The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association has been a heavyweight advocate in Portland’s city hall for a couple of decades now, winning most of their advocacy battles using the Historic Old Town Business Association. Rewards for public advocacy are often ironic or flubbed, and theirs is no exception.

Just installed are two structures bracketing NW Davis at Fourth Avenue in the midst of what Portland calls Chinatown (truly an unhappy memory for folks 60+), created by Brian Goldbloom of Amboy, Washington. The structures are of pink granite enclosed in a stainless steel frame – from a distance is looks like a horrible dental extraction. Close up, it isn’t better. One of the steel garrotes is throttling a dragon by the neck; below is a archaeological mess of kitchen equipment. The pink granite stands on top of a large white stone dais, which dwarfs the artwork.

One block of Davis has been rehabbed with sidewalk cement in the street and out-of-place palm trees. It would be an excellent demographic exercise to watch the number of pedestrians accidents in this busy thoroughfare, now freely mixing cars and wandering tourists.

From November 29, 2005 PDC press release“The Regional Arts and Culture Council has commissioned eight public art “lanterns” for the project area from sculptor Brian Goldbloom. The sculptures celebrate the multi-cultural history and promise of the neighborhood and reflect its rich history and diversity.”

No mention of the artist, Brian Goldbloom, on the Regional Arts and Culture Council site (the stewards of our public-paid-for artworks). No press release. No signature on the work. And, no lanterns.

The artwork has drawn immediate negative responses from local businesspeople, and the Portland Clean & Safe dude who showed me the damage to the dragon’s snout, “a ball peen hammer, if I don’t miss my guess,” he exclaimed with a conspiratorial glance.

Here’s who selected this artwork.

Selection Panel

  • Doreen Binder, Old Town/Chinatown Steering Committee
  • David Davies, Portland Development Commission
  • Deborah Horrell, Artist
  • Jack Lee, Old Town/Chinatown Steering Committee
  • Louis Lee, Old Town/Chinatown Steering Committee
  • Lloyd Lindley, Landscape Architect
  • June Schuman, Nikkei Legacy Center
  • Deb Stoner, Artist
  • Ellen Vanderslice, Portland Transportation
  • Public Art Manager: Kristin Calhoun,

The most peculiar part of the two sculptures – on opposite sides of the Davis Street – is that dragon’s head on the South sculpture has been shorn clean off – clearly dragons North and South are demonstrating “before and after” with hideous imagery.

Below the captured North Dragon, snarling and staring at the doors of House of Louie (terrible feng shui!), in rough granite are an overturned wok, a duck and chicken heads, some spatulas. Below the headless South dragon is a ubiquitous salmon, an abacus and a pocket calculator!

Wow. I thought the Britney giving birth was in bad taste. (Here’s a great collection of super-bad public sculptures!) But this unnamed artwork is both badly made, badly conceived, no – just a bad job all around.
Sculpture’s portrayal of dragon, wok draws complaints – Oregonian, 12.5.2006

Verdict: Art misses mark – Chinatown finds little to like in dragon sculpture – Tribune, 12.3.2006

Some days after the artwork is installed, RACC posts info on it’s web site.

Brian Goldbloom – Artist Registry

PERCENT FOR ART PROGRAM: Financial allocation process is informal, inconsistent, and may not fulfill requirements for public art – RACC audit, August 2005

Editorial and comments on this blog at Portland Mercury’s Blogtown (some comments are in bad taste).