Tag Archives: andy warhol

Warhol and Van Sant: peas in a pod?

By Bob Hicks

Larry Fong, curator of American and regional art at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, has assembled a provocative and aesthetically stimulating exhibition that brings together Pop icon Andy Warhol and Portland movie director Gus Van Sant through the unlikely lens of the Polaroid camera, a populist aim-and-shoot wonder that both used prolifically.

Gus Van Sant, "boys," 2010 digital pigment print, edition of 5 16.5" x 11.5". PDX Contemporary ArtI review the exhibit, One Step Big Shot, in this morning’s Oregonian. The show is smartly conceived and well-executed, and it looks good in the gallery, coming up with some creative design responses to the museum’s problematically long and narrow main display space.

Gus Van Sant, "boy and girl mystery," 2010 digital pigment print, edition of 5, 46" x 37". PDX Contemporary ArtOne draw: A big-screen version of Warhol’s infamous 1964 film Blow Job, which I hadn’t seen in many years.

Caught somewhere between blatant sexuality and demure tease (it’s a landmark in the gay underground movement that exploded into the mainstream after the Stonewall Riots of 1969) the six-minute film plays breathlessly with the ideas of Adonis and Narcissus. Even now it’s a powerful cultural transgression. It was an absolute mind-blower in 1964. One Step Big Shot continues through Sept. 5, and it’s worth the trip to Eugene.

Meanwhile, you have only a week left to catch Cut-ups, a smaller but intriguing related show at Portland’s PDX Contemporary Art. In it, Van Sant explores photographic collage, creating odd and sometimes discombobulating fusions of gender and personality. The two pieces shown here are from Cut-ups. We are all, apparently, one another. Worth catching, and up through Saturday, May 29.



— Gus Van Sant, “boys,” 2010 digital pigment print, edition of 5, 16.5″ x 11.5″. PDX Contemporary Art

— Gus Van Sant, “boy and girl mystery,” 2010 digital pigment print, edition of 5, 46″ x 37″. PDX Contemporary Art

Remembering Merce in his element: the vast Northwest

Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Nearly Ninety. Photo: Anna Finke/2009

Dance critic and historian Martha Ullman West has spent a lot of time thinking about Merce Cunningham, the great 20th century dancer and choreographer who rethought what dance means by  introducing chance as a primary element in the mix. Cunningham, who was born and raised 90 miles from Portland in the small town of Centralia, Wash., died July 26 at age 90. Martha considers, among other things, the effect that the Pacific Northwest had on Cunningham’s art.


Merce Cunningham. Photo: Mark Seliger/2009 Merce Cunningham died the other day, in his sleep it is said, which means he was still hard at work at the age of 90. Artists do, you know, work in their sleep, as well as their waking hours. There is no rest for the psyche.

He died in New York on Sunday, July 26, at his home in Greenwich Village. In his obituary for the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay, who is working on a book on Cunningham, called him “always a creature of New York.”

That’s not untrue, at least from 1939 on, when Cunningham joined Martha Graham‘s company. But it’s only part of the story.

Merce, in fact, was one of ours. So was Robert Joffrey. So are Trisha Brown and Mark Morris, who, thank God, are still around. All are natives of the Pacific Northwest, specifically Washington State.

I believe that Merce’s use of space, his sense of infinite possibility, his connection to nature, his conviction that you can do anything that pleases you on stage as long as it works aesthetically, came from the ethos of this part of the world. You see those elements in the poetry of Gary Snyder, who like Merce and composer John Cage, Merce’s long-term partner in life and art, was influenced by Zen thinking. You see them, certainly, in the work of Trisha Brown.

And, to bring it home to Portland, you see it in the choreography and technique of Mary Oslund, who studied with Cunningham and several members of his company, including the late Viola Farber. Oslund remembers being at dinner with Merce when White Bird presented the company (which, God love them, they did twice, in 2001 and 2004). Merce talked with her about Farber, Mary says, in his “diminutive and humble way.”

“He gave us a lot of permission,” Susan Banyas told dance maker Gregg Bielemeier when she heard the news of Merce’s death.

Continue reading Remembering Merce in his element: the vast Northwest

Warhol at Maryhill: Putting on a good face

High above the windy hollow of the Columbia River Gorge, Sitting Bull and Geronimo and Gen. George Armstrong Custer seem right at home.

And Andy Warhol? Surprisingly, him, too.

Warhol, the epitome of a certain sort of New York sophistication — a self-created phenomenon of the 20th century, pointing the way to the 21st — is the focus of a new show in the upper galleries of the Maryhill Museum of Art, “Andy Warhol and Other Famous Faces,” assembled from the contemporary print collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation.

The exhibit, with images mostly by Warhol plus a sprinkling of supporting pieces by the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Red Grooms, Chuck Close, Jasper Johns and Jeff Koons, proves once again what has become a mass-culture commonplace: In a world of celebrity-soaked informational sameness, we are all from Manhattan, all from Iowa, all from the sparse deserts of the West. Red state or blue, right wing or left, Elvis and Marilyn and Campbell’s Tomato Soup have brought us together and made us alike — or at least, given us the same pop-cultural preoccupations.

Maryhill, one of the unlikeliest of American art museums, sits in a concrete castle on a high bluff on the Washington side of the Columbia River, about 100 miles east of Portland and well on the way to desert country: It’s practice territory for the Middle of Nowhere. The fortress was built as his residence by the visionary road engineer and agricultural utopian Sam Hill. (His Stonehenge replica, a World Wat I memorial, is nearby, and the next time you head for Vancouver, British Columbia, you should stop on the border at Peace Arch Park to take in another of his monuments, the International Peace Arch, which sits with one foot in Blaine, Washington, and the other in Surrey on the Canadian side. Both monuments are as clean-lined and populist as any of Warhol’s works, and a good deal more interactive.)

Hill’s mansion was transformed into a museum by three of his high-powered women friends, including Marie, Queen of Romania, who was related to the royal houses of both England and Russia. As a result its collections are heavy in memorabilia of the good queen’s life (including some furniture she designed), plus objects related to another benefactress, the great dancer Loie Fuller; a goodly amount of Rodin; a good sampling of Native American art; many fine Russian Orthodox icons; quirky attractions such as the French high-fashion stage scenes of Theatre de la Mode (even Jean Cocteau took part in this immediately post-World War II artistic attempt to give French haute couture a sorely needed economic kick-start); and an amusing, sometimes amazing sampling of international chess sets.

But the museum’s permanent fine-art holdings are largely romantic landscape, plus Victorian and American realist paintings. As a result, it relies largely on temporary shows for things a little closer to modern times.

Continue reading Warhol at Maryhill: Putting on a good face

Those tasty Tuesday hotlinks, well-scattered

While you continue to hone your answers for the “movies that move me” confessional below — more! we want more! (it’s kinda getting a little Bruno Bettelheim-y in there) — we have some refreshing links from home and abroad.

Let the celebrity conduct Maybe this is “only on the BBC” but a new reality show is hoping to bridge the gap between classical music and pop culture by enlisting some UK celebrities, most notably drum’n’bass inventor Goldie. The key moment in the Scotsman’s story: “A giant, shaven-headed fellow with an imperious demeanour, he is dressed in a yellow T-shirt, tracksuit bottoms and trainers. Gold teeth glint from his mouth. Yet the moment he launches into conducting, I – and the entire orchestra – are spellbound.” And now I’m thinking who I’d reallywant to see conduct the Oregon Symphony…

Kindle, the new iPod? Wired speculates on the fate of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, which apparently is starting to gain traction in the universe. I’ve briefly pondered its fate before on Scatter, and Wired is rather dismissive. But still…

Art in The Oregonian Because of my professional affiliations and all, I don’t usually do this, but I gladly send you off to four recent visual arts stories by my comrades: Bob Hicks takes on Andy Warhol at the Maryhill Museum, D.K. Row on Portland sculptor/icon Lee Kelly, and Inara Verzemnieks on the 100th Monkey Studio’s mischief art show and on Caldera’s Hello Neighbor street art project.

And now, without further interruption, descend one post and tell us about your movie past!