For those in the Portland area (or those planning to visit), the Converge 45 Contemporary Arts Biennial is upon us! This year’s event features local and international artists contending with the theme of Social Forms: Art as Global Citizenship, described by curator Christian Viveros-Fauné as an opportunity “to reflect the many ways artists are working to understand the present moment.” Viveros-Fauné’s interest for the biennial is the way artists have and continue to play large roles in political and social change across the globe through questioning, challenging, and revealing the flows of power in contemporary societies. Last month, I pondered openly about the way some artists use their practice to examine and translate their perceptions of the world around them. This month, inspired by Social Forms: Art as Global Citizenship, I find myself thinking about the way art folds others–its viewers, the artist(s), their friends and family, the general public, and so on–into a complex, web-like network of connections.
The way that art gestures towards or even emerges as a social form, to use Viveros-Fauné’s words, happens on many varying scales. Sometimes the social form is large and conspicuous, much like Joseph Beuys’ 7000 Eichen (7000 oak trees), a proposed plan to plant 7000 oak trees across Kassel, Germany, in a gesture towards green urban renewal efforts for Documenta 7 in 1982. The project has since spread to cities beyond Kassel, linking transnational communities through shared participation. Other times, the scale is more intimate and the social form is generated through just two people as in Marina Abramoviç’s 2010 durational performance The Artist is Present, in which the artist invited museum attendees to sit with her, one at a time, and return her silent stare. Regardless of the scale, what becomes important are the new connections made–between people, things, ideas, concepts, etc.–developing amorphous relationships between those previously separated that give rise to new dialogues and thoughts. The social form.
While I’ve highlighted a few exhibitions participating in Social Forms in this month’s VizArts Monthly, there are over a dozen compelling and engaging shows for you to see and experience if you find yourself in the Portland area. But of course, there are many other exciting shows happening beyond Portland that contemplate the social form within and beyond the human scope: the Newport Performing Arts Center honors the late Heather Fortner, a skilled printer who (literally) integrates and honored natured with her work; Jorge Tacla at the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts pushes us to think about life in the wake of disaster.
August 25 – October 28
925 NW Flanders St., Portland (Wed – Sat 11am – 6pm)
Los Angeles-based artist Amanda Ross-Ho continues her sculptural explorations of time as both subject and material with ICE TIME, presented as part of Converge 45’s Social Forms. For the exhibition, Ross-Ho draws on her formative years as a competitive figure skater as the material vehicle for exploring ideas of arenas, training, muscle memory, and the body as a tool, a subject, and an object of study. The work becomes both an autobiographical study and anthropological artifact, tinted lightly with a sense of humor and absurdity with soft, squishy fabric forms.
Playful in Nature
Robert Koch and P. Dews
August 11 – October 3
Hanson Howard Gallery
89 Oak Street, Ashland (Wed – Sat 12pm – 5pm)
Hanson Howard Gallery’s latest two-person exhibition, Playful in Nature, features the work of Robert Koch and P. Dews. Both artists integrate surrealist whimsy and fantasy into their works, playfully questioning the durability of reality. Koch works primarily with colorful vignettes painted on panel; Dews produces ceramic works lovingly akin to garden sculptures. The works seem to encourage their viewers to openly wonder about the backstories and histories of the depicted figures, allowing new stories to emerge and unfold.
August 24 – September 24
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
15 NE Hancock St., Portland (Thurs – Fri 12pm – 6pm, Sat – Sun 12pm – 4pm)
Seba Calfuqueo, a Chilean artist of Mapuche origin, presents Alka domo in the Annex at Portland Institute of Contemporary for Converge 45’s Social Forms. The 17-minute video installation shows Calfuqueo donning high heels, stoically holding a hollowed tree trunk in five public locations across Chile. In performatively merging the image of Caupolicán–a legendary hero figure of the Mapuche–with symbols of Chilean homophobic slang terminology, Calfuqueo confronts intersectional issues of sexual dissidence and contemporary Mapuche social perception.
Black Artists of Oregon
September 9 – March 17, 2024
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave., Portland (Wed – Sun 10am – 5pm)
Curated by Intisar Abioto, Black Artists of Oregon brings together an impressive collection of works by Black artists across Oregon’s past and present, including names such as Carrie Mae Weems, Isaka Shamsud-Din, Sharita Towne, and Sadé DuBois among many others. As an extension of Abioto’s ongoing research on the lineage and legacy of Black artists in Oregon, the exhibition goes as far back as 1880 with particular interest in the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s, giving a voice and perspective to the Black diasporic experience in the Pacific Northwest. The Black American practice of listening and storytelling as a way to preserve and proliferate history is central to the project.
August 4 – October 21
Patricia Reser Center for the Arts
12625 SW Crescent St., Beaverton (Wed – Sat 12pm – 6pm)
Alongside a video installation, the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts hosts a twenty-six-foot painting by Chilean artist Jorge Tacla for Stagings/Escenarios, an exhibition focused on protests against the abuse of power. Drawing from his experience living through the overthrow of former Chilean president Salvador Allende by a 1973 coup that led the country to a brutal dictatorship rule, Tacla’s paintings examine the remnants of sites of political upheaval and warfare (which are somewhat reminiscent in concept and appearance of Julie Mehretu’s Grey Area paintings), emphasizing the haunting moments within the aftermath. Friderike Heuer reviewed the show for ArtsWatch here.
Honoring the Legacy of Heather Fortner
September 8 – October 29
Newport Performing Arts Center
777 W. Olive Street, Newport (Tues – Fri 10am – 5pm)
To honor Heather Fortner (who passed in 2022), the Newport Performing Arts Center and the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts presents a new posthumous exhibit of works by the beloved artist and printer. Fortner, who ran Sea Fern Studio in Toledo, OR, worked extensively with the gyotaku technique of printing–a historic Japanese technique of printing directly from fish–that mirrored her dedication to the protection and conservation of nature. An opening reception will be held on Friday, September 8, from 5pm-7pm, where attendees are encouraged to share their memories and reflections on Fortner’s life and work.
Umpqua Plein Air: Vibrant Valleys
August 26 – October 27
Umpqua Valley Arts
1624 West Harvard Ave., Roseburg (Tues – Fri 10am – 6pm)
Plein air painting, or painting outdoors, holds a longstanding spot in the tradition of painting–dating back to at least the beginning of the 19th century and taking off in popularity with the European Impressionists and the Hudson River School of the United States. Umpqua Valley Arts celebrates this tradition and the inspiring beauty of the Umpqua Valley with its annual plein air painting event and exhibition, juried by Erik Sandgren. The exhibition features works created over a five-day painting event, with awards for juror’s choice, people’s choice, and best-of selections.
Gabe Babcock and Roberta Monte James
September 21 – October 28
The Arts Center
700 SW Madison Avenue, Corvallis (Tues – Sat 12pm – 5pm)
Although artists Gabe Babcock and Roberta Monte James work in completely different mediums (Babcock is primarily a sculptor and ceramicist working with stone and wood; James is an abstract fiber artist and quiltmaker), their two-person show Dualities brings together their works to highlight the overlaps in their interests. Both live in rural areas of Oregon and northern California and draw their inspiration from their environments. Juxtaposing their individual creative responses to the natural world creates new dialogues and highlights commonalities and differences in their works.
Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts Biennial
August 26 – December 2
Hallie Ford Museum of Art
700 State St., Salem (Tues – Sat 12pm – 5pm)
The Hallie Ford Museum of Art presents a biennial exhibition of works from Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts (CSIA), the renowned printmaking studio located on the Umatilla Reservation in northeastern Oregon. Curated by Rebecca Dobkins, professor emerita of anthropology at Willamette University, the biennial exhibition highlights recent prints produced at CSIA by artists including Wendy Red Star, Ralph Pugay, and Jeremy Okai Davis, among others. The variance in styles and techniques highlights the skill and innovation in the longstanding practice of fine art lithographic printing, as well as its collaborative and community-building ethos.
We Are The Revolution: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation
August 26 – December 1
The Schnitzer Collection
3033 NW Yeon Ave., Portland (Thurs – Sat 12pm – 5pm)
As part of Converge 45’s Social Forms, biennial curator Christian Viveros-Fauné worked with William Morrow to survey the collection of Jordan Schnitzer, curating an exhibition of more than 100 works from the 1960s to present times. Viveros-Fauné and Morrow selected works from an inspiring and prominent roster of artists, including works by Robert Colescott, Bruce Nauman, Vanessa German, and Dinh Q. Lê. Drawing its title from the 1972 print of German artist Joseph Beuys, the exhibition explores the ways past artworks affect and relate to contemporary works, with particular attention to the works’ dialogues around society, politics, and experimentation.