hannah piper burns

VizArts Monthly: March on

You WILL make it through the last dregs of winter, and a new set of visual arts shows will help

I’ve seen March arrive in Portland more than a dozen times, and yet still some part of me thinks “Ok, it’s spring now, right?” It’s not spring, and it won’t be spring for a while. It’s still winter, still time left in the unpredictable progression from spiteful to mightful to sometimes delightful. It’s easy to think things just won’t change. But we Portlanders go through this every year, filling the outdoor cafes as soon as the sun makes an appearance. It’s built into our constitutions to look for signs of progress and renewal when all seems lost.

Checking the news at any point is a quick reminder that the weather’s not the only thing that manages to be both unexpected and depressing in 2018. Even though the clouds haven’t parted yet, some big, colorful developments are already showing. Black Panther is smashing box office records and inspiring intelligent conversation about a comic book movie, vibrant portraits of the Obamas by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald break the stuffy monotony of official presidential portraits, and the tough-as-nails students of Stoneman Douglas have already managed to budge the national conversation about gun control more than Washington has ever been willing to.

Likewise, our local artists and institutions aren’t waiting for the sun to come back to add some color and light to our city. March is chock full of smart, complex, and beautiful shows representing diverse perspectives. This list should give you plenty of chances to jolt the grey away.


Jason Doizé, Punching Out Requires Punching In, detail


I headed to Portland’s Pioneer Place mall yesterday evening for the openings of the new visual art exhibitions at Store and Place, the artist run spaces up in the rafters of the west block of the mall. As usual, it’s a little of this, a little of that, so you just have to pretend it’s a poetry open mic and sit back and wait for the diamond.

Jason Doizé’s installation “Punching Out Requires Punching In” is a formally beautiful installation, a simple wood sculpture whose form draws blond lines out into the space serves to hold a stack of plate glass and paper against the wall overseen by two wall-mounted panes of smoked glass nearby. The floor is littered with little paper circles. Work has happened (see the title), holes having been punched, and perhaps the smoked glass conceals supervisors watching. I do love this stack of glass in the veritable palace of glass that the shopping center is. (Have you been reading Walter Benjamin on Parisian arcades? Yes, I have. Does it make you feel any more kindly toward shopping malls? Why, yes, it does.) “Punching” would be good anywhere, but here is an antidote. I find it interesting that Doizé returns to paper again as object/evidence of work (if only in an ancillary manner). His last installation here involved a palette of paper intended to be folded into cootie catchers by retail workers.

Krystal South. A Mirror Unto Itself. installation view


Krystal South’s “A Mirror Unto Itself” is strange and appropriate in this mall space. The artist has collected dozens of photographs of mirrors for sale on Craigslist and created two composites, a landscape version of the landscape photos, and a vertical composite of the vertical photos. These two prints flank a bevel-edged mirror on a pedestal. In spite of the fact that the sellers of these mirrors go out of their way to exclude themselves from their mirror photos (which fails most beautifully in one photo of a long mirror on the grass reflecting sky and clouds, bisected by a human shadow that does not appear in the mirror but only on the grass), the mirrors as objects cannot help but reflect something to us of the persons who own them. So it is a collective portrait by commodity that we’re faced with in this mall gallery. See her essay, details of many of the mirrors, and download the posters she’s created for your printing pleasure here. The many ways that the project lives — in word and image, in space, on a website, and to be printed in your home — make a good work even smarter and more interesting.

Ashley Sloan enters new territory literally and figuratively with the video work “Itinerary,” in which the artist is seen walking away from the camera in shot after shot at various European tourist attractions. Each shot is supertitled with the name of the spot “Brandenburg Gate” and a date and time: 7/8, 3 PM “Hamburger Bahnhof, Bruce Nauman exhibit.” The efficient tourist packs it all in in half-hour increments. It’s funny in that respect. But I appreciate that we never see the artist’s face nor do we get a postcard shot of what she’s visiting, there’s just the constant and regular movement, up stairs, down a road, on a sidewalk. And there’s something about this meditation on movement, on going somewhere, and our desire for it, that’s, well, moving. Sloan has spent some years making exquisite large scale drawings of hairstyles, and her own blonde locks take center stage here, bobbing away from us in scene after scene.

And finally, Hannah Piper Burns’ Gene Kelly obsession results in a great mashup entitled “Over the Anvil,” Kelly dancing a duo with a shade of himself that she’s set to music by Kavinsky (the end credits wonderfully read “Gene Kelly vs. Hannah Piper Burns vs. Kavinsky”). Part of a larger installation with three small videos of isolated Kelly dance sequences and the artist’s short poems penned on the walls, the installation is set to change over the course of the exhibition.

Pioneer Place (3rd Floor)
700 SW 5th Avenue
Portland, OR 97204