sidony o’neal

Converge 45: Popping up with the times

Responding to a year of crisis, Newberg's Chehalem Cultural Center hosts a show of Oregon contemporary posters for public spaces

One of the strengths of gallery programming at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg is that the deep, long-term planning that arts director Carissa Burkett packs into the calendar for as much as a year in advance is coupled with an ability to pivot when circumstances change, when new opportunities and challenges present themselves.

Like, for example, 2020 — the year, one might add, of the center’s 10th anniversary. 

The #Act for Art posters in their natural public-spaces habitat. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, Converge 45 said via Twitter, Portland has the fifth-largest concentration of artists in the nation, after Manhattan, San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles. Photo: Converge 45.

The center has already had a couple of COVID-inspired pop-ups this year, and for a few more days, visitors will find the latest of these unscheduled surprises: #ACTforART is originated as a PDX-centric project organized by Converge 45: a series of commissioned posters for public spaces that share the artists’ vision during this new, weird normal. Yes, theaters are shut down and concert halls are closed, but windows and fences and walls provide space for art, so the group has been spreading the love in lieu of its traditional programs, which typically involve exhibitions and gatherings where the six-foot rule wouldn’t work. The work is also being shared on social media platforms.

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America, from inside out

Inspired by conceptualist Joseph Beuys, a show at the Linfield gallery explores the nation's history, identity, and legacy of trauma

In 1974, nearly a year after Sacheen Littlefeather spoke at the Oscars on behalf of indigenous people, the German Conceptual artist Joseph Beuys flew into New York City and was met at the airport by assistants who wrapped him in felt and drove him to a gallery in SoHo. There, he spent the next three days in an enclosed space with a coyote and a supply of newspapers — the Wall Street Journal, no less, the journalistic flagship for American finance capitalism.

Beuys’ iconic piece of postmodern performance art, entitled I Like America and America Likes Me, isn’t as well-known as Littlefeather’s speech, which she cut short before being escorted off-stage past a furious John Wayne, who was in the wings. But both had the same goal of highlighting the inconvenient truth of the genocide of indigenous peoples.

Right-hand section of Daniel Duford’s John Brown triptych: “The General and the Supermax,” 2018; Watercolor and graphite on paper.

The numbers are horrifying. Hard numbers are difficult to come by, of course, but when Columbus landed in the “new” world in 1492, there’s a consensus that the Western Hemisphere had an indigenous population of anywhere from 50 to 100 million. Two centuries later, that population had been slashed by as much as 90 percent. It’s that historical context within which the current exhibit at Linfield College’s art gallery in McMinnville finds itself: America Likes Me, organized by gallery curator Josephine Zarkovich, was inspired by and “is in conversation with” Beuys’ seminal 1974 show. The exhibition runs through Oct. 5 and features work by six Oregon-based artists “whose work explores ideas of shared histories, American identity, and the legacy of trauma.”

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A safe space for deep criticism of art

manuel arturo abreu discusses home school, a free pop-up art school in Portland, and its upcoming "field day," June 23

In a recent discussion with manuel arturo abreu (they/them) the co-founder of a Portland-based pop-up art school called home school, a fundamental question surfaced—a question that directly relates to the relevance of this very platform: Why would someone hate art?

For abreu, a poet and artist from the Bronx, the answer is ready and waiting: “Because art sucks. It’s really violent. It’s a violent colonial enterprise. How do we reclaim it?”

In the following discourse, which centers the labor and thinking of home school and its organizers, nothing is sacred. Readers with a love for art, academia, and many of the institutions and frameworks designed to support these, might find themselves set off—but please take that response as definitive sign to keep reading.

Image courtesy of home school and MoMA PS1

The way home school came to be is “a classic story” within the home school-community, said abreu. Victoria Anne Reis (she/her), who now runs home school with abreu, previously lived in New York City and studied at New York University, an institution infamously known for being inaccessible to many students without the aid of punishing loads of student debt.

In search of a different option than “the very marketized education that she was paying for,” Reis began taking classes with the Bruce High Quality Foundation University, an alternative arts education structure that self-identified as “a learning experiment” and “New York’s freest art school.”

BHQFU—which is now defunct—was started by several Cooper Union graduates who, initially, remained anonymous and who derived inspiration from German artist Joseph Beuys’ concept of social sculpture. “Rather than an artist working with paint or cardboard or noise or language, an artist is constructing an aesthetic experience from the social interactions of others,” an unnamed source from Bruce High Quality Foundation said of social sculpture in an interview with Social Text Journal.

Social sculpture is “sculpture where society and community is the medium for the art,” abreu explained.

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