Vizarts Monthly: Realism, off-kilter ceramics, and a massage chair

Unexpected, sad news rocked Portland’s art world last month with the tragic passing of the Yale Union’s executive director, Yoko Ott. A tireless supporter of the arts, Ott made lasting contributions at many institutions including the Frye Art Museum, Seattle University, and the Honolulu Biennial. Yale Union has not announced a successor, but continues its existing schedule of shows. Elsewhere in the visual arts in Portland, some exciting shows are up this month, including a blockbuster painting exhibition at PAM. While you’re there, make sure to check out the Sun Ra exhibit which concludes the ambitious, powerful series We. Construct. Marvels. Between. Monuments.

Edward Hopper — Cape Cod Morning

Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection
Through April 28, 2019
Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Avenue
This who’s who of post-WWII American representational painting features big names like Edward Hopper, Louise Nevelson, Nancy Grossman, and Paul Cadmus. Some Northwest favorites are included in the long roster of artists, including Mark Tobey and Morris Graves. Sara Roby, a major collector in the post-WWII period, was known for hewing to realism despite the growing popularity of Abstract Expressionism. For more than 30 years, her foundation has maintained a premiere collection of leading American figurative painters, and we’re lucky to be able to see some of the highlights in our own art museum.

Coliseum 11 – Avantika Bawa

Avantika Bawa
Through February 10, 2019
Apex Gallery at the Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Avenue
Through November 25
Ampersand, 2916 NE Alberta Street
Avantika Bawa’s new body of work focuses on the stark modernist architecture of the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. A dual-venue show, the main body of work occupies the APEX gallery in the Portland Art, while Alberta Arts district gallery and bookstore Ampersand features more prints from the series. Bawa’s images may bring to mind the founding abstract and minimalist artists of the same era when the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill designed the Coliseum. The repeating geometric shapes in Bawa’s work reveal shades of Agnes Martin and Ellsworth Kelly as much as they refer to the construction of the Coliseum itself.

Pretty Teacher – Jeffry Mitchell

Tyger Tyger: Jeffry Mitchell
October 30 – December 1
PDX Contemporary
925 NW Flanders
In attempting to describe the “tragicomic universe” of Jeffry Mitchell’s off-kilter figurative ceramic sculptures, PDX Contemporary’s meaty show description is peppered with terms such as “exuberant pathos” and “folkloric lingua franca.” No wonder, as it’s quite a task to try to capture the strange world of elephants, bears, tigers, bunnies, roosters, flowers, and alluring male figures that occupy his off-kilter figurative ceramic sculptures. They’re as off-putting as they are charming. The show also features drawings, prints, assemblages. With shades of art star Grayson Perry’s groundbreaking, often-ribald ceramic work, this ceramic show is sure to be unique and fun.

Ralph Pugay working during a residency

RALPH PUGAY: A Spiritual Guide to Brute Force
November 1 – December 22
Upfor Gallery, 929 NW Flanders
One of Portland’s most productive and inventive artists, Pugay will be opening his second solo show at Upfor this First Thursday. This new set of work was created or conceived at a series of residencies Pugay attended across North America this past summer—from Florida to Montreal to New Orleans. Known for wild, colorful narrative paintings full of humor and strange happenings, Pugay has turned to black and white work on paper for this show.

The Earth Will Not Abide
November 1-January 12, 2019
The Center for Contemporary Art & Culture, PNCA, 511 NW Broadway
A rich group exhibition that focuses on the unsustainability of modern agriculture in different parts of the world. Featured artists include Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross, Brian Holmes and Alejandro Meitin, Sarah Lewison and duskin! drum, Claire Pentecost, and Sara Siestreem. Each artist investigates, with their own particular methods, the “the rapid transformations in land use, biological diversity, and social structures” that result from large-scale, monocultural agriculture in ecosystems including the US, Brazil, Argentina, and China. Looking at existing and future land use, these projects hope to point “in the direction of viable responses.”

Disjecta annual art auction

Disjecta Art Auction
November 17
Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Avenue
The Auction on November 17th is Disjecta’s annual invitation to the public to “have a drink, something to eat, and then to spend all of your discretionary income on something worthwhile.” Favorite local artists, more than we can count, have donated work to this annual auction that provides vital funding for the operations of one of Portland’s largest contemporary art centers. Artists featured will include Holly Andres, Corey Arnold, Pat Boas, Amy Bay, Srijon Chowdhury, Patrick Collier, Emily Counts, Tia Factor, Joel Fisher, Damien Gilley, Bean Gilsdorf, Ralph Pugay, Blair Saxon-Hill, Ryan Woodring, and many, many more. A ticketed event, “fine food and drink” will be served. Always a fun time.

Abagail Deville at PICA

The American Future: Abigail Deville
Nov. 3-Jan. 12, 2019
PICA, 15 NE Hancock Street
Known for monumental, vibrant assemblage work using found materials, DeVille’s new installation at PICA promises to be interesting. This accomplished artist foraged materials, printed matter, and really anything she can get her hands on to create a “model of reflection” on the fraught histories of American ambition. This site-specific installation examines 200 years of history, colonialism, and labor in America by focusing on Thomas Jefferson’s commission of the Lewis and Clark expedition and his obsessive work on his home, Monticello. Turning her inventive, incisive eye on the “paradox of Jeffersonian ideals” and how history relates to the “entropy of now,” DeVille will fill PICA with her unique, thoughtful vision

Tumbleweed – Nan Curtis

Numb: Nan Curtis
November 1 – December 15
Williamson | Knight Gallery,916 NW Flanders St.
Local artist Nan Curtis presents new work. A meditation on the words, sensations, and colors Curtis associates with Portland and the Pacific Northwest, Curtis draws on a remarkable range of materials for NUMB. Glass slag, industrial rubber, painted tumbleweeds, and pieces of steel share the small gallery space with a massage chair. All of these materials are meant to conjure what Curtis calls the “pinnacle of an emotional response” – tactile, sensory experiences. Appropriately, a masseuse will be present at the opening, performing massages for viewers on a first-come, first-served basis.

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