Newspace Center for Photography

Spring has Sprung Gallery Guide

April is Portland Photo Month, but what's sculpture got to do with it?

April is Photolucida’s 5th Annual Portland Photo Month! There are many fine events and exhibitions to take part in over the next few weeks, so keep in mind the ones I mention here are only the tip of the photoberg!

Newspace Center for Photography is showing 70 portraits by Jake Shivery, North Portland native, to coincide with the release of his first monograph, which shares its title, Contact, with the exhibition series. These portraits of locals “show affection for Portland area [and its] residents.” Fittingly, the photo-oeuvre is being published by a local publishing house, One Twelve Publishing. There will be several events in conjunction with the exhibition, including an opening reception and book release on Friday, April 3. Saturday, April 18, you’ll have an opportunity to “drink with Jake” and support the Newspace mission, which will be immediately followed by a book reading artist that’s free and open to the public. Through April 26.

Re-flection by Teresa Christiansen at Pushdot Studio.

Re-flection by Teresa Christiansen at Pushdot Studio.

Natural Selections, at Pushdot Studio, will be a show of images by Teresa Christiansen from her series ‘Real Artifice.’ Her work grabbed my eye for the way she juxtaposes objects alongside and as a part of photographic backdrops and landscapes. We’re having a sculptural photography moment, but this work stands out for her use of eye-popping color and everyday objects. Opening reception is Friday, April 3 from 6-8pm. Through May 29th.

How Do I Look? isn’t a question we’ve always been able to answer with selfies. The Oregon Historical Society presents an exhibition showcasing the diversity of 19th Century photography. It’s not all pin-hole cameras and hiding under hoods, as you were taught in grade school! The exhibition will include daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, carte-de-visite, cabinet cards, and stereoviews. Don’t know what most of those words mean, and couldn’t tell someone the difference between them even if you did? Great, I’ll see you there! Through May 2.

Back to the present, Camerawork Gallery brings us works by Martin Gremm, who’s concerned with Surveillance. Photography, which originated from our desire to capture with absolute fidelity the world as we see it, also functions as a means of recording our location, dependent as the medium is on time. As our phones, cameras, games, and networks collapse even closer together, how comfortable are we with how our physical selves are increasingly tracked by remote satellite technology and represented as digital traces?  Through April 24th.

In addition, the Pacific Northwest Photography Drawers at Blue Sky Gallery presents its new crop of juried, public archive of original prints by regional contemporary photographers. And keep Thursday, April 23 open for the Photolucida Photo Walk!

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Sex by Hideyuki Katsumata at Hellion

Sex by Hideyuki Katsumata at Hellion

Hellion – presents Hide in My Brain with Hideyuki Katsumata, an artist who “makes art to connect with the universe.” Whether that means something new age and spiritual, or is trendy artists speak, the work on display reflects a unique vision of alien figures that exude sexuality, and are influenced by cubism. In fact, you’re not really sure whether his figures are seducing you, or challenging you to a fight to the death, but they certainly raise the stakes and draw you in. Opening this 1st Thursday, April 2 from 6-8pm.

 

Florem Lacusnymphe by Hannah Newman at Pond Gallery

Florem Lacusnymphe by Hannah Newman at Pond

Pond – The notion that an eternal wilderness, a forever out-of-reach Eden, is waiting for us to arrive to pluck its lush fruit is a concept that drives our most unsustainable development. There will be more, they say, and something more beautiful than what we are destroying for strip malls. Of course they’re wrong. This life on this earth is the beautiful gem we’re supposed to be protecting, but how do we go about our lives with this knowledge and no clear way of taking a new direction? This month, Pond Gallery presents Grove, a curated, six-artist exhibition exploring these perspectives opening on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 and running through May 17th, 2015.

Floor Scraper by Mario Gallucci at OneGrand Gallery

Floor Scraper by Mario Gallucci at OneGrand

OneGrand – Earlier I mentioned that we’re in the midst of a sculptural photography moment. Counterfeit Universe is the third exhibition this month that makes my case for a pattern, and not just mere coincidence. Mario Gallucci’s work is about the copy of a copy, which is a great idea to explore in our 21st century world of endless digital repetition. How do you determine the original, or is the original passe? Do the endless copies strengthen or weaken the idea the original conveys, or is its own repetition idea enough? And how do we deal with all of this when corporations are trying to sell to us enter the picture? While you should be on the look out for “tricks and illusions,” I don’t think these are your grandfather’s trompe-l’œil paintings, even if the work is proudly work in that vein. Opening reception Friday, April 4 at 7.

 

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Finally, here are the links to two great maps of the many galleries and art institutions of Portland that have intriguing shows beyond the scope of this brief guide:

Portland Art Dealers Association Galleries and Alliance Members

Duplex Collective’s Gallery Guide

Don’t forget to mention the shows you’re looking forward to below in the comments!

 

June First Thursday/Friday Gallery Guide

Featuring Transportraits at Newspace Center for Photography, Augen's 35, Upfor, more

The following list is my totally biased guide to some June exhibitions I am looking forward to, and links and maps to additional First Thursday/First Friday participating galleries to make this a somewhat comprehensive resource. I’m featuring shows at Newspace Center for Photography, Augen Gallery, Duplex, Hap Gallery, Hellion, and Upfor Gallery, but please include what shows you’re looking forward to and why in the comments below!

Continues…

“The Nature of Things”: Go with the flow

Sarah Knobel and Melanie Flood consider the "natural" world at Newspace Center for Photography

The first thing that popped into my head when I saw the title of this exhibit was “On the Nature of Things,” written by the Epicurean poet, Lucretius, in about 50 BCE. Drop the preposition at the beginning of the title, and I am then reminded of the long-standing and still-running Canadian Broadcasting Company television series hosted by David Suzuki. The former is an exegesis on Epicurus’ physics and the finite soul; the latter is soft science about how the natural world (humans included) manages to survive.

It was immediately apparent upon entering Newspace’s gallery that science has little place in this exhibit, and instead what is very much in evidence is the equally complex and perhaps more mysterious emotional nature of our being. As I let go of any theme based on the above two references, even the overall title for the exhibit faded away, for these two bodies of works each have their own, separate titles. Sarah Knobel’s photographs are from her “Icescape” series, and Melanie Flood’s are each listed, albeit parenthetically, with the title “Suggested Experiences.”

Although each artist’s photography is studio-based and uses color for effect, and both bodies of work share a thingy/found-object quality in content, Flood and Knobel work toward different ends. Knobel has taken an assortment of items (hair, feathers, moss and lichen, aquarium gravel, balloons and weed wacker plastic string), immersed them in water (sometimes colored), and frozen them into somewhat geometric shapes. She then photographs the objects as they melt and begin to dismantle, and an ecological subtext emerges. Flood takes a rather different approach to arranging the objects she uses in her images. An inflatable toy, craft and party supplies, and even cotton candy all provide a sense of play and humor to the work. These are both, of course, cursory reads, and while one may still find the photos rewarding on this level alone, both artists provide more to ponder.

"Icescape - 11" Sarah Knobel

“Icescape – 11” Sarah Knobel

If there is an ecological component to Sarah Knobel’s photos, it has a decided melancholy tone. Against their white backgrounds and despite the bits of bright colors contrasted against earthtones, the items in the forms seem a bit grimy, and the melted ice, oily. I am reminded of winters in Chicago where snow would be plowed into huge white mounds, and as those artificial drifts melted away, they turned into gray piles of mush and garbage. Gutters would flow with this effluence and refuse. Another freeze would come and the litter would be encased in “icescapes.” Not nearly so picturesque as Knobel’s images are and resistant to memorialization, yet the effect and even the end are similar.

Knobel reconfigures her initial gathering of items, all of which could easily have been found on the ground or in the trash somewhere and therefore were already displaced, into a form. This is a process: accumulating materials, fixing those materials into a solid (congealed, if you will) object, leaving them to chance (as much as the ambient temperature of the studio lights dictate), only to become more distributed like they all once were yet still together, and somewhere along the way there is a decision to make a photograph. Something is made, then allowed to become unmade, only to become something else as a documentation of remnants in a “state.”

I presume that Knobel takes several photos of each object over a period of time as each object melts apart, and so the choice of one print to represent each “icescape” must become paramount. Even so, I cannot detect a specific strategy. Some seem to have all but completely melted though components somehow remain attached to each other; others seem to be almost fresh from the freezer. One of the latter, “Icescape – 7,” is perhaps my favorite, not because of its solid state, but for the way the whiteness of the ice partially blends into the white background, reinforcing its ephemeral nature in a completely different way.

"Icescape - 7" Sarah Knobel

“Icescape – 7” Sarah Knobel

Can the breakdown that happens in these objects be seen as a metaphor for entropy? Perhaps, except for the emotional component that comes through the materiality in the images. The frozen masses seems precious, something we might “cling to” were they not so cold to the touch, and maybe even painful if we were to hold them for any period of time. Instead, as Knobel freeze-frames a moment, she suggests we contemplate demise. A melancholy arises like a beautiful memory that also accepts of a certain fatalism.

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Memory seems to play a role in Melanie Flood’s photos as well, yet, like Knobel, it is not as simple as a look into the past. In Newspace’s press release, Flood says she is exploring “the passage of time with questions around cultural notions of youth and aging.” There is certainly room for melancholy in such a quest, yet I would not necessarily know that looking at her photos.

In fact, Flood’s photographs, if observed as one might typically approach a series, are first and foremost a bit perplexing. There is a definite feeling of whimsy; but then again, the flip side of whimsy is frenzy.

"Untitled (Rainbow Spandex) Melanie Flood

“Untitled (Rainbow Spandex) Melanie Flood

I will admit to being a little confounded by the images of fabric. They run counter to the other photos (themselves divisible into a couple other categories as images), that is, unless I look more closely at the content in each photo and then begin to draw lines between all of the images. Containers of glitter form the base for a tower that looks as if it is about to fall in “Untitled (Tada!).” This glitter may have been used to create the surface in “Untilted (Glitter Line),” so establishing some syntax for it and the other photos of fabric. Using this same formula, other associations between photos begin to be made. One of the balloons in “(Tada!)” may have been used in “Untitled (Squeaking Balloon).” That particular balloon is lit in such a way that it seems to have two glowing eyes, turning it into a head. We can then approach the two enigmatic self portraits (especially the blurred one) as equal parts in the overall series’ parenthetical title, “Suggested Experiences.”

Why depend upon such a structural approach as a viewer? We are coached in that direction, for otherwise, how else to construct a narrative for ourselves? Then again, is the narrative necessary?

Think of it this way: There are utensils in the silverware drawer you will need in order to eat dinner. Nevermind the food. (Why? Just do and bear with me.) After eating, the plates, knives, forks and spoons are put in the sink, washed, dried (then a little TV viewing) and put away until the next time they are needed. Well and fine. Yet, feet, hands, eyes, mouth and who knows what other aspect of one’s physical self were involved in the procedures. And so was water, a floor to walk across and the aforementioned drawer. Yes, the drawer that squeaks. Oh, and the sun was shining while doing the dishes; birds were at the feeder outside of the window; and your spouse left in the car (that needs gas), and although he didn’t say where he was going, everything seemed fine at dinner. Little Joey didn’t eat all of his dinner and is now upstairs doing his math homework in red ink because he broke his pencil. This will inadvertently affect the boy’s grade because his math teacher moonlights as an bookkeeper.

And on and on and in myriad directions until you get old and die. But before that end, there’s no reason to go through life semi-comatose, plus, there’s all of those memories. Maybe you will get to a place where you can rest easy in the knowledge that “it is what it is,” plus, there is much more you don’t know and things you’ll miss entirely, and that’s okay.

"Untitled (India Airplane)" Melanie Flood

“Untitled (India Airplane)” Melanie Flood

In the case of Flood’s “Suggested Experiences,” one might develop a similar scenario around a child’s party. Some of the images may not make a lot of sense or be as engaging as others unless this effort is made. But that’s not necessarily bad. The best thing about Flood’s photographs is that they further erode the conceit, relativization or absurdity that photography is somehow a purposely empirical art form. And this is, if I may, good enough reason for Flood to make the photographs, for they duck our expectations.

That said, both Knobel’s and Flood’s work heavily depend upon metaphor. The things they have photographed are stand-ins that move along an order/disorder continuum. And in that both bodies of work are studio-based, it is perhaps not surprising both reference other visual art forms. Knobel’s work is very sculptural, and for Flood, we are reminded of performance, installation, and even painting. While not new, this way of working continues to stand in strong contrast to more traditional —pervasive— photographic practices. To the consternation of some, one might even suggest that the fact these artworks are photographs is secondary to what the artists wish to express.

 

Read more by Patrick Collier

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Cuba from the inside: Lens on a culture

International photographer Ernesto Bazan brings his intimate exposures of Cuban life to Portland

All photographs copyright Ernesto Bazan

Some photographers seem to slip away, making themselves disappear so their subjects will forget they’re there. Not Ernesto Bazan. “I’m not interested in being invisible,” he says. “Quite the contrary, I like to be visible and partake in some moments of their life.”

Bazan, who’s known internationally for his evocations of life in modern Cuba, has walked that walk. Born and raised in Sicily, he moved to New York to pursue his career and eventually landed in Cuba, where he stayed for fourteen years and became a part of the culture. He married a Cuban woman and began a family on the island (they now live in Veracruz, Mexico). He’s published two books of his Cuban photos and is working on a third. Bazan will be in Portland this week for a pair of events. He’ll give a lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in the Miller Room of the Portland Art Museum, sponsored by the museum’s Photography Council. Then, on Friday and Saturday, he’ll offer an all-day workshop at Newspace Center for Photography.

Both should be provocative and insightful. As Portland photographer and publisher Jim Leisy, who helped arrange his appearances here, notes, Bazan’s evocations of Cuban life go far deeper than the standard travelogue snaps of old American cars on old Havana streets.

Oregon ArtsWatch interviewed Bazan via email.

OREGON ARTSWATCH: Your book “Bazan Cuba” was named best photography book of the year at the New York Photo Festival, and you’re well known for documentary and photojournalistic images. Do you think of yourself as an artist, or a journalist, or both?

ERNESTO BAZAN: While working as a professional photographer for over two decades, I’ve always tried to do personal work to feed my soul. Being a photographer has been more than a profession: a true mission in my life thanks to the mystical dream I had when I was seventeen. Since the very first moment I became a photographer a strong spiritual energy has pervaded both my personal and professional life. In answer to your question, I only like to say that I’m a photographer, a poet of daily life, far from documentary and photojournalism. The more I do it the more it becomes more evident.

OAW: You spent 14 years living and working in Cuba, part of them during the “Special Period” of the 1990s, when the country was thrown into a deep depression after the Soviet Union fell apart and cut off its economic support. And you married a Cuban woman and had kids there. So even if you began as an outsider you weren’t really a visitor to Cuba: You became part it. Did Cuba change the way you took pictures? Did it change the way you thought about life?

EB: My Cuban experience has changed my life in so many different ways. Finding my life’s companion, Sissy, becoming a father of my beloved twin boys, Pietro and Stefano, are probably the two most important things of a string of changes. When Sissy got pregnant, it became clear that the time had come for me to move to Cuba and so I did. I was no longer an outsider, a foreign photographer parachuting himself in and out of the island: I started living, seeing and photographing from the inside. I steeped myself into my Cuban life. The worked turned more intimate. I was able to break the invisible glass between my subjects and I. In Cuba, I also understood that in my entire professional career I had been unconsciously looking for my happy Sicilian childhood. Almost by magic I had found it there. My entire vision of life was deeply affected by this encounter.

OAW: Were there aspects of life in Cuba that it was difficult to shoot because of government restrictions?

EB: Ignorance and suspicion can always create hurdles in your work. I did have a few problems, but I was also given an unprecedented access by the government to many spheres of Cuban life such as sport, education, the sugar industry and the military. All of that reinforces my idea that I was meant to be there to do my work, which has both Cuban and universal qualities simply because it deals with humanity.

OAW: After 14 years you left Cuba rather abruptly. What happened?

EB: On January 6th, 2006, I was summoned to a police station a few blocks from my house and to my great surprise and disbelief, I was told that I could no longer teach my photographic workshops. Since I consider my teaching and the creation of my courses one of the best thing that I’ve done in my life, I realized that the time had come for me to abandon the island with my family. It was a harrowing change, but I knew that I couldn’t compromise my artistic and personal freedom.

OAW: What do you think the outside world, and the United States in particular, should know about Cuba and Cubans?

EB: I find most Cubans sensitive, proud, dignified and generous people.  I dream of the day when there will not be any more misunderstandings, suspicions and restrictions between the two countries.

OAW: It’s been almost 60 years since the beginnings of the revolution, and more than a half-century since the Bay of Pigs. Is it finally time for the United States to normalize political and economic relations with Cuba? And politically, what would it take to do that?

EB: It’s a very complex issue. The bottom line is that freedom has to be restored.

OAW: When you’re photographing people, what sort of relationship do you like to establish with them?

EB: I like to get close to some of my subjects. It’s not easy when you don’t have much time. This is why I try to return to the same places over and over again.  I’m not interested in being invisible. Quite the contrary. I like to be visible and partake in some moments of their life. With my images I try to convey at the same time how I feel about them and how they feel about their life.

OAW: You and your family now live in Veracruz, Mexico. Why did you pick there, and has the move changed the way you work?

EB: Because of my good student and friend Juan de la Cruz. When I was desperately looking for a place to take my family, he suggested I give Veracruz a chance. I’m so happy I did. Mexico welcomed us with open arms; it has been home and it feels so good to live here.

OAW: Do you have a new project you’re working on?

EB: For the last year, I’ve been working with many of my students on editing and sequencing what has come to be known as the last body of work of this unimaginable and unexpected Cuban trilogy. In the last five years of my life on the island, I was able to take pictures with three different cameras. I had one loaded with black and white film, color in another one and then I was also shooting in black and white with a panoramic camera. After self-publishing “Bazan Cuba” and “Al Campo” we hope to be able to launch “ISLA” in 2014. I can only add that it shows my Cuban life with another sensibility. The camera format forced me to see in a different way. It’s difficult to explain with words, but this is the way it is. My students, as always, are doing a great job in helping me tremendously in refining and narrowing down these panoramic images for the book to come. I like to say that I feel that this project is the most tender of the three and it shows my profound love for the Cuban people.

OAW: Can you tell us a bit about what to expect from your lecture at the art museum and your workshop at Newspace?

EB: I’m very honored to be able to share my Cuban experience with the audience at the art museum in Portland. It comes as no surprise that it has been made possible thanks to one of my students: Baron Barnett and his friend Jim Leisy. I’ll talk about some of the most significant aspects of my life as a photographer, particularly my unique relation with my students and how this relation has profoundly affected my way of working. I’ll also share the two audiovisuals specifically created to help me convey the experience of each book. Needless to say, both videos were directed by one of my students: Juan de la Cruz.

At NewSpace, I’ll share with my new students what I think is important to have in an image. I’ll try to help them get better at editing their own work, which is every photographer’s Achilles heel.