation and presentation of cultural patrimony and how art and art history entangle with identity. She teaches a variety of courses at Pacific Northwest College of Art including courses on the multiple, the history of printed matter, modernism, and protest art.

 

Dawson Carr’s Portland adventure

After 8 years Carr retires as the first Richard and Janey Geary Curator of European Art at the Portland Art Museum

Dawson Carr, the Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art at the Portland Art Museum, will retire at the end of April after eight years on the job. Carr was the museum’s first full-time curator for the European art collection and hiring him was flaunt-worthy for PAM. Carr left a position at the National Gallery in London as the Curator of Spanish and Italian Paintings 1600-1800 to come to Portland. His resume also includes curatorial stints at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Hiring Dawson Carr meant that Portland was playing in the big leagues.  

Dawson Carr, The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art, with Brian Ferriso, Director and Chief Curator in December 2019. Image courtesy of the Portland Art Museum.

Carr arrived in Portland in 2013 to take charge of a comparatively small but solid collection of European Art. Even the press coverage from 2012 indicates that Carr knew he was in for “an adventure” in Portland. The Portland Art Museum may be among the toniest cultural institutions in town, but all things are relative. Portland is not London, New York, or Los Angeles, and the budget of the Portland Art Museum pales in comparison to those of Carr’s previous institutions. 

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Golden Road Arts: Ready, set, pivot

After months of preparation Golden Road Arts, a Hillsboro-based arts education non-profit, was ready to launch in March 2020. Things didn't go exactly as planned.

Barbara Mason was ready. In the summer of 2019, she began working in earnest on Golden Road Arts, a long-envisioned free arts education resource for teachers, parents, and students. She secured grants, solicited donations, and gained the enthusiastic partnership of the Hillsboro School district. By March of 2020, she had purchased equipment – cameras and fancy computers – and was about to film the site’s first demonstration, on printmaking in Japan, in an elementary school classroom. She went into the school on Tuesday with the her collaborator and videographer, David Leonnig (who also happens to be Mason’s brother), to plan things out – lighting, supplies, flow. They were ready to shoot on Thursday. The school shut on Wednesday. It’s still closed.


THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series


The printmaking-in-Japan demo, like pretty much everything else in March of 2020, was cancelled. Mason, however, was undeterred. Students weren’t going to have printmaking supplies at home. They probably weren’t going to have paint or any other specialist supplies, either. So Mason started filming videos with what she knew they would have: printer paper, pencils, and crayons. Mason and Leonnig got to work, and the first demonstration video at Golden Road Arts was put up in June. 

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Another one bites the dust

The monument to Harvey Whitefield Scott is the latest statue to fall in Portland. How did we end up with it in the first place and should we keep it?

When I heard that the sculpture of Harvey Whitefield Scott was pulled down from its pedestal sometime on the morning of October 20th, I couldn’t help but give a small cheer. Unlike with the topplings of Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt a few weeks ago, no one has taken credit for taking Scott down. Whoever it was gets some extra flair points for not only pulling the sculpture down from its pedestal but also removing an arm. The photo from The Oregonian of the dismembered arm discarded against the fence is a nice touch.

Dismembered arm from Harvey Whitefield Scott sculpture on Mt. Tabor on October 20. Image from the Oregonian.

A few weeks ago, I argued that the city needs to keep its historical sculptures, not in prominent places but still visible somewhere so that the history they represent isn’t glossed over or conveniently forgotten. It’s good to change our minds but important to acknowledge the past, even (or especially) if we’d rather not. It’s disingenuous to pretend that the errors never existed. Public art can serve as a medium for confession of the past as well as a proclamation of current values.

I still believe that, but I want to offer a caveat: it’s naive to think we’re going to keep every sculpture, and we certainly don’t have to keep every sculpture intact and “as is.” Who or what the sculpture represents matters, but so do the circumstances of its making. It should be a case-by-case decision and in this case, I’m advocating for Harvey Whitefield Scott to go.

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After the statues come down

What to do with monuments that celebrate people and stories we'd rather forget?

On October 5, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced the Monuments Project, a $250 million commitment to overhaul public art in the United States over the course of the next five years. The project promises to “transform the way our country’s histories are told in public spaces and ensure that future generations inherit a commemorative landscape that venerates and reflects the vast, rich complexity of the American story.”

There are three categories of grants associated with the project: (1) to fund new works; (2) to contextualize existing works through “installations, research, and education” and; (3) to “relocate existing monuments or memorials.”

The first category will likely garner the most excitement: The possibility of that kind of funding for new public artworks that could tell underrepresented stories is almost dizzying. It could be a much-needed chance to showcase new artists, new populations, new voices. The other two categories don’t have the gravitational pull of the first. If the work is already here, it is probably already known, and there’s probably something wrong with it. It may be problematic in any number of capacities—subject, voice, intention, location, etc.. Wouldn’t it be better to move on and create new fanfare, the kind of enthusiasm that only something shiny and new can generate? Not so fast.

The second two categories are less immediately appealing, but I would argue as important, if not more important, to the larger project of public art. This is especially true since the Mellon Project is an initiative that is supposed to happen in the next five years. Removing works is a first step, but removal must be followed by relocation and contextualization. 


Portland is facing its own public art reckoning. On Sunday, October 11th, protestors toppled statues of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln (in addition to damaging the Oregon Historical Society) as part of the “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage” on the eve of Columbus Day (still a federally observed holiday). Defacing or damaging public art has always gone hand-in-hand with putting it up in the first place. It happened in the city-states of ancient Mesopotamia and continues to happen today. The visual impact of a former leader face-down on the pavement hasn’t lessened over the past 5000 years. 

The 1928 Abraham Lincoln sculpture at Southwest Main and Madison was toppled on October 11, 2020. Photo credit: Brittany Peterson.

The response to defacement has been far more varied and depends on the relationship between the protestors and the guardians of public art. When the people who put the sculptures up are vanquished, conquered, otherwise removed – the question is less urgent. But what happens when the people who put the sculptures up are still around and still “in power” but have had a change of heart? What happens then?

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Signs and Portents: The urge for color

The First Thursday galleries suggest the complications of color

It’s gray and dreary out; political news is bleak. Even the twinkle lights on bare branches that look so cheerful when they go up in December lose their sparkle by February. It’s the post-twinkle winter slump. 

In the face of all this gloom, I thought I’d be most taken in by color this month. Clearly, several Portland galleries thought the same way for February’s First Thursday. PDX Contemporary has paintings by Adam Sorenson—rocky waterfalls with glowing rocks, neon rivulets, or jewel-toned linteled posts. Froelick Gallery has a group show this month but entices gallery goers in the door with a large colorful work by V. Maldonado. Cheer is dashed a bit upon learning the title is Carcel de Niños (Jail of Children), but it was color that got me in the door.

V. Maldonado, Carcel de Niños (2019). Photo credit: Mario Gallucci. Courtesy of Froelick Gallery.

Augen Gallery also embraces color this month with prints by the Eugene artist Tallmadge Doyle and the Austrian architect and designer Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000). Hundertwasser is known for a distrust of straight lines. He associated them with the built world, and his work is a tangle of undulating curves and colorful flourishes. The charming prints at Augen embrace this decorative exuberance, incorporating floating eyes and mouths within both built and natural environment. 

Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Green Power (1972). Screenprint. 30×22 inches. Courtesy of Augen Gallery.

Hundertwasser was a committed environmental activist who moved to Aotearoa, New Zealand, in the early 1970s. It wasn’t until seeing the prints at Augen that I recognized the influence that Maori modes of representation made on the artist. The eyes and noses of the compartmentalized faces in Night Train (1978) look unmistakably like Maori hei tiki. The striations in the face in the screenprint Green Power (1972) recall Maori moko, or facial tattooing. Viennese Secessionism is often cited as foundational for Hundertwasser’s work, and these prints also include elements familiar from this tradition —foil accents and tesserae-like squares—but clearly his sojourns to New Zealand equally shaped the artist’s signature style.

Doyle shares Hundertwasser’s environmental concerns: Her show at Augen is named High Tides Rising, also the title of a series of prints in the show. The prints are silhouetted plant and animal life on shades of cyan and sky blue. As is so often the case with art but especially with prints, these are lovelier in person than in reproduction. The digital versions give a good sense of the woodblock silhouettes and pleasing colors but don’t fully capture the etched lines lurking below. The etched forms are inspired by cartography and provide a human-made foil for the organic forms. The juxtaposition is poignant: Humans are causing the sea to rise, threatening natural equilibrium and ourselves, and we chart our demise and incremental losses through maps and data.

Tallmadge Doyle, High Tides Rising XI (2019). Woodcut, line etching, India ink, watercolor. 24×18 inches. Courtesy of Augen Gallery

The preview materials for Dana Lynn Louis’ work, showing this month at Russo Lee, didn’t seem especially promising to me. There was a lot of gray, and I’m feeling pretty done with gray. The work caught my attention, though, even when I was just walking by the gallery and peering in the windows as the show was being hung on Wednesday afternoon (and it was raining).

Many of Louis’ compositions overlay gossamer materials—gauze or silk or even repurposed rice sacks with these patterns of tiny circles. I read the looping concatenations as abstracted chrysanthemums, but I think the artist regards them as lotus flowers. Celestial Fog II makes use of cellophane fringe, and several works list tea as one of the materials, presumably used as a dye. Branching capillary-like forms that recall algae or moss spread over the surfaces of several works; I felt reminded to breathe in looking at them. 

Dana Lynn Louis, Weave (2019-2020). Acrylic, oil, ink, and thread on tarlatan. 84×168 inches. Courtesy of Russo Lee Gallery

Louis has done many larger, flashier installations than what is at Russo Lee this month. Though none of this work is small-scale—Whisper is the smallest, and even it is nearly 4 feet by 3 feet—I wouldn’t characterize these as installations, either. Most are two-dimensional. Weave is the exception, and the largest of the lot, a black horizontal scroll suspended from the ceiling. But appreciating it requires a closeness that I don’t typically associate with installation work. The immersive component isn’t the “being in” the space but the contemplation of the tiny circles. It’s smaller and more intimate than it seems at first look. Appreciating the larger form requires losing sight of the individual circles; stepping back to see the whole.

Dana Lynn Louis, detail view Whisper (2019-2020). Thread, acrylic, and ink on silk tarlatan. 50.25 x 39.25 inches. Courtesy of Russo Lee Gallery

The gallery’s press release explained that Louis’s works in the show were made as part of an artist’s residency in Senegal and the local Gather:Make:Shelter, a community project of which the artist is the director. The residency program, Thread, is a project of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, and committed to the Bauhaus ideal of the fusion of art and life. Gather:Make:Shelter is Louis’s brainchild and was inspired by her Senegal residencies (she’s had two); it brings together artists who are housed and those experiencing houselessness for workshops and collaborative projects. In September, the organization held a celebration at Pioneer Courthouse Square and sold more than 500 bowls handmade by workshop participants. 

Russo Lee is one of Portland’s swankier galleries, and the work is undeniably pretty, but it would be an error to underestimate the work’s potential because of this. Louis is clearly committed to understanding art as a means of community building and social connection. It fits exactly with the utopian ideals of the Bauhaus so dearly held by the Albers. 

In a statement about her work, Louis says: “It is increasingly important to me that all my work, no matter its form, moves toward light, weaving us together and creating levity and beauty along the way.” The meditative qualities of Louis’ work, the repetition of circles or rhythm of stitches, seem an appropriate antidote to the February gloom. They serve as a visual reminder of interconnectedness: A single circle or stitch is meaningful as part of the larger whole, and one leads to the next. All gloomy February days lead toward spring. We’re moving toward the light. 

If only political change were as certain.

This article was made possible with support from The Ford Family Foundation’s Visual Arts Program.

$10 million for the Portland Art Museum

Arlene Schnitzer makes a major donation to the Rothko Pavilion project

For weeks the Portland Art Museum has been teasing a “Historic Announcement” that will “mark a historic moment” on January 21st at 11 a.m.. The news is in: Arlene Schnitzer has donated 10 million dollars to the the Museum’s fund for the Rothko Pavilion and gallery redesign, the Connections Campaign. Though billed as an announcement, this morning’s event was more accurately a celebration of Schnitzer and included speeches about her many contributions to the Museum and arts community from her son Jordan Schnitzer, Museum Director Brian Ferriso, and Governor Kate Brown. The Lincoln High School Chamber Choir performed and Jordan Schnitzer provided lunch for the crowd of nearly 250 people. 

Though the dollar amount doesn’t approach the same heights, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici announced a second major donation to the Museum’s Connections Campaign, $750,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This is an especially large grant from the NEH.

There was no mention this morning of how much money the Connections Campaign needed to raise in order to fund the construction of the Rothko Pavilion and planned renovations. A note on the Museum’s website from January 2018 indicates that the museum had raised $30.3 million of an intended $50 million but that figure was not mentioned and several comments in this morning’s remarks indicated that fundraising for the project is ongoing.

Art review: Beneath the surface seductions

Disjecta and Upfor dive into difficult and dark waters with work by Arvie Smith, Pinar Yoldas, and Iyvone Khoo

 January is named for Janus, the double-faced Roman god who was able to look simultaneously at the past and the future. Given this etymological foundation, it seems appropriate that two stand-out shows in Portland this month grapple with the legacy of the past and the possibilities for the future: Disjecta has works by Arvie Smith in 2 Up and 2 Back and Upfor Gallery has works by Pinar Yoldas and Iyvone Khoo in The Absence of Myth.

At first blush, the shows are so different that the juxtaposition seems bizarre: Smith’s large, warm-toned paintings at Disjecta are chock-full of identifiable figures and symbols while the sculptures, prints, and video works at Upfor are captivating but less immediately familiar. Khoo’s materials include bioluminescent algae, fluorescent coral, and marine debris. Yoldas makes two- and three-dimensional prints of a cast of deities inspired by Greek mythology but that she describes as “designer babies.” What the works of the three artists have in common, however, is a visual seduction that gives way to repulsion that then transitions to big questions about humanity and complicity and responsibility.

What meets the eye is one thing, the “more” is cavernous.

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Turkish-born Yoldas boasts an impressive list of academic credentials. Currently a professor in the Visual Arts department at the University of California, San Diego, her research interests exceed the confines of art and design and blur into the biological sciences. The sculpted figures she makes don’t advertise this expertise at first glance. I was far too taken in by the glossy resin surfaces, undulating forms, and delicate filigree to consider any scientific underpinnings. But as I continued to look and looked closer at the figures themselves, it emerged that something was off: the faces are too contoured, the eyes too almond-shaped, the limbs turn into paddles or the shoulders into armored spikes. Several reminded me of sculptures from Amarna-period Egypt when the canon of representation that had been in place for thousands of years was discarded to accommodate a new religion. 

Pinar Yoldas, Aegeria the river goddess (2019) 3D printed Vero resin. Photo: Adam Simmons, courtesy of Upfor

Prints on the walls on black gridded or tessellated backgrounds show variations of the same figures. The backgrounds emphasize the “design” component of the figures; these forms aren’t meant to appear organic but instead painstakingly fashioned according to a master program. This, it turns out, is the influence of Yoldas’ scientific background. A booklet available in the gallery gives data and backstory for each figure, and flipping through the ethical implications begin to multiply.

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