Category Archives: Visual Art

Titian and the Scourge of Princes

By Bob Hicks

Titian did not live starving and penniless in an unheated artist’s garret. He was wealthy and famous in his own time — more Andy Warhol or Damien Hirst, at least as far as the fame game goes, than Vincent Van Gogh.

    Pietro Aretino, first portrait by Titian, c. 1512, at the Galleria Palatina in Palazzo Pitti in Florence.At least partly, that’s because he had a good press agent.

Mr. Scatter has been spending some time lately communing with the great Venetian High Renaissance artist, because Titian’s 1536 portrait of an unknown lady, La Bella, has taken up temporary residence in the European galleries of the Portland Art Museum. You can read about it in Mr. S’s cover story from this morning’s A&E section of The Oregonian.

Martha Ullman West, Art Scatter’s most highly paid correspondent, tipped us off to the key role played in Titian’s life and career by one Pietro Aretino, a man known with less than complete enthusiasm in certain circles as “Scourge of Princes.” Historians have acknowledged Aretino also as a scabrous satirist (hence the “scourge”), a pornographer and a proto-feminist, a playwright and poet, and one of the finest art critics of his day. That’s why they called them Renaissance men.

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It’s First Thursday. Do you know where your art is?

Tom Hardy in his Swan Island studio. Photo: Mark Woolley

By Bob Hicks

Good lord, it’s December. And it’s Thursday, the first Thursday of the month. And that means tonight is First Thursday in Puddletown, the city’s monthly art walk of mainline galleries. (There are other such monthly festivities, including First Friday on the East Side and Last Thursday in the Alberta District, but First Thursday is the granddaddy and reigning poobah of the crowd.)

If you’re adventurous and like to party, you can plot out your route and do your gallery-hopping tonight. If you’d rather skip the crowds but still see the art, don’t worry. Most of this stuff will be on display throughout the month, although in December you’ll want to be sure to check for holiday closures.

Mr. Scatter’s guide to this month’s art shows (incomplete, as always) is in this morning’s Oregonian. Don’t forget to check out sculptor Tom Hardy‘s 90th birthday-bash exhibit in the old OGLE space: November 30 was the big day. Mr. Scatter stopped by Wednesday evening’s preview/birthday party, and Tom was at the center of things, sitting down and grinning broadly as he greeted old friends and well-wishers, a few of whom were carrying just-purchased prints or drawings tucked under their arms. The exhibit, which covers several decades and includes a lot of the welded sculptures for which he’s best known as well as works on paper, is an eye-opener. Here in our midst was a genuine midcentury figurativist-turned-modernist, although a modernist in that quintessentially stubborn Oregon/West Coast way — an artist who has never crossed over completely to abstraction but retains reminiscences of nature, animal or mineral, in everything he creates.

And he’s created plenty. The guy was making significant art before most of us were born. Even Mr. Scatter, who is reluctantly contemplating joining the AARP.

Parisian artist Sophie Calle, part of "Body Gesture" at Elizabeth Leach Gallery.


  • Tom Hardy in his Swan Island studio. Photo: Mark Woolley.
  • Parisian artist Sophie Calle, part of “Body Gesture” at Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

Falling into a Bruegel painting, on film

"The Mill and the Cross," directed by Lech Majewski. Kino Lorber, Inc.Kino Lorber, Inc.

By Bob Hicks

If you’re going to fall into a painting, choose carefully. Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie might be exciting, but after a while you’d start to feel like a mouse in a maze. Edvard Munch’s The Scream? You don’t want to go there. One of Henri Rousseau’s Edenic wild beasty scenes would be tempting, but how are your jungle survival skills? A Jackson Pollock action painting? It’d be an adventure, but a weirdly disorienting one. And do you really want to spend eternity slipping around Salvador Dali’s melted clocks in The Persistence of Memory?

No, better off to choose a painting with a broadly varied universe of its own, a place that gives you lots of room to roam. Pieter Bruegel the Elder‘s 1564 masterpiece The Way to Calvary, for instance, a painting of meticulous and painstaking vision that exists in a complex network of space, thought and time. Calvary forms the basis for Polish director Lech Majewski’s audacious film The Mill & the Cross, a visually breathtaking piece of moviemaking that opens Friday at Northwest Portland’s Cinema 21 and plays through November 10.

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Art notes: 1st Thursday, Sitka Invitational

Margot Voorheis Thompson at Sitka InvitationalMargot Voorheis Thompson/Sitka Invitational

By Bob Hicks

Tonight is First Thursday, Portland’s monthly gallery art walk. (We also have First Friday, Last Thursday and a few other gatherings, but this remains the big one.) Of course you don’t have to see the new exhibits tonight — most of them will be up all month — but if you like the party atmosphere and the thrill of being there first, tonight’s the night.

Fritz Liedtke, "April," from his show "Astra Velum" at Blue Sky.As always there’s a lot to see, more than any sane person can manage in a single evening. I have this roundup of highlights in this morning’s Oregonian, and as much as it covers, it leaves more out. Catch what you like, catch what you can, and remember: you have pretty much all of November to catch up with what you don’t catch tonight.

This weekend is the 18th annual Sitka Art Invitational at the World Forestry Center, just across from the Oregon Zoo. I covered the basics in this story on OregonLive. There are special events Friday night and Saturday after hours, but the big party is 10 a.m.-4 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday, and it’s a bargain: $5 (or free, if you’re younger than 18) gets you in the door, with unlimited return visits. About 120 artists, many of them leading regional names, will have roughly 450 works for sale, all to benefit the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology at Cascade Head on the northern Oregon coast. I’ve visited there, and it’s a very cool place, a haven for artists in residence and also a busy center for people wanting to take short-term art and nature courses.

Jim Neidhardt's "Atomic Fireball" at the Littman Gallery show "unGrounded."


  • Margot Voorheis Thompson at the Sitka Art Invitational.
  • Fritz Liedtke, “April,” from his show “Astra Velum” at Blue Sky.
  • Jim Neidhardt’s “Atomic Fireball” at the Littman Gallery show “foreGround,” curated by Jeff Jahn of PORT.

Sex, war & disaster: Japanese prints

By Bob Hicks

Geishas, kabuki actors, mountain landscapes, samurai scenes.

Check, check, check, check.

But what about those spine-tingling scenes of natural disaster?

Utagawa Kunisada, "Young woman surrounded by the text of a libretto," c. 1832, Portland Art Museum/The Mary Andrews Ladd Collection.The Portland Art Museum‘s collection of Japanese woodblock prints has long been a strong suit in its permanent collections, and the new exhibition The Artist’s Touch, the Craftsman’s Hand, which features about 230 prints from a collection of more than 2,500 covering the past 340 years, is a welcome and major summation of the museum’s holdings in this fascinating limb on the great tree of art. I wrote about the show in Friday’s A&E section of The Oregonian.

To call that story a review is a bit of a stretch. The exhibition is far too complex to be broken down adequately in a newspaper-length piece, and I’m happy to leave the tough critical analysis to the historians and art academicians who know the territory far better than I do. What I tried to do was simply provide a cultural context for the artwork and a frame for viewing it.

In my piece for The Oregonian I concentrated on the prints’ role in fostering a sense of stability — perhaps even an illusion of stability — in the Japanese culture that the artists reflected in their works. As a generalization, that’s true.

But there are several intriguing side stories to this exhibit.

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PDX weekend: embarrassment of riches

  • 25 candles for First Thursday
  • BodyVox leans horizontally
  • William Hurt and Harold Pinter duke it out
  • Wordstock throws a bookapalooza
  • Oregon Arts Watch puts on a show (times three)
  • A double feature at Oregon Ballet Theatre
  • Portland Open Studios’ peek behind the scenes

By Bob Hicks

Good lord, what a weekend. Used to be, a person who really tried could actually keep up with significant cultural happenings in Puddletown. Kiss those days goodbye. Portland’s grown up (in a lot of ways, anyway) and we’ve entered pick-and-choose time. You’ll never catch everything worth catching, so pick what looks most intriguing to you and resign yourself to missing out on some good stuff. Even Don Juan can’t sample all the pleasures in the pantry.

A few ideas:

Tom Prochaska, "So Much To Do," oil on canvas, 66" x 88", 2011. Courtesy Froelick Gallery.Tom Prochaska, So Much To Do, Froelick Gallery

Tonight is First Thursday, the mainline Portland galleries’ monthly art hop, and it happens to be the 25th anniversary of the first art walk, in October 1986. Kelly House has this story in this morning’s Oregonian about how First Thursday and the Pearl District grew together, and I have this rundown (partial, as always), also in The Oregonian, of highlights of the October visual art scene. Personal tip: If you have business in Salem, or a free day for a short trip, the double-header of Italian Renaissance drawings from the Maggiori Collection and 22 prints from Georges Rouault’s Miserere et Guerre series at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art is well worth the visit.


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Bonnie Bronson, in her own right

"Landscape through Window" (1986), lacquer on steel, 48 x 36 or 36 x 48 inches (installation  variable). Estate of Bonnie Bronson/Photograph: Ben Bright Photography.

By Bob Hicks

Artists get lost in the shuffle of time. It’s not unusual. Time loses all sorts of things, or rather, we humans lose track of things as time goes by. Reputations go up and down. Attributions change: “Caravaggio” becomes “Follower of Caravaggio” (note the anonymity of the designation), and sometimes the other way around. Whole schools and styles and time periods go in and out of fashion: Rococo, anyone?

Bonnie Bronson in her studio (1965). Photograph: Estate of Bonnie Bronson.Even in local and regional scenes, people get lost, especially after they’ve died: Out of sight, out of mind. In a way Bonnie Bronson, the Oregon City sculptor and painter who died in a mountaineering accident in 1990, was lucky: the annual art awards that sprang up in her honor have kept her name, if not her art, on people’s minds for the past 20 years. Still, most people who know about the Bonnie Bronson Fund don’t actually know much about Bronson the artist.

Thankfully, that’s changing this fall as a series of exhibits across Portland considers Bronson’s legacy in two ways: through the art produced by the 20 (so far) Bronson fellows, and through a long-overdue reassessment of Bronson’s own art. In Sunday’s Oregonian I took a look at two good exhibitions in town right now: curator Randal Davis’s gathering of Bronson’s art at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and curator Linda Tesner’s gorgeously installed exhibit of work by all 20 Bronson award winners.

By all accounts Bronson was a pretty amazing woman, adventurous and nurturing and free-spirited. It’s good to rediscover that she was a pretty fine artist, too.


PHOTOS, from top:

  • “Landscape through Window” (1986), lacquer on steel, 48 x 36 or 36 x 48 inches (installation variable). Estate of Bonnie Bronson/Photograph: Ben Bright Photography.
  • Bonnie Bronson in her studio (1965). Photograph: Estate of Bonnie Bronson.

The new arrival lands on the doorstep

By Bob Hicks

Cover image, "Beth Van Hoesen: Catalogue Raisonne of Limited-Edition Prints, Books and Portfolios," Hudson Hills PressThe new baby arrived the other day, and it’s a whopper: 12.2 inches long, 10.3 inches across, almost 2 inches thick and 8.5 pounds. It came after a labor so long you don’t want to contemplate it, but when it finally arrived it came out handsome and beautifully illustrated.

Coffee tables across America have been put on alert: Brace yourselves. The new kid’s big.

Beth Van Hoesen: Catalogue Raisonné of Limited-Edition Prints, Books, and Portfolios has just been published by Hudson Hills Press, in association with the Oakland Museum of California, Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin, and the University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames.

Van Hoesen, who died late last year at age 84, was a longtime San Francisco artist who specialized in printmaking, taking as her subject the small things of life: animals, insects, flowers, babies, fruits and vegetables, dolls, portraits. She also drew and made prints of a lot of nudes — a portfolio of her male nudes was one of the first projects published by the Bay Area’s fabled Crown Press — and completed a little-known but highly intriguing series of portraits of people from the punk scene in San Francisco’s Castro District, near the old firehouse where Van Hoesen and her husband, the tapestry designer and watercolorist Mark Adams, lived and worked for close to 50 years. Physical veracity was extremely important to her, and in the best of her work that attention to truthfulness was much more than skin-deep.

I wrote what became the catalogue’s lead essay, Becoming Perfect, which is primarily about Van Hoesen’s drawings, both finished pieces and preparatory drawings for her hundreds of prints. In the end, her work is really about the magic of the line, and getting it right.

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Monday link: Carnage, clowns & prints

From left: Trisha Miller, Patrick Dizney (background), Allison Tigard and Michael Mendelson in "God of Carnage" at Artists Rep. Photo: OWEN CAREY

By Bob Hicks

With PICA’s TBA new-arts fest, Music Fest NW and the kickoff of the regular fall arts season, it was a hectic weekend in Puddletown. So Marty Hughley, The Oregonian’s ace theater and dance guy, asked me to pitch in and review God of Carnage, Yasmina Reza‘s little free-for-all at Artists Rep. Not a bad assignment, all in all. Funny what a little playground punch between kids can turn into when the adults get involved. My brief print review is in this morning’s paper. You can read the more expansive online version at Oregon Live.

Barry Johnson has also filed his review at Oregon Arts Watch, and Willamette Week’s Ben Waterhouse shouldn’t be far behind: He was in the house on Saturday night.


My old friend Bernie Weiner was a longtime theater critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and, as the salesmen say in The Music Man, he knows the territory. So when he takes time out to send a tip, I pay attention.

This is what he sent the other day: not sure if you’ve ever seen dan hoyle perform (he’s geoff hoyle’s son), but he’s wonderful. just in case you’re interested, he’ll be doing his “real americans” show (based on conversations he had with ordinary americans, not all of whom were friendly) in portland 9/6-11-6.

The Real Americans also opened over the weekend, at Portland Center Stage. Rich Wattenberg’s review for The Oregonian is here.

I’d known this show was coming up and figured I’d catch it, but I didn’t know Dan Hoyle was Geoff Hoyle’s son. Geoff is a veteran physical-theater guy who’s maybe best-known for his stretches in Cirque du Soleil and as the original Zazu in the Broadway version of The Lion King. But I remember him best, and most fondly, as the clown Mister Sniff, one of the lynchpins with Bill Irwin of the funky and magnificent Pickle Family Circus, which both Bernie and I covered many years ago (Bernie more often, because the Pickles were part of the San Francisco home team). The splendor of Cirque du Soleil more or less killed popular interest in the Pickles, who were a quasi-hippie, quasi-touring European acrobatic troupe. But I absolutely loved the Pickles’ spirit, which was: be amazed by what’s right in front of your face. (Several Pickles, by the way, including Hoyle, Irwin, and fellow clown Larry Pisoni, played townsfolk in Robert Altman’s idiosyncratic movie version of Popeye.)


Also from The Oregonian, I ran this review on Friday of Tamarind Touchstones, an exhibition of 61 lithographic prints made over the past half-century by the Tamarind Institute, which began in Los Angeles and moved in 1970 to Albuquerque. It’s a very good show, with work by people you know (Josef Albers, Roy De Forest, Kiki Smith, Louise Nevelson, Robert Colescott, Richard Diebenkorn, Jim Dine, Ed Ruscha) and probably a few you don’t. It’s in the prints and drawings galleries downstairs from the main entrance, and it’s worth your time.

David Hare, "Cronus Hermaphrodite," 1972. "Tamarind Touchstones" at Portland Art Museum
PHOTOS, from top:

  • From left: Trisha Miller, Patrick Dizney (background), Allison Tigard and Michael Mendelson in “God of Carnage” at Artists Rep. Photo: Owen Carey.
  • David Hare, “Cronus Hermaphrodite,” 1972. “Tamarind Touchstones” at Portland Art Museum. Courtesy Tamarind Institute.

Jack McLarty, 1919-2011: the final print

Jack McLarty's notebooks: Pacific Northwest College of ArtPacific Northwest College of Art

By Bob Hicks

This afternoon I drove into Northwest Portland to the Pacific Northwest College of Art to see the new exhibit of work by Bonnie Bronson, the Oregon City painter and sculptor who died in 1990 in a mountaineering accident. The show is the linchpin of a major citywide Bronson retrospective, which also includes exhibits at Lewis & Clark College, Elizabeth Leach Gallery and other exhibition spaces, and it’s well worth seeing: more on it later.

In PNCA’s little Corner Gallery just around the bend from the Bronson exhibit I discovered a small selection of prints by another Portland old-timer overdue for a revival of interest, Jack McLarty, and it delighted me. I’d been thinking about McLarty in the past few months, knowing he was getting older and wasn’t in the best of health, hoping someone might put together a retrospective or even a full-career catalog. And while this was just a very small show, it seemed like a beginning.

Then I discovered that Jack had died on July 10, at age 92. Because I’d been out of town (my own father had died two days earlier, at 94) I’d missed the news. This small show, it turns out, is a memorial. Assembled by artist Stephen Leflar, it opened on Aug. 4 and closes this coming Monday, Sept. 12, which means you don’t have long to catch it.

"Gordon and Vivian," Jack McLartyI never really knew Jack, although I talked with him several times. In the 1970s and ’80s I used to frequent the old Image Gallery that he and his wife Barbara ran downtown, a pioneer space that included Inuit and Mexican and other “folk” art in addition to McLarty’s own brand of homegrown modernism — pretty much no one of note was as intensely a Portland artist as he was. I reviewed a couple of his shows, briefly, and always enjoyed the long chatty letters that Barbara sent out, blends of professional marketing and family updates. I sometimes thought of McLarty as a sort of flip-side Henk Pander, a socially aware chronicler of the life directly around him, the Loki of the Portland art scene to the younger Pander’s reluctant Odin. All right, that’s an exaggeration. McLarty and Pander are both more and less than that. But they are that, too. One of my fears was that when Jack died he’d be forgotten, because I knew it was happening already. I also knew that only those who somehow hit it big are remembered beyond their own generation, and although I’m OK with that — it’s the way of the world — I also think that in certain cases it’s something of a shame. Because to me, Jack McLarty spoke to the spirit of a quickly vanishing Portland, a Portland that wasn’t necessarily better than the city it’s become but that was decidedly, and often fascinatingly, different — more independent, more rowdy, more straitlaced, more raw, less stuck on itself. It was a town that could be racist and uptight and wide open and generous at the same time, a place where cowboys and Greek sailors and slumming Ivy Leaguers liked to come to have a good time, which they were allowed to have, as long as they didn’t stray too far out of line or try to stick around and vote. Jack seemed to see all of that, and spoke to it in a way that artists can and politicians can’t or won’t.

McLarty’s work is busy and engaged and sometimes a little gossipy and often sharp at the elbows, in a sly to satirical way. He liked to be topical, and he liked to put prominent local art figures in his work, people like Gordon Gilkey, the garrulous print collector and curator who established the Gilkey print and drawing collection at the Portland Art Museum. Of the 15 prints on view in this mini-show, the one I love is McLarty’s chubby-cheeked, angel-winged vision of a superheroic Gilkey descending from the heavens into Portland. (I’m stealing an image, inset, of Gordon and Vivian, another McLarty print of Gilkey, from a Northwest Print Council page on the Western Oregon University web site, in hopes they’ll understand the theft is meant in the best possible way.) I’d give my eyeteeth for a copy of that angel-winged Gilkey print, if I could figure out exactly what an eyetooth is.