Tag Archives: The Art Gym

It’s spring break: Scatter hits the links

CarlosAlexis Cruz and Mayra Acevedo as Pedro and his militant wife on an attempt to confront a human in "A Suicide Note from a Cockroach." Photo: Drew Foster

No, not the golf course. Mr. and Mrs. Scatter do not do the Scottish thing. (Maybe the Scotch thing, but that’s different.) This morning the Scattermobile is heckbent for the Oregon coast to take the salty waters for a few days, Large Smelly Boys in tow and hoping that some Susan Cooper on tape will quell the teen and pre-teen insurrections.

The Scatter notebooks will be included among the various baggage for this trek into the semi-wild, and yet we cannot guarantee that anything will emerge from them. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But the ingestion of clam chowder and fresh oysters is a better bet.

In the meantime, let’s do the links. Here are a few things from other places we think you might like to read:

COCKROACHES BITE THE BIG ONE. On Saturday night Mr. Scatter went to Imago Theatre to catch Pelu Theatre‘s circus-skill performance of A Suicide Note from a Cockroach …, an hour-long spectacle based on Nuyorican poet Pedro Pietri‘s 1979 piece A Suicide Note from a Cockroach in a Low Income Housing Project. It’s good, utterly nonrealistic stuff. A brief review is in this morning’s Oregonian, and you can read the the longer Oregon Live version here.

Melody Owen, "Drought in Kenya -- Buffalo," Elizabeth Leach GalleryMELODY FOR THE MEEK. Portland artist Melody Owen has a pair of shows up in town, one at Elizabeth Leach Gallery and one in The Art Gym at Marylhurst University.

They are both elegant exhibitions, and both consider, to one degree or another, the position in our midst of the meek — specifically, of the members of the animal kingdom, who have no say in the decisions that humans make about the world in which they live. Mr. Scatter reviewed the shows on Friday in A&E; you can read it here.

PBS UNPLUGS THE ARTS. Scatter friend Holly Sanders relayed this column from the always provocative Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal.

Continue reading It’s spring break: Scatter hits the links

Scatter links: Yes, we still cover actual art

The Importance of Being Earnest/PCS/OWEN CAREY

I’ve been writing so much about art politics lately, some of you might have forgot that Art Scatter also writes about arts and culture. That’s our main goal, actually. It’s just that all this politics stuff keeps happening.

In fact, between bouts with the Oregon Legislature (which didn’t seem to notice I was in the ring) I’ve been writing a fair amount about exhibits and performances. But not here — mostly for The Oregonian. So in lieu of writing something fresh (I’m a little tired, and I have other assignments due) I’m going to link to some of those stories.

First, though, a tip of the Scatter hat to Owen Carey, one of the unsung heroes of Portland’s performance scene,
whose photographs have been documenting the movable feast of the city’s theater scene for decades. It’s more than documentation, really: It’s collaboration, and a distinct artistic contribution on its own. Like a great dance photographer — Lois Greenfield, for instance — Owen has the gift of disappearing even as he captures the perfect moment of movement that defines the style and liveness of a show. The photo above, from Portland Center Stage‘s current production of The Importance of Being Earnest, is a brilliant case in point: the airiness, the bubbles, the froth of the tea as it flies from the mouth of Gwendolen (Kate MacCluggage) while Cecily (Nikki Coble) sips daintily away, perfectly encapsulates the mood of Oscar Wilde’s comedy. If only the production had done the same!

Now, on to those links:

What if they gave a Depression and there weren’t any artists to record it? From Monday’s Oregonian, this piece about a small exhibit at the Portland Art Museum of WPA and other national arts program works from the 1930s and early ’40s, along with some comparisons to the Madame de Pompadour special exhibition and a bit on some paintings in the museum’s permanent collection by some of the Pompadour artists. The online caption, by the way, is wrong: That’s not a Joseph Stella, it’s a Maude Kerns.

Hayley Barker at The Art GymNeil Simon, American comedian: Also from Monday’s Oregonian (the full review ran online; a shortened version ran in print) is this look at Profile Theatre‘s production of Simon’s 1992 play Jake’s Women, a morose comedy about a guy whose marriage is falling apart — but also a play with a fascinating, Pirandellian subtext about the nature of writing and observation. Simon argues, therefore he is.

In the deep dark wood something wild and woolly waits: From last Friday’s A&E section of The Oregonian, this review of a couple of linked exhibits at The Art GymWolves and Urchins, with work by Wendy Given, Hayley Barker and Anne Mathern (that’s Barker’s elegantly hideous monster in the illustration to the side, and Mathern’s wide-eyed photograph at bottom); plus Warlord Sun King: The Genesis of Eco-Baroque, a collaboration by Marne Lucas and Bruce Conkle.

The world is flat, and other artistic fables: From last Monday’s Oregonian, this review of Mixografia, an expansive exhibit at the Portland Art Museum of prints from the Los Angeles press and graphic arts center that’s created a name for itself by coming up with a technique to create prints that have three dimensions — in other words, multiples with height and depth. Nice trick — and artists from Ed Ruscha to Helen Frankenthaler to Louise Bourgeois and even sculptor George Segal have taken advantage of it.

He’s a real nowhere man, living in a nowhere land: Isn’t he a bit like you and me? Finally, from the Feb. 13 A&E, this essay about the planning disasters of our urban edges, prompted by a viewing of the architectural constructs of artists Jesse Durost and John Sisley at Fourteen30 Contemporary gallery, along with a consideration of the imaginative work of architect Robert Harvey Oshatz through the prism of an exhibition at the AIA Gallery. A bit of a hybrid piece of writing; maybe even a leap too far. That’s Scattering, friends.

Anne Mathern at The Art Gym

Remembrance of things past: Art that pays its respects

One of my most vivid memories from a visit to St. Petersburg, Russia, almost a decade ago is of walking into a ramshackle room in a tumbling old palace and seeing, as if they were ghosts, long-smocked artisans painstakingly copying old masterworks: eerily antique-looking men and women making giant decorative objects based on the art of the past.

St. Petersburg is and always has been something of a museum city, hermetically sealed in its own royalist aesthetic. Even in the late 1990s, as the new thuggery of the ascendant Russian opportunist class was evident everywhere, the urge to re-create the glories of the past was also busily hammering away around every corner. By rebuilding with obsessive accuracy so much that the Germans had destroyed in the Siege of Leningrad, Petersburgers weren’t just taking their central city back to the glories of the days before World War II. They were replicating the age of the czars.

Is this art, or mummification? My guess is, yes and yes. It is what it is, for better and for worse, and in St. Petersburg, which like few other big European cities has resisted the hard edge of modernism (although it does have its share of Soviet Brutalist architecture) there was an abundance of each.

The urge to retreat into the verities of the past is strong, especially when you’re not sure about the present or the future. The past in one sense is a popular commodity, with eager buyers looking for a patina of instant heritage and sellers willing to feed their nostalgic fantasies. So the art world has a furtive underground market in fakes (read Robertson Davies‘ sly and very good novel What’s Bred in the Bone for some sharp insights into the mind of a brilliant forger), and the American and English antique-furniture markets are in an uproar right now over purportedly fraudulent high-end pieces cobbled together (with exceptional skill, it must be admitted) from old pieces of semi-junk.

An obsession with the past can also rise from uncertainty over our ability to make contemporary decisions. In its early years the only art in the collection of the Portland Art Museum was cast reproductions of ancient Greek and Roman statuary: Citizens of the pioneer city were invited into a sacred space to see knockoff versions of the foundations of Western art and accomplishment, as if the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, for instance, let alone the crude vigor of the American frontier, had simply never existed.

Yet it’s equally true that to ignore the past is to fundamentally misunderstand the present. What we are is built on everything that’s come before, and one of the objects of art is to explore that past in light of the present. That’s the great gift of a good museum. And it’s what makes Homage: Re-enactments, Copies and Tributes, which continues through Dec. 7 in The Art Gym at Marylhurst University, such an intriguing experience.

Curator Terri Hopkins built Homage around Sherrie Wolf‘s giant re-creation of Gustave Courbet‘s 1855 painting The Painter’s Studio: Allegory of Seven Years of My Artistic and Moral Life. It’s crucial that Courbet’s painting isn’t just any old Courbet. It’s a painting about painting, a lively and affecting treatise in oil on the nature and context of making art. And Hopkins has done with it the sort of thing good curators do: She’s surrounded it with other pieces that approach the same general question from different angles. To Wolf’s audacious act of reinvention she added a liberal smattering of photographer Christopher Rauschenberg‘s passionate pursuit of Eugene Atget‘s Paris, plus a pair of largely academic projects that, while they don’t add much to the visual pleasures of the exhibition, nimbly frame it and give it context.

Continue reading Remembrance of things past: Art that pays its respects