Lan Su Chinese Garden

Vizarts Monthly: Cozy autumn edition

October offers textiles, botanical prints, and painted memories

Summer has left us, but the colors and coziness of autumn have begun to show up while there are still leaves on the trees and some sunny days. Whether you break out your fall jacket to browse the First Thursday openings or you take a meditative stroll through the Lan Su Chinese Garden to see their exhibition of beautiful flower paintings, this October offers up a rich variety of group exhibitions, solo shows, and even a textile symposium!

Olivia Kincaid – San Diego Zoo

Olivia Kincaid: Perpetuating Family Systems
Through October 25
White Gallery
Portland State University
1825 SW Broadway

Portland State University MFA candidate Olivia Kincaid’s mixed-media paintings appropriate familiar forms of contemporary portraiture, like the family snapshot or the senior portrait, and transform them into explorations of the concept of “family” itself. PSU’s White Gallery presents Kincaid’s latest work in a show curated by Safiyah Maurice that should be both an opportunity to reflect on the ties that bind us to our kin as well as a great chance to see brand new painting by one of Portland’s emerging talents. 


Image by Nora Sherwood

Mums & More Botanical Art Exhibition
October-November
Lan Su Chinese Garden
239 NW Everett St.

As part of the American Society of Botanical Artists’ 25th anniversary, local chapter Oregon Botanical Artists presents an exhibition of contemporary botanical illustration at Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden. The show will focus on chrysanthemums and other plants that evoke autumn or that have significance in Asian cultures. In contrast to the usual “white cube” typical of most contemporary art galleries, this will be a chance to see the work of 17 Oregon artists in a unique setting that complements and contextualizes their subjects.

Jenene Nagy: Banner, 2019

Jenene Nagy: Box Breathing
October 2-November 2
PDX Contemporary
925 NW Flanders

Jenene Nagy’s poetic compositions are made with monochromatic graphite and  folded paper, arranged in grids and nesting squares that are simple in conception but contain surprising depths of light and texture. PDX Contemporary presents some of her latest pieces in box breathing, which will please those who are into process-based and post-minimalist artwork as well as anyone who appreciates the beauty of subtlety. 

Ancestral Connections
October 4-October 29
Multnomah Art Center
7688 SW Capitol Hwy

This multimedia group show, curated by Bobby Fouther, envisions the African Diaspora residing in Portland as an extended family, or a village, complete with elders, students, parents, and peers. At the same time, Fouther’s curation celebrates the diversity of this community by featuring artists of varying age, medium, and style. Works ranging from paintings to quilts to spoken word share individual stories that contribute to a larger picture of a shared ancestral heritage. Look for muralist Jamaali Roberts’ unique collages and the precocious paintings of Hobbs Waters.


Image via Tropical Contemporary

Somethings Together
October 4, 6-9 pm; October 5 & 12, 1-4 pm
Tropical Contemporary
1120 Bailey Hill #11
Eugene, OR

Tropical Contemporary’s October show, “Somethings Together,” is only open for a short time but is definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in Eugene during gallery hours. The artist-run space has been a platform for emerging Oregon artists since 2015 and their latest show features four artists whose work plays off each other visually and conceptually. The mediums they use vary and range from colorfully painted and shaped canvases to architecturally-informed sculpture and even fabric constructions. Surreal humor ties them all together.

Mark Flores and William E. Jones: Collaboration 3

Mark Flores and William E. Jones: Perverted By Language
October 5-November 8
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 5, 5-7 pm
Private Places
2400 NE Holladay St.

Private Places will host Los Angeles artists Mark Flores and William E. Jones for their second collaborative show. Both artists have multi-decade careers under their belts already but have departed from their usual mediums and methods to create new works that incorporate collage, painting, and 1970s pop culture icons like David Bowie and Blondie’s Debbie Harry. The result is vivid and cool. The show is accompanied by a screening of Jones’ films at Yale Union on Sunday, October 6, at 7pm.

Takuichi Fujii: Self Portrait

Witness to Wartime: The Painted Diary of Takuichi Fujii
October 19, 2019 through January 5, 2020
High Desert Museum
58900 US-97
Bend, OR

The illustrated diary of the late Washington artist Takuichi Fujii, on display this month at Bend’s High Desert Museum, is a moving personal document of the Japanese-American experience during World War II. Fujii was one of the many Americans who were imprisoned in internment camps by the United States government without charge simply because of their heritage. During his three years in the camps he wrote and painted over 400 pages that detail both despair and strength. This exhibition also includes examples of Fujii’s surreal and abstract paintings from both before and after his time in the camps, providing a fuller picture of this talented artist whose life was profoundly affected by the mistakes of those in power at the time. 

example of textile work by Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim, featured speaker at the Symposium

Textile Connections Symposium
October 26, 10am-6pm; October 27, 12-4 pm
Pacific Northwest College of Art
511 NW Broadway

October is Textile Month in Portland, and the festivities come to a close with the Textile Connections Symposium, a gathering of international fiber artists and makers. The first day features panel discussions and keynote speakers, including Palestinian embroidery experts Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim and Wafa Ghnaim. Sunday is “community day” which means a makers market with dozens of local and visiting vendors, demonstrations of textile tools and techniques, and plenty of opportunities to meet fellow fiber-arts lovers. This event aims to bring the regional textile community together to celebrate their achievements while fostering innovation and collaboration in the future.

MusicWatch Weekly: Happy accidents

Music editor misses Glass opera, amplified strings, and the end of CMNW

Allow me to get personal for a moment. You, my dear readers, know that I’m involved in this vibrant local music scene I’ve been writing about every week for the last three years. As a student at Portland State University, I walk past area composers Kenji Bunch and Bonnie Miksch in the hallways about once a week. Until recently, I sat on the board of Cascadia Composers (about whom you can read all about right here in Maria “Arts Bitch” Choban’s detective hunt). I play drums in a surf punk band and gongs in a Balinese gamelan, and most of my friends and acquaintances are musicians. It’s inevitable that your ever-busy music editor will occasionally find himself becoming Part of the Story.

Music editor Matt Andrews becomes Part of the Story. Photo by Matias Brecher.

So this week I’m going to lean into that pretty hard and tell you all about my brother’s band. I’ll also explain why you have to go to a bunch of wonderful local concerts in my stead this weekend, beautiful shows I’ve been waiting all year for, all piling up here at the bottom of July where I have to miss them because I’ll be spending the next five days packing for a six-week trip to Bali.

But first, a case for Mozart.

To garden or not to garden

Portland Opera earns its place in the city’s music scene for one reason: they pour almost as much time, effort, talent, and money into productions of operas by living U.S. composers as they put into the classics. (Honestly that’s a pretty generous “almost,” but they do alright for an arts organization of their heft. Oregon Symphony does better, but they also do more.)

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MusicWatch Weekly: Hot and cold running summer

Mandolins, saxophones, loopy music, and jazz fusion

Portland summers have a little something for everyone. If you like your summers dry, hot, and aggressive, you can easily get your fill of blinding, baking, oppressively sweaty sunpocalypse. If you like your summers bitter, cloudy, soggy, and unseasonably cold—well, you’ll get your fill of that too. And hey, if you like perfect summers full of warm, friendly blue skies and cool, refreshing breezes chasing fluffy clouds across the golden horizon….well, you live here. You know Portland’s got you covered for that kind of summer too.

The music here is much the same. Just this week we’ve got everything from massed mandolins and stacked saxophones to jazz of all stripes, a lot more Chamber Music Northwest, and digitally looped harp, voice, violin, and cello. Read on to get your weekly forecast—and remember your sunscreen!

This Weekend

If outdoor listening is your bag, you’ve got two good options in Southeast Portland this weekend. The two-dozen strong Oregon Mandolin Orchestra—“mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos and crazy-huge mandobass”—performs at 2 p.m. on Saturday July 13 in Westmoreland Park, as part of the all-day Portland Picnic Wine Tasting Festival. On Sunday, Portland’s favorite saxophone quartet—the majestic Quadraphonnes, led by Mary-Sue Tobin—perform in Western Pacific University’s free “Summer Concerts & Movies In the Park” series. The band plays at 6:30. The surprisingly entertaining blockbuster Aquaman screens afterward, with free popcorn. Keep an eye out for Dolph Lundgren’s astonishing beard!

Portland saxophone quartet Quadraphonnes.

Meanwhile, CMNW is cooking right along with unstoppable verve and ferocity. Just today, at the third New@Noon concert, we heard the Miró Quartet turn in a very lovely performance of Caroline Shaw’s Entr’Acte, and you’ll read all about how their interpretation varied from Calidore’s in a couple weeks, when we all stop going to concerts and finally have time to write about them. For now, I can only tell you that their excellent playing and lively vibes got me all excited for their two appearances this weekend.

On Saturday July 13, Miró finishes their complete Beethoven Opus 18 mini-cycle, begun last Thursday. This will be the good half of old Ludwig van’s early quartet set, with its operatic C minor and its serendipitously transcendent Bb major. Then, Sunday July 14, they’re joined by pianist Gilles Vonsattel, who today gave the only performance of Rzewski that made any kind of sense to me (more on that later as well). Vonsattel and Miró will perform Mendelssohn, Brahms, and the Schumanns.

The Territory and beyond

I can’t even imagine how local jazz composer Darrell Grant must feel about competing with the Sun Ra Arkestra next week. Grant’s The Territory has a two-day run at CMNW (Monday at Reed, Tuesday at PSU), while the Arkestra plays those same two nights at the historic Hollywood Theatre on Southeast Sandy. Although both artists fall broadly under the heading of “jazz,” stylistically and thematically they could hardly be more different. One is as local as it gets, a suite about the Pacific Northwest performed by a jazz great who’s called Portland home since the 90s. The other is—if you believe the hype—literally from outer space.

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MusicWatch Monthly: Too many notes

Summer gets all sweaty, with classical and jazz festivals, operas, experimental sound art, and a bit of good old-fashioned NW gonzo punk

Garden wall at Lan Su Chinese Garden. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

La Finta Giardiniera
July 12-27, Newmark Theater
In The Penal Colony
July 26-August 10, Hampton Opera Center

It’s oddly appropriate that Portland Opera is closing its season with summer performances of Mozart and Philip Glass. Both composers are that rare breed: equally adept at performing their own chamber music, writing grand symphonies for orchestra, and collaborating on a variety of comic and tragic operas on themes both timeless and timely.

They have both also been accused, perhaps justly, of writing too many damn notes, and that’s part of why the best way to experience theatrically-inclined composers like Mozart and Glass is in their native habitat: the opera house. That’s really where their music lives best, in live performances rich with grand singing, engaging sets and costumes and lighting and the other “works” which give opera its name—plus the comedic and dramatic intimacy that is live theater’s specialty.

July 12-27, PO stages the lesser-known Mozart opera La Finta Giardiniera, in its second Portland production of the year (PSU Opera put on their own production earlier this year). Lindsay Ohse stars; Chas Rader-Shieber directs.

July 26-August 10, Jerry Mouawad (co-founder of Portland’s Imago Theatre) returns for another modern “pocket opera.” PO specializes in presenting these chamber operas by modern composers, thrilling Portland audiences recently with Laura Kaminsky’s As One and in 2017 with Mouawad’s production of David Lang’s The Difficulty of Crossing a Field and The Little Match Girl Passion. Martin Bakari and Ryan Thorn star in Glass’s adaptation of the terrifying Kafka story.

Jazz and Blues

Waterfront Blues Festival
July 4-7, Waterfront Park

For over three decades, Portland’s iconic blues festival has been a hot, sweaty, messy, crowded, rite of passage. It’s such an undertaking they’ve got a handy little guide for navigating the four-day, four-stage fest sprawled across the west side of the river, wedged between the waves and the construction cranes.

Take a look at the line-up right here. If any of those musical legends and other hot-shit artists sound like you’d want to get into a sweltering, sunscreen-slathered groove with them and a thousand other vibing blues fans down on the sun-baked shore of the Willamette River—then pack yourself a bag full of bottled water, grab a big floppy sun hat, and get your ass down to the water.

Waterfront Blues Festival, July 7, 2018.
Waterfront Blues Festival, July 7, 2018.

Jazz in the Garden
Tuesdays, July 16-August 20, Lan Su Chinese Garden

Across six Tuesdays this summer, Lan Su Chinese Garden in Old Town Portland hosts PDX Jazz’s Summer Music Series, featuring a variety of international and local artists. On July 16th, it’s Malian supergroup BKO Quintet; on July 23, Portland vibraphonist Mike Horsfall pays tribute to Cal Tjader; on July 30, erstwhile Portland saxophonist Hailey Niswanger returns from Brooklyn with her band MAE.SUN. In August, jazz and soul singer China Moses performs on the 6th, pianist Connie Han plays on the 13th, and on the 20th Bobby Torres Ensemble commemorates Woodstock.

The Territory
July 15, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College
July 16, Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University

Local superstar jazz composer and pianist Darrell Grant is having a busy year, as usual. His nine-movement suite for jazz ensemble The Territory, premiered at Chamber Music Northwest in 2013, led to the formation of the “Oregon Territory Ensemble,” which has continued performing the landscape-inspired music and recorded it with Grant in 2015.

They’ll perform The Territory here twice in July, and the line-up is pure local A-list: Florestan Trio cellist Hamilton Cheifetz, vocalist Marilyn Keller (From Maxville to Vanport), bass clarinetist Kirt Peterson, multi-instrumentalist John Nastos, trumpeter Thomas Barber, drummer Tyson Stubelek, bassist Eric Gruber, and vibraphonist Mike Horsfall.

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TaiHei Ensemble: garden reflections

New music by University of Oregon composers inspired by Portland's Lan Su Chinese Garden premieres in Eugene and Portland concerts

A new day at Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden begins. The morning’s multi-hued sky reflected in a koi filled pond is accompanied by the sounds of birdsong and the gentle trickling of a waterfall hidden in a bamboo alcove. This walled-in botanical oasis of Chinese native flora, art, architecture, and calm — one of the most authentic Suzhou-style gardens outside China — was the destination last October of a cadre of University of Oregon graduate students beginning a year-long music composition project.

Organized by Eugene’s student-managed TaiHei Ensemble, the “One Day in a Chinese Garden” project immersed ten invited composers from the Oregon Composers Forum in a day of Chinese art and culture. The highlight was a 45-minute docent-led walking tour of the garden that ended at the teahouse, where composers heard a program of traditional Chinese music performed on authentic instruments by members of the Portland Wisdom Art Academy.

Lan Su Chinese Garden Reflective pond with Moon Locking Pavilion. Photo: Jared Knight

After a full day of sensory exposure to a multitude of cultural experiences, the participants composed, based upon their garden visit and further individual research into Chinese culture and music, a 5-8 minute piece for TaiHei Ensemble, known for exploring and enacting international dialogs across the Pacific Rim through music. On Tuesday, TaiHei performs the music in the first of three 2019 concerts. Like the image of the sky in the garden’s reflecting pool, their compositions reflect aspects of the garden’s physical attributes as well as the ideas it signifies and other notions gleaned from their experience in the garden.

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Happy Lunar New Year and welcome to DanceWatch Monthly! We’ve decided to switch from a weekly to a monthly format for awhile to see if we like it better. (If you have an opinion on weekly vs. monthly, let us know; we’re here to serve you.) We’re still writing about Oregon dance performances and related events, but we’re organizing them by genre now, to help you more quickly find what interests you. February’s plentiful dance performances, 17 in total, offer celebration, cultural exploration, romance, joy, comedy, and deep dives into a variety of concepts. We hope you enjoy our new monthly edition: remember to check back with us on February 27 for the March DanceWatch.

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