Tabitha Nikolai

VizArts Monthly: The past lingers, the future beckons

A month's worth of possibilities at local galleries and museums

September is upon us, with programs for TBA descending like early, unusually chunky autumn leaves. This year’s lineup looks as exciting as ever, but don’t forget the visual arts, whether they’ve snuck into TBA or not. Of note this month, new independent gallery Carnation Contemporary opens its inaugural exhibition in one of the small street-facing spaces in Disjecta. Besides these new events, the last days of a few good shows linger on like the occasional remaining warm days. Ann Hamilton’s Habitus will be open through September 16, as the final part of Converge 45. Amy Bay’s lovely painting show will be hanging at Melanie Flood Projects until September 8, and while you’re downtown you can still catch or Richard Diebenkorn at PAM until the 23rd and R.B. Kitaj at the Oregon Jewish Museum until the 30th.

 

Joe Feddersen, Aggressive Attitude, 2018. Image Courtesy of Froelick Gallery; Photo by Rebekah Johnson

 

CCNA: Not Fragile

September 1-June 9, 2019
Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Avenue

Presented by the Center for Contemporary Native Art at the Portland Art Museum, a fantastic range of glass work by contemporary Native artists. The Northwest is lucky to have such a thriving scene of glass art. Artists such as Joe Feddersen and Dan Friday are distinctive employ innovative techniques and Native imagery in their glass objects that, far from the fragile associations most of us have with glass, radiate strength, resilience and resistance.

 

Unwalking the West

September 6-October 20
Pacific Northwest College of Art, Center for Contemporary Art & Culture, 511 NW Broadway

Curated by Signal Fire co-director Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, this annual project is based on “the symbolic act of retracing segments of European settler exploration and conquest in the reverse direction, as a way of interrogating assumed histories and connecting the legacy of colonialism to the present day challenges in the American West,” including climate Change. Signal Fire is a non-profit organization that connects artists with wildlands through programs like expeditions and residencies, which this exhibition draws from. Artists include Sarah Farahat, Tanja Geis, Joe Hedges, Garrick Imatani, Emmy Lingscheit, Rachelle Reichert, Rick Silva, and Ilvs Strauss.

 

Render capture from 3D environment

Utopia Without You – Tabitha Nikolai

September 6 – October 13
Williamson Knight, 916 NW Flanders St

This solo show by local artist and curator Tabitha Nikolai promises futuristic visions as disquieting as they are beguiling. Nikolai, who describes herself as a “trashgender gutter elf and low-level cybermage” will show a variety of new sculptural works including a custom gaming PC with a custom controller made in collaboration with Matt Leavitt, a wargaming diorama borrowing materials from the show at Killjoy that Nikolai curated earlier this year, and digital 3d environments with original score by Rook. Nikolai will also lead a conversation about the exhibition at the closing on October 13 at 1:00 pm.

 

RiverRouge, Christian Mickovic

Summer forever

Through October 7, 2018
Dust to Dust, 3636 N Mississippi Ave

A colorfully-intense group show that takes a close look at the complexity of that thing we love so much in Portland, summer. The show combines love, escapism, dread, freedom, and malaise “in a celebration of summer’s excess and the collective fear of a future, smoke-filled, everlasting summer,” according to the press release. Local painter Bruce Conkle’s painting of skeletons on a boat hangs in counterpoint to the 3D renderings of LA artist Paul Rosas and the sculptural recreations of party drugs by Beverly Fishman (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan). Also from Bloomfield Hills, Christian Mickovic’s optically-dizzying paintings are the stars of the show, rewarding however much time you can spend staring into them.

Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well
Through October 21
Reed College, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, 3203 SE Woodstock Boulevard

This exhibition marks the first retrospective of American artist, activist, writer, and educator Gregg Bordowitz. An early survivor of the HIV virus, Bordowitz created important films in the early days of AIDS activism, working with the direct action group ACT UP and the video collective, Testing the Limits. These films will join rarely-seen sculptures and drawings in this retrospective, as well a books, essays, poetry, personal ephemera, and films of recent performances by Bordowitz.

TBA Picks

Film still from Cocteau’s Beauty and the Best

Fin de Cinema—Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast

Mon Sept 10, 10 pm
The Works, 15 NE Hancock, $5–15

Returning for a second year after its popular TBA debut in 2017, this ongoing series curated by Holocene’s Gina Altamura hand-picks local musicians to compose and perform a newly imagined score to a classic movie. If TBA feels a little overwhelming to you, Fin de Cinema is guaranteed to be a satisfying, soothing break in all the intensity. Cinephiles and experimental music lovers alike can relax and enjoy the combination of an old, subtitled film and live performance of new compositions by local musicians. Well-known improvisors Like a Villain, John Niekrasz, Jonathan Sielaff (the bass clarinet in Golden Retriever), Patricia Wolf (of Soft Metals), Amenta Abioto, and Noah Bernstein perform a new score to Cocteau’s classic, highly-influential masterpiece.

Utopian Visions Art Fair

Friday, September 14 2018, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Saturday and Sunday September 15 2018, from 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Initiated by Srijon Chowdhury, alternative art fair that provides a platform for artists, gallerists, and curators to present projects that work towards possible, alternative futures. Dozens of artists collaborate in an intimate setting, with visual art, performance, installation, and facilitated conversations around the themes of accessibility, community, and the art world’s reliance on capitalist systems. Collaborators include Institute for Interspecies Art and Relations, Chicken Coop Contemporary, Shawn Creeden, Lisa Schonberg, Institute for Queer Ecology, Lila de Magalhaes and Harley Hollenstein, Williamson + Knight, Midori Hirose & Mia Ferm, and many more.

Killjoy Collective makes space for ‘Children of Revulsion’

The Killjoy Collective exhibition is for people who feel marginalized, regardless of the reason

To get to Killjoy Collective, you have to go through what curator and artist Tabitha Nikolai calls the “airlock”—a set of closely-spaced, rattly and slightly-rusty doors on the side of the handsome but mysterious Troy Laundry Building,at 221 SE 11th Avenue in Portland.

It’s a bit of a dance for two people to enter at the same time, but once inside you descend into a basement warren of studios. The established spaces are clearly very active, and the scent of drywall and sawdust and the piles of power tools indicate the building’s attempt to grow and attract new clientele to freshly-partitioned units. Even just five or six years ago, you were likely to hit a space like this if you chucked a rock off any rooftop in inner Southeast Portland. Now, with closures of places like Towne Storage and Recess Gallery, it’s one of the few remaining concentrations of DIY and community art spaces in this fast-changing neighborhood.

children of revulsion – opening night

Killjoy’s space is close to the bottom of the stairs, and with the front doors open, it presents a remarkably spacious world all of its own in what could easily feel like a cramped basement. It’s a fitting home for a show that describes itself as follows:

“Children of Revulsion is about living inside media when you can’t go home again.

It’s about making a house from virtual trash, lashed together with scraps of code, and uploading it to your dear ones, wherever they are. Big enough for everyone, you dwell in it together, replay and reply. Every pixel a good night kiss on the forehead. Every beat a tender hand-squeeze in the dark.”

It’s an ambitious group show featuring more than a dozen artists, musicians, and meme-makers. Multiple large monitors featuring homebrew videogames and digital environments ring a central bench that invites you to sit, don a pair of headphones, and pick up a wireless keyboard where the control keys are indicated by textured flower stickers. In the far corner, a modern LCD screen is housed in the skeleton of a small 1980s CRT TV set, perched atop a dresser. This echoes the homey, inner-sanctum vibes broadcast from the squishy, colorful installation of blankets, stuffed animals, and fabric creations at the front of the room on the same wall.

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By LAUREL REED PAVIC

I have been thinking about Costumes, Reverence, and Forms currently at the Center for Contemporary Art and Culture for the better part of a week. When I first saw the show, I was perplexed. Partially, the reaction can be chalked up to the gallery map provided at the entrance that identified the artist and title for each work. The map was based on a building blueprint with confounding layout features—a hidden staircase, an unseen office, a set of what look like four stove-top burners nowhere to be found. But beyond the map, I felt intimidated by the work, concerned that I just didn’t get it.

But once I made peace with my spatial inadequacies and considered the show further, my initial hesitation faded. So what I want to tell you is what I wish I had known going into gallery and what has helped me move beyond my initial “huh?” reaction.

Tabitha Nikolai’s “Sick Transex Gloria,” part of “Costumes, Reverence, and Forms” at the Center for Contemporary Art and Culture/Photo by Mario Gallucci

The exhibition is a curatorial exchange between CCAC in Portland and Vox Populi in Philadelphia. Vox Populi is an artist-run space and the curatorial group that participated in the exchange included Mark Stockton, Bree Pickering, Chad States, and Suzanne Seesman. CCAC is part of the Pacific Northwest College of Art. The Center’s director, Mack McFarland, and assistant director, Ashley Gibson, were the curators from Portland.

The Portland and Philadelphia curators each generated a list of about 100 artists in their respective cities to give to their counterparts in the other city. The curators then looked through the artists’ websites and culled the field to about 20 artists they wanted to do studio visits with on a visit to the other city. From the “semi-final” group of studio-visit artists, each set of curators selected four artists to be in the show. This all took the better part of a year and involved many conversations between the curators and artists. The “guiding principle” terms—costumes, reverence, and forms—were chosen after the roster of artists had been determined. There was an iteration of the show in Philadelphia in January of 2017 and the show opened in Portland in April.

The curators didn’t select individual works but instead selected the artists whose practices they were most struck by. Both sides were surprised by some of the other’s finalists. The selection of works for the shows was much more fluid and artist-directed. Some of the artists wanted to show newer work than the curators had seen in the studio visits, and others wanted to respond specifically to the exhibition space. While the shows in both locations included all of the same artists, the roster of works included is not identical.

The Vox Populi show had an entry archway that clearly identified which artists were from which city. The CCAC version didn’t indicate this except in the gallery brochure. Portland artists were identified with a small blue arch and Philadelphia artists with a small pink arch. There was no “key” for these symbols though (and I actually just figured it out now, leaving me again feeling a little slow). Marianne Dages, Beth Heinly, Anna Neighbor, and Kristen Neville Taylor are the artists from Philadelphia. Avantika Bawa, Tabitha Nikolai, Jess Perlitz and Ralph Pugay are the artists from Portland.

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