September 2005

The TFME / OHSU Lunchtime Concert Series presents the Bassoon Brothers on September 28, Wednesday, at the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital on the Lobby level.

They are a bassoon quartet composed of members of the Oregon Symphony bassoon section.

All TFME / OHSU concerts are free. For more information call 503-494-7686.

Not all public art is bolted in cement!

John Buchanan was spotted yesterday checking the bolts and bulbs in the largest purchase by the PAM – well, since Waterlilies by Monet went upstairs in about 1955.

This is one of the late Roy Lichtenstein’s 1996 – 2001 Brushstrokes series, which did some time on the roof of the MOMA and at Brown University while searching the world for an owner.

Aluminum almost thirty feet tall, this thing doesn’t just drop into any old atrium and flirt. Even on Park Avenue, even from distance, it takes a moment to adjust.

Pop art meets faux Egyptian fraternal lodge with the Masonic Temple, site of weddings, comic book conventions, and a variety of sales meetings. But if Buchanan does with the interior (and I’ve peeked, but not seen enough to comment yet) the equivalent of the transformation of the Pietro Belluschi PAM, we’re blessed.

And if you haven’t had a chance to look around the Portland Art Museum web site – don’t wait. It’s one of their best improvements.

Oh, press release!

A Christo around a David Smith!?! Out from the barn and back into the light! We haven’t seen a few of these for years.

The Sculpture Garden is reopened – though the selection seems somewhat random. Certainly better than the dribbling fountain. One takes what one can get. Buchanan might say, put your donation where your mouth is, bub.

Still uncrating and tidying up. Opening is October 2, I think.

Tho small what makes it a very pleasant change from much Portland artwork is the lack of a considerable barrier between the viewer and the work. For several of the pieces this blog has already looked, such as Harvey Scott or the Manuel Neri piece at the Federal Courthouse are both hidden and high, separated space, literally difficult to see. The PAM garden provides sufficient security to allow us to draw near.

We watched a one year old girl, indulged by her gooney parents, grin and smirk, romp around the space, travail and outshine the bronze and stone. So the place is human, comfortable with a adjoining cafe and chairs, a sanctuary in the city.

I don’t like Lee Kelly’s work. (Above)

I remember when this rusty monster was a showpiece like Brushstrokes is now, up front and center with velvet ropes and gawkers on Park Avenue. Arlie, I think, about 1979.

I do like Mel Katz’s work. I haven’t seen this one, Garden Gate, but Katz has been doing his same thing for a while now. I’m a sucker for the color.

Splitting hairs, I suppose, but it’s a free country, right? Right?

PSU Prof Michihiro Kosuge, Composition. Leaves me cold. This style doesn’t translate well into this generation. (Above) Well, for me anyway.

I was just going sit down and write about the WOW bright orange Alexander Liberman sculpture just sitting by itself behind the Jamieson Fountain, but to understand why the Liberman is sitting there, you have to understand how it got there.

You have to understand why Maya Lin ISN’T there and that Tanner Creek Park thing is a placeholder workup. And you need to know Ed Cauduro is Portland’s great collector of sculpture, and helped get the short-lived Pearl Arts Foundation off the ground.

If you’re interested in Portland and interested in its art, know Arlene Schnitzer pushed open the doors past Mr. Otis and the Arlington Club titterers, first with the Fountain Gallery which colonized what Bill Naito much later labeled “Old Town.” (The Fountain Gallery folded in the 80’s into the Laura Russo gallery.) All sorts of extravagant art + culture waded into provincial puddletown via Arlene.

So give Arlene the floor – and tell her story. Take a few minutes and read her brief oral history of her civic and aesthetic work.

From the enormous Louis Bunce in the Portland Convention Center to the Performing Arts Center, for decades Arlene has been a light hand, gently urging folks to consider something nicer to look at. Or listen to. Or feel.

Start with Arlene. Then I can write about the rest.

Above is just a section of the impossible-to-photograph Louis Bunce at the Portland Convention Center.

Retired LC Prof Bruce West has sold a lot of his stuff. To us.

West has been sculpting abstracts of local mountain vistas for dozens of years. Chugging along, and selling a lot of them to our government. Which park them and forget them. Well, why not?

How Land Form looked in 1976 when first installed.

How Land Form looks now. Stronghold of squirrels.

I attended the Acorn Festival at Lair Hill Park recently with about 600 squirrels and this behemoth. Man is such a speck, we ponder beyond Descarte, how do we know WE exist collectively? What will be here in a thousand years? What will tell our tale?

Spray paint. Where’s RACC?

Well, squirrels. Definitely. And probably this thing. Ugly as hell.

More spray paint mess. Is this art or vandalism? A puzzle. I guess it’s art because it’s been here for years. An augmentation. An intervention. An appropriation. Something.

The squirrels did not contribute the spray paint.

Below is what the Waterfront Park Stage looked like in 1978 when it was first installed. Bruce West made the beautiful groovy backdrop to a performance space / plaza, and entrance what was at the time to only access point on the west side to the river. (Now only at Harborside Marina if you have a key or clumber down to the waterline below about Market Street.)

(Actually there’s a neat hidden bit of beach about 300 yards beyond Harborside, directly under the Marquam.)

Here it is now. The Big Dig sewer has churned up Waterfront Park leaving this piece behind cyclone fence for the past year or so. The surrounding brickwork will need replacing, and all the wood is rotten. Lamps will need to be replaced. We’ll see…

Transit Mall thing politely titled, untitled. Part of the 1976 or 77 splurg on low-maintenance art for the Mall startup.

Can we get exchange this untitled thing for a picnic table?

People forget how the construction of the Transit Mall bankrupted dozens of small businesses on 4th, 5th, 6th and Broadway.

Below, another Bruce West artwork, in the Pittock Block main lobby. Security Guard says, “That’s art? You’re kidding, right? Lemme write this down!”

Scratched around a bit on this warm and engaging bronze in the plaza of the Linfield College Nursing School in NW Portland (about 22nd and Northrup).

It’s not big Edward “Buck” Schiwetz, tepid watercolorist who passed on in 1984. No, this big comfy bronze is by Berthold “Tex” Schiwetz, who cast this St. Francis + five pals in 1966. He died in 1971.

I am not going to tell you a bible story – suffice to say preaching to birds and other animals is emblematic of Francis. A common symbol within the hagiography, this moment has been wrought in metal and on canvas for centuries. I think, tho, Linfield is Episcopalian. Or Baptist. I don’t know. And couldn’t tell you the difference anyhow. It doesn’t matter.

I have always liked this piece, found it warm and inviting. The crows are both mad and delighted to be the subject of so much attention, rendered huge, friendly, and somewhat abstract.

Francis is a small man, humble in a thin robe. His eyes protrude weirdly, and his toes, segmented by the thong of his sandals, are anatomically awful. But he’s smiling a weird little I-know-something-you-don’t-know satisfied smarmy smile which is nice and charming in a clever way.

His dapper little beard, his intent eyes, calmly looking out, waiting, not posing for a holy picture, just calm and waiting.

His arms are around his friends, the crows. Who are these crows. Shiteaters, trash-pickers, yack yack yackers, bad luck, ugly thinks. Stupid things. Scat!

But these crows are friends. Gentle friends. Mad and delighted friends. The hands hold the birds carefully, tenderly, like a loyal dog or an obedient child. He’s tamed them? No, look at their eyes. The crows are mad. But they love Francis. And that’s the story. Love is the balancer.

It’s weathered well, moved a couple of times I think, but is in very good condition. If you visit Linfield, there are also two less interesting sculptures behind and below Francis in a sunlit but locked atrium. More interesting are three paintings inside, two in the stairwell and one up in the student lobby. Wild exuberant human figures in motion.

Van Gogh + Hitchcock + a thousand others used crows as frights. See the Hollander’s Wheatfield with Crows

Our first month whizzed by quickly and there’s so much more to do. Thanks for your cards and letters, but be certain I don’t read them.

But if you know a distressed piece of forgotten artwork laying around like the Bruce West behind the old Children’s Museum (also abandoned), send your missive or better yet take a picture and send that with a location. The fewer words, the better.

Coming up in the next few weeks are Central Library, Chapman School / Wallace Park, Convention Center (over several days), last Thursday on Alberta Street, Shaver Street mural, more birds, Touch the Moon, The Promised Land, gardens as artwork, Pioneer Mother, King Christ, The Driver’s Seat, three different elephants, Henry Huggins, a damaged cat in repose, the Car Wash which doesn’t wash cars or anything else, a trip on the Yellow Max Line, poetry from Hazel Hall to Keith Jellum, telephone pole galleries, Coming of the White Man matched with The Dream and maybe The Dreamer. And stay tuned for literally hundreds of other peculiar Portland artworks.

Why the breakneck pace? Not only is it a finite world, but my interest in this stuff is finite and getting finiter by the night. These blogs which go on and on forever, wasting away time and brains, are banal and bleak, hamsters on a wheel, modern worry-beads. Yuck.

The beauty of Blogger + Google is this site is free, permanent and already floating toward the top of most keyword searches. Should top “Portland art” and “Portland sculpture” and “Portland artwork” fairly soon. Regardless of what others do, this site will top most searches. Individual choice + timing + tools mounts insurgency and can defeat all institutions.

Continuing the theme of corporate / governmental art vs outlaw murals, here is a newish set, which the random passing set of eyes might miss.

Located inside a garage set for demolition on NE Fremont at Vancouver. There are six parts to this artwork. All are within a security fence.

The garage and the adjoining building have been idle for over a year.

I don’t know who the artist or artists are or when the artwork was made.

Reading left to right, on west side of the exterior of the building are lightly colored, perhaps unfinished poppy flowers, showing prominent seed pods. Above is a pink cloud and what might be a comet.

It is unfinished.

Inside the garage is an enormous masked superhero character, hunched in a knot, grabbing at his elbow. Perhaps. It’s a little hard to make the composition out. At the top of a set of real stairs is a figure shouting through a bullhorn at the superhero, and another bullhorn, larger, also pointing at him.

Angry, hostile, fist raised. Get out of my neighborhood!

The hero, masked, afraid, injured, perplexed, crumpled by the accusations from the hooded man with the bullhorn. An orange aura surrounds his head.

A smiling white businessman character, fifteen feet high, smirking, lifts the limp superhero like a child with a smelly diaper.

Leon Golub would completely approve.

His face is the most descriptive part of the work. Satisfied and on course.

Opposing the smiling businessman is another white businessman, stern, martial arts position, glowing orange aura around his hands and head. Prepared to attack or defend? Who knows?

Tune in next week for the continuing efforts of real estate gentrification!

UPDATE 2007 – this artwork and the building were demolished.

This green bird, perhaps a swallow, in the third I’ve found in NE Portland. This version is under the Fremont Bridge, near Russell Street. Call it Russell.

Two others have been documented on this blog. One on NE Ainsworth in orange is probably the version which sees most humans. Call that one Ainsworth. The second, near the NE foot of the Fremont is a rougher version, also in orange. Call it Albina.
All three are fairly new. Ainsworth, the first I noticed, seemed to appear about a month ago. But it could have been three. I don’t know who the artist is.

See the two earlier versions at Art v Vandalism.

Russell is like Ainsworth and Albina, about ten feet long and five feet high. It is sketched on a dismal warehouse.

Both the rougher versions, Albina and Russell are “matted” by someone, probably the building owner, wiping out previous graffiti with a roller and wall paint, leaving a uniform rectangle, perfect for framing a new image.

Now that I’ve collected three – and I imagine there are others – I think the chronology is Albina, Russell, Ainsworth. I would like to find / see the rest of these birds.

Matrix II – Charles Kelly
Bought by Dept of Transportation and Tri-Met (when did the hyphen disappear?) for the opening of the Portland Transit Mall, 1977
Sixth Avenue and Oak Street, Portland.

Plus and minus. Pretty simple. There’s a sexual interpretation, but I can dish it or leave it alone.

This stylish sculptural art has been holding this spot on the transit mall, rain or shine, for almost thirty years.

It’s hard to spot because of it’s funky 70s look, it washes out and could be a piece of construction machinery or some leftover debris from a flood or car crash. It’s hard to see on closer inspection, because other surrounding things, people, pigeons, are so much more interesting.

Matrix III, below, is in Salem. I don’t know where Matrix I is, or if it ever was. Charles Kelly seems to have made these and stopped making sculpture. That’s probably for the best.

Somehow I don’t think it was meant to be on a pedestal, now up to about ten feet high. But without the pedestal pedestrians would topple over it – because it’s so invisible.

This was a typically college professor piece at the time, semi-abstract, thick, iron and stone and honest labor put it all together. Probably had some sort of earth-air-fire-water hippy dance-blessing too.

Our contemporary problem, as with Satan’s Scrotum, it this super-importantly-titled thing is protected as “art” and is also virtually indestructible. Vandals, weather, birds, being ignored hasn’t changed it. Kelly’s art could literally be sitting on this Portland streetcorner in a thousand years.

Unless! The earth opens up and swallows it whole. I’ll never give up hope.

Matrix III – Charles Kelly
Gift of Salem Insurance Agents of the Marion-Polk Agents Association
Between Library and City Hall, East Lawn, Salem Civic Center
Corten Steel and Cement

UPDATE 2007 – this sculpture has been placed in storage.

Did I imagine this mnemonic moniker or does it float at 10th & Burnside like an unfortunate smell?

First titled Pod, built by Peterson Structural Engineers, highlighted on Oregon Art Beat, cost RACC $50,000 (Pdx Tribune + plaque says funded by Portland Streetcar Inc. [the streetcar itself was as you might remember funded by you and me taxpayers] and BBC Steel).

Ignorable amidst traffic noise and unregulated signage, it sits ominous on three immovable wheels, a heavy metal ghastly of brushed steel, managing demonic charm with a semblance of interactivity.

Reach your arms up high and push the testes and the devil dicks swing about madly.

Quite possibly Fred Allen was Satan, “Oh Portlandia!” Certainly upsets the feng shui of skid road.

Perhaps scratching Satan’s Scrotum will be a future midnight ritual for errant Foursquare Church debutantes. Whoops! The future is now already.

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