VISUAL ART

Upcycled and avant garde at Everywhere Space

A designer collective on East Burnside aims to change the business model of retail fashion

By SEBASTIAN ZINN

I am holding a pair of cargo pants made from flexible orange nylon. Their surface is symmetrically festooned with several smartly constructed, triangular fanny-pack zipper-compartments, which look large enough to be useful, and small enough not to obstruct the wearer’s mobility. Nearby, the drapey sleeves of an oversized, mustard colored sweater, hanging from the end of a clothing rack reach lazily toward the floor.

The chest of the sweater is divided equally by two geometric patterns. On one side, a white triangle floats atop an ultramarine background. On the other, a thick doughnut of mustard colored fabric is framed by a white square. The sweater seems to transfer the minimalist perfection of a Piet Mondrian composition onto a three dimensional, wearable garment. If sweaters had personalities, this one would be simultaneously blasé and purposeful.

The clothes I am combing through were created by the inquiring minds of the designers at Everywhere Space, an avant garde fashion retail collective on East Burnside. The collective’s co-owners include Alexa Stark (@alexastark), Alec Marchant (@alec.marchant), Ryan Boyle (“Collect Call,” @collect_call_), and Rose Mackey (@thingsrosemakes). Everywhere Space is Stark’s brainchild, and occupies her former studio and retail space. Over the course of several visits to the shop, Stark and I discussed her inspiration for the space, the collective’s ambitions, and her views on the contemporary fashion market.

Pants by Alexa Stark. Photo credit: Alec Marchant.

Everywhere Space, Stark tells me, is a “fun fashion playland, run by designers who want you to feel joy.” Producing “clothing that is affordable, approachable, playful and for everybody,” all the designers in the collective up-cycle, establishing new relationships between raw materials, clothing manufacturers, and consumers. Up-cycling (or reworking) entails deconstructing and reconstructing garments, or creating clothing from materials that would otherwise be scrapped, like “deadstock” fabric. Ryan Boyle (Collect Call), the designer of the orange cargo pants described above, often uses found materials excavated from waste bins and free boxes. Boyle explains: “Not only is new fabric unsustainable, it’s financially unattainable. Even if I could afford new materials, I rarely find anything that inspires me…I learn a lot from taking apart pre-existing clothing.”

Everywhere Space is the only clothing retail space of its kind in the Portland metro area. The designers in the collective each work one day a week, and it is only open four days a week in order to conserve production time. The co-owners receive 90% of revenue from their own design sales, while 10% goes towards rent, upkeep, and miscellaneous projects. In addition to the four owners’ clothing lines, Everywhere Space features clothing from designers around the world who sell and participate on a consignment basis: non-owners receive 70% of the revenue from the items they sell. This is a significant jump from typical designer-retail space agreements in which profits are split 50/50. The remaining 30% consignment revenue goes towards rent and maintaining the space.

fashion tops in blue, white and yellow
Tops by Collect Call (Ryan Boyle). Photo credit: Alec Marchant.

Stark refuses to conform to many of the conventions of the fashion market, and her business practices are distinct from a lot of designers who sell short-term trends to young consumers with disposable wealth.  She doesn’t produce seasonal collections, just one collection per year. She used to participate in trade shows, but now prefers to show her clothing alongside other brands that are also bucking business norms and aesthetic trends. “If you’re interested in doing fashion, you shouldn’t be doing what’s trending. I just don’t care about that shit anymore. I like making what I make” says Stark. “I want to make clothes that are durable, and I want to market them to people who are older. The mainstream standard of beauty that privileges young people isn’t really interesting to me, because that’s the norm in my industry, and I think it limits what I have to offer.” All the production for Stark’s clothing line is done here in Portland by Stark herself, and she primarily uses dead-stock fabric or reworks secondhand clothing, occasionally buying sustainable fabrics like hemp. “When I first started making these clothes,” she tells me, “people didn’t want to hear organic, sustainable clothing, because they immediately thought: hippy clothes.” Today, the same language has become compelling to “woke” consumers who want to celebrate their virtuosity by substituting their fast-fashion wardrobes for vintage, “sustainable,” and up-cycled garments.

Since 2012, Stark’s idiosyncratic designs have been generating a buzz in the slow fashion scene in Portland and beyond. In the past few years, her experimental clothing has started percolating into other provinces of pop culture, even though, she says, “trying to stay in the scene is not worth it for me personally.” In 2019, Stark produced a line of airbrushed weed socks in collaboration with Broccoli Magazine. What’s more, the cover of JPEGMafia’s third studio album, All My Heroes Are Cornballs (released in September, 2019, to much critical acclaim), features a photo of the experimental rapper (taken by none other than Everywhere Space’s Alec Marchant) sporting an open, flowing gown and balloon-pants designed by Stark. In the image, JPEGMafia (AKA Devon Hendryx, or “Peggy”) sits with his legs folded underneath him on the shag-carpeted floor of an A-frame, nestled in the folds of a gown composed of three consecutive layers of gold, silver, and lavender silk. Silk manufacturers typically boil thousands of silkworms to produce a single pound of silk, but Stark sourced the materials from a manufacturer that harvests silk from the evacuated shells of silkworm cocoons. The layers of color and material in this outfit are suitable for a critically acclaimed artist like JPEGMafia, who experiments with a wide array of vocal techniques and textures, from harsh, distorted screams to meticulously crafted bars that eviscerate long-standing social stereotypes related to age, race, gender and sexuality: “Feel like I’m shooting, I’m shiftin’ time/ Dressed in your grandmama’s hand-me-downs” (JPEGMafia, “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot”).

PVC shoes
PVC shoes and jacket by Collect Call (Ryan Boyle). Photo credit: Alec Marchant.

The merchandise at Everywhere Space weds practical necessity to the unique aesthetic value of a work of art. The designers exemplify a form of creativity that is simultaneously playful and serious, and challenges our inherited, conventional expectations about the basic garments in our wardrobes, asking: “How many ways are there to make a shirt?” Or, “At what point does a pair of pants stop being a pair of pants?” Everywhere Space hopes to provide a platform for other independent artists and designers in the community to gain traction. “There are a lot of people who go to fashion school, but not everyone becomes a designer because of student debt,” explains Stark. Ryan Boyle adds: “I want people to have access to creativity unhindered by marketability. As more artists turn towards wearables and functional goods to communicate, there should environments that support fresh ideas.” 

Everywhere Space’s interior design also challenges consumers’ expectations about a traditional shopping experience. In the shop window, a security camera hooked up to a television monitor faces the street outside, so rather than the retailer monitoring the consumer’s behavior, passersby are invited to scrutinize their own conduct and appearance. When I spoke with Stark, there was an art installation created by Ryan Boyle highlighting Collect Call’s bucket hats in the store. PVC pipes criss-crossed the ceiling, and heavy strings were threaded through the length of each pipe. Attached with a clothespin to the end of each string were fashionable bucket hats made from different materials, from up-cycled floral print tablecloths to parking-meter-green plastics. If you pulled down on one hat, another would ascend toward the ceiling. Everywhere Space has started to feature non-wearables as well, including tubular, amorphous pillows designed and produced by Moe Noza (@moenoza), as well as distinctive pieces of jewelry, ceramics, and furniture.

Dress by Alexa Stark with pants by Collect Call (Ryan Boyle). Photo credit: Alec Marchant.

Slow fashion movements have been picking up speed in many major metropolitan centers, and Portland has long been associated with vintage shopping, fiber arts, and environmentally well-meaning consumers. Adidas recently rolled out a campaign advertising products made from %100 recycled ocean plastics. The company claims that their efforts have significantly reduced their production of new synthetic materials, and therefore, their overall carbon footprint and consumption of valuable resources, including water. Echoing Ryan Boyle, Alec Marchant remarked in an email that found materials are financially “imperative” to their clothing line’s existence, but that they hope to eventually invest money, time, and design thinking in new sustainable materials. Marchant’s take: “Innovation will keep us moving forward once we’ve recycled everything we can.” Like sustainability, accessibility has become a buzzword in Portland’s creative community and the national discourse surrounding fine art, fashion and music. What exactly do we refer to when we talk about accessibility? Does increasing accessibility mean something like minimizing the number of barriers that stand between all members of the public and the multifaceted manifestations of creativity available to them?

Stark explains: “My clothing line is a one-person operation, so I can only do so much. Right now, I can’t afford to donate money to organizations, but sometimes I can let my work do it for me.” For example, Stark donates 100% of the profits from her Never Mind What’s Been Selling shirts and sweatshirts to Planned Parenthood. One strategy Stark has found for increasing avant garde fashion’s accessibility and sustainability is to offer clothing manufacturing and re-workshops to the public. “I can try to give back by sharing the skills that I’ve learned as a sustainable designer, and by running donation programs out of my retail spaces. Even if I can’t be 100% sustainable in my collection, I can teach other people how to repair and rework clothing to fit their needs.”

Alexa Stark’s dog, Henry, pokes his head through a dress designed by Franscis Balken. Photo credit: Alec Marchant.

Stark recently concluded a two-day “re-workshop” for adults at the Portland Garment Factory. She will be leading the same workshop for teenagers on March 15th and 16th, and will offer the workshop for adults again on May 9th and 16th. Registration costs $350 for adults, and $300 for teens, but the payoff is substantial. All of the participants in Stark’s workshops have left with at least one wearable garment they made themselves, and the skills to produce more from recycled materials. “Simply being open and actively posting on Instagram about what we do is inspiring to others; it shows people what’s possible” says Stark. 

In the Spring, she and the other co-owners of Everywhere Space will start offering workshops at the shop on Burnside in ceramics and fashion illustration, and lectures explaining tactics for negotiating for better pay as a creative professional. Stark has taught at local schools in the past, and Rose Mackey intends to produce a film next year starring adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in collaboration with the organization Island Time Activities. Mackey hopes the designers at Everywhere Space will produce the costumes for the film.

It seems that more often than not, efforts to increase accessibility in fine art and fashion are misguided, fall short, or plainly miss the mark. Works of fine art are by and large singular objects owned by discrete individuals. The fashion industry, on the other hand, peddles in reproducible objects which vary in size to fit the needs of as many consumers as possible. At first glance, clothing seems inherently more accessible and democratic than fine art. Washing, clothing, feeding, and sheltering the body––these are basic necessities for living. Purchasing a piece of fine art and having the space to display or store it is a luxury few can afford. Consequently, we often rely on public institutions like museums or plutocratic private collectors to house highly valued works of art, and for some reason, admission costs to museums in the U.S. remain high.

Everywhere Spaces’ designers would like to extend a standing invitation to everyone to browse, shop, and try out new looks, but do their price-tags pose a significant barrier to those interested in adding these clothes to their wardrobe? To what extent, one feels obliged to ask, are these eclectic garments really “for everybody?” Stark, for her part, offers two price tiers: one that includes her signature airbrushed T-shirts and socks for $20-50, and another which includes her limited edition garments, which range in price from $100 to $1000. Ironically, by comparison to some designer fashion moguls, $100 to $1000 for a one-off garment from a designer label isn’t such a high price to pay. Especially considering that all of the designers at Everywhere Space do all of the labor themselves, from sourcing materials, to developing patterns, to stitching and detailing.

Although designer clothing and art are often thought of as two separate modes of production, fashion as art, and the extravagant value placed on clothing, were hot-button topics in 2019. Last year, Sterling Ruby became the first major visual artist to produce a fashion line. Renowned for his massive paintings, collages, and multimedia sculptures (which often sell for millions of dollars), Ruby has been lauded for his entrepreneurial instincts and his ability to renegotiate the traditional 50/50 split model that exists between galleries and artists in his own favor. Among some, he has earned a reputation as “a careerist gallery-hopper, without loyalty” (Christina Binkley, The New Yorker).

Dress and shoes by Collect Call (Ryan Boyle). Photo credit: Alec Marchant.

The financial barrier that Sterling Ruby’s clothing line poses to consumers is significantly higher than that of any of the designer’s at Everywhere Space. Ironies and incongruities abound in Ruby’s story. His central concern in launching his fashion line was to produce “affordable” clothing, without incidentally depressing the value of his artworks. He wanted to “democratize” his artwork and brand by producing a clothing line available to a wider group of consumers. The most expensive, one-of-a-kind items in Ruby’s collection sold out fastest, whereas “the cheaper T-shirts and sweatshirts… went largely unsold”  (Christina Binkley, The New Yorker). (Cheaper, by the way, still means $500+ for a T-shirt.) Ruby casted models for his debut show who looked like they “haven’t had it easy,” to market workwear to a demographic that has, at least financially, probably had it very easy (Christina Binkley, The New Yorker). He ended up selling his clothing for hundreds or even thousands of dollars to protect the value of his artworks, subsequently reinforcing the preexisting hierarchy of creative pursuits: fashion, according to his logic, remained less valuable than fine art.

In his dilettantish venture into fashion design, Ruby’s mission was not to “fix the fashion industry,” but to “reset the rules of what it means to be an artist” (Christina Binkley, The New Yorker). The designers at Everywhere Space would much prefer the former to the latter. The philosophy guiding their decision-making as a collective was informed by their frustration with the 50/50 consignment shop business model, which still remains the norm in designer fashion retail today. Everywhere Space’s co-owners want designers and producers to receive as much revenue from their sales as possible, while also challenging consumer habits, scrutinizing hot-button topics like “sustainability” and “accessibility,” and empowering others to create their own clothing from recycled materials. “Watching, listening to, and interacting with people experiencing my work first hand has been invaluable,” Alec Marchant tells me. Ultimately, the collective’s ambition is to nurture a space and a community where innovation, dialogue, and education come first, and “marketability” comes second––a goal worth striving for everywhere.

At Albertina Kerr, art of ebullience

Not "outside": Artists from the Portland Art and Learning Studio create an exhilarating exhibition at Gallery 114

There is an Outside spread Without & an outside spread Within
Beyond the Outline of Identity both ways, which meet in One:
An orbed Void of doubt, despair, hunger & thirst & sorrow.

– William BlakeJerusalem (1818).


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


Let me not mince words: I despise the term outsider art. Yes, I know the definition is loose – it can refer to anything, from art by those not trained as artists, or not affected by a particular culture, or living on the margins of society, or living with a disability or mental illness – often in any possible combination of all of these. And yes, I know we are stuck with the term, since it has taken on a life of its own ever since people started collecting this art. It is part of a commodity market always on the lookout for something new, something striking, something that money can be invested in.

Marker work by Lindsay Scheu
Lindsay Scheu

The very fact that you call some artists “outsiders” (including those living with disabilities, who are our family, our neighbors, our clients and, yes, our friends) perpetuates a tendency toward segregation rather than integration, to the loss of all involved. All, that is, but cutting-edge curators and collectors who boost their bottom line, staging art fairs and exhibitions of the few among the legions of creative “outsiders” who somehow make it to the top of the art market. Yet such art has its own life and energy, without regard for the market, and can be highly creative and life-affirming without apology or categorical pigeonholing. I found a good deal of such ebullient art recently at the Portland Art and Learning Studio, a project of Albertina Kerr. And so can you: Ebullience, an exhibition of work by PALS artists is featured this month at Portland’s Gallery 114.

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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.

Southern Rites at the Jewish Museum

Photographer Gillian Laub's deeply documented show on the persistence of racial attitudes in the South is visual activism at its best

What do I want? Why do I want it? And how do I get it?
– Stacey Abrams, in a TED talk shortly after she lost her bid to be elected governor of Georgia in the 2018 midterm elections.

*

AS SHOULD BE OBVIOUS by now, I rarely review exhibitions that I don’t like. The world doesn’t need more negativity, and I don’t need the emotional aggravation. It is therefore with some trepidation that I accept invitations to review something I have not yet had a chance to see. I will only do so if I am deeply committed to an institution and usually trust its choices, as is the case with the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education (OJMCHE.)

Felicia after the Black Prom, Vidalia, Georgia, 2009. Photographed by Gillian Laub. Photo: Friderike Heuer

No need to fret: OJMCHE’s newest exhibition, Southern Ritesis one of its strongest yet, a moving and thought-provoking tour de force about race relations and racism in contemporary America. Organized by the International Center for Photography and judiciously curated by Maya Benton, the exhibition of photographs by Gillian Laub is visual activism at its best: perceptive, engaged, critical photography of human beings in a context that defines them. Did I mention beautiful? Beautiful!

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VizArts Monthly: Art worth braving the rain to see

The galleries will be dry and there is great art to see inside

Now that January is finally over and we’ve all recovered from the holidays and reacclimated ourselves to the rain, it’s time to get back out into the world! There is a lot going on this month from anniversaries to grand re-openings to just plain great art shows from galleries and artists that work hard to share important ideas and visions with the rest of us. Beloved gallery Nationale has finally opened its doors at their new location off East Burnside, while the equally wonderful Ori celebrates its second birthday with a party and group show. Carnation Contemporary brings work from artist members of Eugene’s Tropical Contemporary to town for a gallery collective crossover event (and vice versa), and PDX Contemporary presents exciting new work from a long-time gallery artist. 

If January first is the “soft opening” of the New Year, the beginning of February is like the official Grand Opening of Earth’s next tour around the sun, when things really get going again after the post-holiday doldrums. But these shows and events don’t come out of nowhere, they are the result of careful planning and a lot of hard work that happens all year round. If you want to show your support to the arts workers who make this town great and help them continue their efforts in a sustainable way, consider donating to the projects linked at the end of this article. 

View of white-wall gallery with colorful quilted works featuring abstracted figures on walls and floor
Aruni Dharmakirthi, No Flowers in Eden, installation view, courtesy Nationale

Aruni Dharmakirthi: No Flowers in Eden
January 18 – February 18
Nationale
15 SE 22nd Ave
Nationale has moved around many times in its more than ten years of operation, but this last move was almost certainly the most trying. After miles of red tape and thousands of dollars spent updating this charming storefront location a half block South of Burnside, Nationale is transformed once again, but still radiates the singular personality of inimitable curator May Barruel. The gallery space is larger and the retail side now includes mini-shops offering items from local vendors Mixed Needs and tone poem. The first show in this space might have easily been overshadowed by the circumstances leading up to it — and in fact, the show was delayed by several months as renovations dragged on — but Aruni Dharmakirthi’s subtly sculptural quilted works are captivating enough to be heard over everything else. Her works’ abstracted figures, off-kilter palette, and casually expert decorative detailing add softness and warmth to the white-walled space. 

Logo featuring gold geometric designs on black background and text reading "Year of Ase 2020, Ori Gallery's Anniversary Fundraiser"
courtesy Ori Gallery

Year of Asé
February 15 – March 22
Opening reception February 15, 6-9pm
Ori Gallery
4038 N Mississippi Ave
Ori Gallery is two years old, and they are marking the occasion with a group show featuring work from a half-dozen artists and a party/fundraiser on opening night. The gallery’s tight-knit community has come together for celebration of the more than a dozen exhibitions and countless events they have produced to date and to get energized for the future. In their words: Year of Asé is “a thank you to all of our artists, volunteers, interns, patrons and staff. Come make connections and foster strength for the liberation work we have ahead of us!” The public is invited to join the party, which will feature opportunities to donate and a chance to win prizes from local vendors. 

Abstract painting with washy texture and small pointillist marks in soft pastel pinks, blues, and yellows on white background.
detail of work by Denise Lutz, image courtesy Carnation Contemporary and the artist

Pink Sheets
February 1 – 23
Carnation Contemporary
8371 N Interstate Ave

If/Then
February 7 – 28
Tropical Contemporary
1120 Bailey Hill #11
Eugene
Carnation Contemporary in Portland and Tropical Contemporary in Eugene pull a Freaky Friday move this month, hosting groups exhibitions of artist members from each other’s gallery. Pink Sheets, at Carnation, features work from members of Tropical focused on the comfort and warmth many of us crave during these winter months. If/Then, at Tropical, features works by Carnation members that share a common theme of the uncertain future versus the anxious present. Both galleries utilize an artist membership model both to share the costs and responsibilities of running an art space and to give artists ownership over their exhibitions. The gallery swap concept is a great way to highlight the hard work and collaborative spirit both of these spaces bring to the Oregon arts landscape, and hopefully will inspire art viewers from Portland and Eugene alike to break out of their usual routines and see what their neighbors are up to.

Still from digital animation showing red rock arch with cut interior revealing black and white digital pattern
still from CORES by Nick Sassoon and Rick Silva, courtesy Holding Contemporary

CORES: Nick Sassoon and Rick Silva
January 23 – February 29
Holding Contemporary
916 NW Flanders
The two artists featured in Holding Contemporary’s CORES, Nick Sassoon and Rick Silva, both make work connecting the digital and the physical in material ways. Rocks figure prominently – think digital animations of geode-like objects whose interiors are trippy LED screens, or an actual rock with an actual LED screen sprouting from an armature buried in the stone. Part of the aim is to evoke the ways in which humans have affected the natural world, even down to geological processes, and it would seem there are few perspectives that oppose anthropocentrism quite as effectively as lithocentrism — the rock’s eye view. 

shredded and layered blue and green flags hanging on white wall
Work by Brittany Vega, courtsey Fuller Rosen

American Hex: Christine Miller and Brittany Vega
February 1 – March 14
Fuller Rosen
2505 SE 11th Ave Suite 106
Christine Miller and Brittany Vega come together in their show, American Hex, to explore the problems and revelations contained within their own eccentric personal collections. Vega’s flag collection grew from her practical experience in the flag industry. The flags on view at Fuller Rosen are shredded and remixed to break down their original significance and question their role as cultural and political tools. Miller’s collection of racist Americana is a more direct statement on the trouble with American-ness and patriotism. These items reflect the racial violence and oppression that infuses so much of the history that has also informed a certain concept of national identity. Miller collects them as ”teaching tools” in the hope that their careful presentation and context might begin to neutralize their power as symbols of bigotry. Miller has published a book to accompany the show titled My Black is the Color of the Sun, in collaboration with the gallery. There will be a release event on February 22.

Green, blue, and yellow painting of large rocky mountain with cascading white waterfall and yellow sky in background
Adam Sorenson, Tetuan, courtesy PDX Contemporary

Skeleton: Adam Sorenson
January 15 – February 29
PDX Contemporary
925 NW Flanders
Portland artist Adam Sorenson gained national attention for his psychedelic neon landscapes ten years ago, and this month he returns to PDX Contemporary with paintings that find something new to say about the fantasy worlds that have become his signature. Like his past work, the pieces in Skeleton are replete with gumdrop-like rocks, cascading waterfalls, and glowing colors. But they are looser, more relaxed, and more painterly. In contrast to his earlier works, a little more is left to the imagination, and it feels like the mysterious places Sorenson conjures have a bit more room to breathe.

Photo of bearded man with yellow-painted face and purple lace shroud over head, holding hand to cheek and looking upwards with mouth open and eyes rolled back as if in agony or ecstasy. alpine scene in background
image courtesy Disjecta

Nierika: Santuario Somático: Edgar Fabián Frías
February 2 – March 8
Disjecta
8371 N Interstate Ave
Disjecta curator-in-residence Justin Hoover presents artist Edgar Fabián Frías in the second show of a series titled ungodly: the spiritual medium (Coco Dolle’s PUNKDEISM was the first). Frías is a licensed psychotherapist in addition to their interdisciplinary art practice, and their exhibition Nierika touts itself as an opportunity for viewers to take refuge and undertake a voyage of self-discovery through creative workshops, videos, and objects infused with spirituality inspired by Wixarika traditions of Western Mexico. How this transformative process is meant to unfold is hazy, but pursuit of a goal as utopian as the “binding together” of individuals through facilitation and nurturance of the collective psyche is certainly worth diving headfirst into the unknown. 

Show Your Appreciation: Contribute to the Art(ist)s

The Portland Art Museum just announced a $10 million gift from Arlene Schnitzer, and Disjecta was recently awarded $80,000 in funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation. These donations are wonderful for the institutions receiving them and the artists they support, and for Portland’s arts community. But not everybody can be (or show at) the museum. Many of the venues in this month’s listings are artist run, and it’s no small feat to organize exhibitions on a monthly basis while trying to juggle an art practice and the inevitable day jobs and side hustles that come along with the “creative lifestyle.” Here are some small ways you can contribute to the artists and curators who are working hard to make Portland as cool and interesting as everyone expects it to be:

Ink & Drink PDX
@inkanddrinkpdx
Last Wednesdays 7-10pm
Dig a Pony 
Ink & Drink is a monthly event held at the Inner Southeast bar Dig a Pony: a dozen artists sit at a big table and draw as spectators look on with beers in hand. Finished drawings are hung in a makeshift salon-style gallery for patrons to purchase and take home (at very reasonable prices!), and 50% of the proceeds benefit rotating local nonprofits and activist organizations. Check their website and Instagram for details about upcoming events.

Holding Contemporary’s Shareholder Program
Holding Contemporary runs on a unique “shareholder” model, in which an investment in the gallery yields quarterly returns, discounts on art, exclusive invitations to special events, and other perks. Buying a share in a gallery may sound unusual, but it’s a great way for the business to attract support in a town whose art market is still developing compared to other cities. The initial investment can be as little as $100, but the impact is significant for the gallery and its artists.

The Nat Turner Project
The organizers of the Nat Turner Project call it a “fugitive gallery space” that aims to give artists of color the literal and metaphorical space to create their work. Their projects include exhibitions and performances, as well as the Drinking Gourd Fellowships, which provide material support to emerging artists of color. Now NTP also has a podcast, called who all gon be there?, and you can support all of their activities by donating to their Patreon. An ongoing contribution entitles donors to benefits like exclusive podcast episodes, a NTP zine, and custom-made buttons. With enough support, the organization hopes to eventually rent exhibition space and pay future artists-in-residence. 

Nationale
Reborn gallery Nationale has raised an impressive amount so far through its grassroots fundraising campaign, but it still has a little ways to go to make up for the high costs of renovating its new space. Owner and curator May Barruel is known for her continued support of young emerging artists, and her gallery is by some measures the quintessential Portland art space. Over the years she has borne much of the cost of running the space herself, and it has been heartwarming to see the community she helped build gather its resources to keep Nationale going.

Oregon Artswatch
It would be remiss not to include ourselves! Oregon Artswatch has been covering the state’s arts community and news since 2011. As a nonprofit organization, we rely in part on donations to fund our reporting. If you are enjoying this column, think about contributing a little bit if you can so that we can continue sharing our journalism with you!

Our place in the fabric of the world

Finding the warp and weft of things in Amanda Triplett's studio, a fresh look at PCVA, and a Diane Jacobs work at the Portland Art Museum

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The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see. 

James Baldwin The Creative Process (1962) (from The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985.)


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


ONE OF THOSE WEEKS. Unrelenting, miserable downpours, not the drizzle Portland usually knows. Unrelenting, horrid news, death calling with helicopter crashes, earthquakes, viral lung disease. And then three art encounters that stretched the brain and filled the soul with smatterings of joy. Softened the week around the edges.

Details from Amanda Triplett’s studio.

The thread that ran through these encounters was literally that: a thread. Or, more precisely, multitudes of them, fabrics, textiles, hair, and other palpable materials fashioned into something different and new. To stay within the textile metaphor, the warp running the lengths of the works was clever, clever ideas about our place in the world, crossed by the weft of invitations for multiple interpretations.

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Critical remakes but no art

Curatorial team Triple Candie's retrospective of the Portland Center for the Visual Arts at the Portland Art Museum

Gallery installation featuring low plywood façade wrapping around corner of two walls, and on the floor two yellow fluorescent lights, two logs, a mirror, a silver box, and an assortment of small objects arranged in a grid.
Installation view of Being Present, courtesy of Portland Art Museum

What is the point of an art exhibition that contains no actual artworks? In the case of Being Present (on view at the Portland Art Museum through June 14, 2020), the point is to provide an unsparing analysis of Portland’s art world of the not-too-distant past. Being Present offers an eccentric tribute to and critique of the Portland Center for the Visual Arts, an organization that played a formidable role in the formation of Portland’s creative landscape. Triple Candie, a Washington, D.C.-based curatorial duo (Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett), has put together this retrospective in accordance with their mission to “explore the possibilities of exhibition-making as a truly alternative, critical practice.”  The show’s subtitle, Revisiting, Somewhat Unfaithfully, Portland’s Most Experimental Art Experiment, hints at their unusual approach to unpacking Portland’s recent art history. 

In their opening statement, Triple Candie admit they “never experienced PCVA in person,” having arrived in the Pacific Northwest as students at the University of Washington a year after the group folded. They go on to explain that they “curate exhibitions about art, but devoid of it.” This is an oblique reference to the fact that Triple Candie themselves are the authors of the objects on display, which apparently do not qualify as art, but as tools for interpreting art that no longer exists. They are quirky reconstructions of artworks commissioned by PCVA in the 70s and 80s that diverge from the originals in ways that reflect the curators’ research and critical stance. This may sound confusing, but each piece is accompanied by a detailed explanation that renders the conceptual connections between the physical works and their historical counterparts surprisingly clear and sometimes almost literal in their directness. Furthermore, there is a sense of irreverence here that makes sifting through this conceptually dense show a fun and engaging experience. 

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