Labor Day weekend used to be known as the last gasp of summer, before school started up again. But Portland Public Schools and several others have jumped the gun, opening on Tuesday, when it was still August, and 95 degrees. Does tradition mean nothing?
Well, yes it does – if not in school, at least in the arts. For the 26th year, the big end-of-summer festival Art in the Pearl is setting up shop on Labor Day weekend in Portland’s North Park Blocks, between Northwest Davis and Flanders streets. That’s along one of the city’s prominent gallery rows, and a short stroll from the Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Art in the Pearl, which is put on by a board of 20 volunteer working artists, calls itself a “fine arts and crafts festival,” and it freely mixes “art” and “craft,” emphasizing what brings them together rather than what often artificially splits them apart. This year’s festival will feature work by about 120 artists, all of them selected by jury, who’ll be at their booths in the park, talking with visitors and showing (and selling) their work.
Musicians will be roving around the park grounds, adding to the festive fair atmosphere, and booths for artist demonstrations will be scattered among the trees. For safety, artists’ booths will have ample distance between them to prevent overcrowding, and the festival perimeter will be gated to make sure the event doesn’t get overcrowded at any point.
As always, attendance at Art in the Pearl is free. (What you spend or don’t on art to take home is entirely up to you.) You’re encouraged to bring the kids – there’ll be an education pavilion with hands-on activities for kids and adults. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 3-4, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Monday, Labor Day, Sept. 5. Oh: And, unlike that 95-degree first day of school, temperatures are forecast to peak between the high 70s and middle 80s.
PSU museum serves a feast
A little like the weather, everybody talks about food, but only a few people do anything about it – or at least, create art about it. Then again, food’s been an obsession of artists for many centuries, from still-life paintings of grapes and cheese and bread on a board with the obligatory fly or beetle in the corner, to the 16th century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s whimsical portraits of people made out of vegetables, fish, and fruits.
And it’s not as if the artist food obsession stopped with the Renaissance, or even the Impressionist years. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University has just opened an exhibition of art about food by a lot of prominent 20th and 21st century artists. The Art of Food, drawn from the broad-ranging collections of Schnitzer and his family foundation, opened Tuesday and continues through Dec. 3.
The lineup of artists is impressive, including, among others, Red Grooms, David Hockney. Lorna Simpson, Andy Warhol, Wayne Thiebaud, Jasper Johns, Alex Katz, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Hung Liu, Robert Rauschenberg, Alison Saar, and the prominent Oregon artists Sherrie Wolf, Katherine Ace, Chris Antemann, and Malia Jensen.
You might leave hungry. Then again, you should have some good inspirations for dinner or lunch.
Trouble by the Bay
The art scene is struggling in San Francisco, the New York Times declares in a story in its Aug. 30 print edition, Cultural Tremors in San Francisco. (It’s headlined in its online form a more cautious San Francisco’s Art Market Struggles in the Shadow of Los Angeles).
Art scenes are struggling everywhere, of course, in the wake of a not-yet-over pandemic. Portland and Seattle are certainly feeling it, too: This recent story from Crosscut reports that all sorts of underpaid artists in greater Seattle are quitting to do almost anything else that’ll give them food and a roof over their heads.
The Times focuses at least in part on the departure of a pair of big-name galleries, Pace and Gagosian. But Pace and Gagosian are international brands, and as the story points out, the Bay Area’s wealthy collectors can almost as easily buy from them in L.A. or London or New York. In a sense, their departure from San Francisco has more to do with money than art.
Perhaps a more telling blow is that the important San Francisco Art Institute is shutting down after 150 years. And as San Francisco becomes too expensive for a lot of people to live in, Bay Area artists are picking up stakes and moving to Los Angeles. The city’s become too expensive in part because of the influx of high tech players and their money – and unlike earlier generations of wealth, for the most part the high-tech generation isn’t spending its money on art.
It’s tough, of course, to separate money from art, but they’re not the same. And it’s tough to separate a regional art scene from the declarations of what’s important in London or New York.
But San Francisco’s been down a similar road before. In the late 1940s and ’50s it largely broke away from Abstract Expressionism to establish what became known as the Bay Area Figurative Movement, which proceeded to splinter into dozens of new directions, from Robert Arneson’s winking funk to Richard Diebenkorn’s land-based abstractions to Squeak Carnwath’s complex and sometimes text-embedded paintings to Wayne Thiebaud’s Pop-influenced paintings of desserts.
It’s not as if most of those Bay Area artists were in open revolt against New York. They were just doing what they wanted to do, no matter what New York or London or Paris thought of it. And in the process they built a scene that people in other places wanted to check out.
So: Does San Francisco need Pace and Gagosian, which have flown the coop? Or will something new and of its own place once again emerge?
Special delivery in Corvallis
Corvallis artist (and occasional ArtsWatch contributor) Patrick Collier likes to put things together – often seemingly mundane things, or castaway items found abandoned on the street, or thrift-store finds, or worn-out household things otherwise headed for the landfill. From such castoffs he creates something new.
All in the Delivery, his new show running Sept. 2-25 at Truckenbrod Gallery, 517 S.W. Second St. in downtown Corvallis, is made up of 3D pieces large and small, using corrugated boxes and packaging and other shipping materials. “For this show, I was drawn to working with specific materials more than communicating a particular theme,” he says. “Yet, as I’m selecting materials to combine into sculptures, over time narratives begin to form.” Take a look and let them tell their stories – or tell the stories yourself.