February 2007


Use the comments below and name the artist and where this public artwork is located! Extra bonus points if you can tell anything about how this artwork was purchased or mounted. Check back for the answer tomorrow. Hint – By a well known artist, but not in his well known style. (Of course it’s in Portland – also.)

25 HOURS LATER – Okay, this is a hard one and you’re clearly stumped. I’ll give you half – and the easier, much more interesting half – The painting above is by Louis Bunce. Not his well known style at all. Now – the challenge – where is this piece of Portland public art hanging? Another hint, cause I know you’re lost – it’s in a public building which contains about 40 other pieces of art, all parts of the “State Office Building Collection.”

25 HOURS LATER – It’s Louis Bunce, View #2, date created unknown, hanging on the fourth floor of the Oregon State Office Building on NE Oregon Street.

Artwork in this building is rarely visited because the surroundings are stultifying dreary, matched by the trollish work of civil servants. One enjoyable aspect, beyond finding the artwork, was the absolute ease of access. Although this building is one of the very few where Homeland Security provides it’s service, doors throughout the building were open and unguarded.

The collection – available for the first time in an online gallery here – includes work by Michele Russo, James McGarrell, Gary Thomas Sutto, Dyann Alkire, a monoprint with pastel by Rick Bartow, Goodwin Harding, Karen Guzak, Robert Dozono, PSU Prof Manuel Izquierdo, U of O’s LaVerne Krause (the blue landscape Spring Poetic above), Jim Shull, Lewis & Clark’s Bruce West, Douglas Campbell Smith, the Museum Art School’s surrealist Dean Harry Widman (his painting Three Three and Two is above), two enormous 2D sculptural pieces of cast glass by Ruth Brockmann (detail of The Legend of Multnomah Falls is shown here), and Robert Hanson.

Several of these pieces is another context, perhaps with proper lighting, could be interesting. The glass piece by Brockmann is enormous – two pieces, each ten feet by twenty-five feet – and exceptional.

Portland Public Art looked at the prominent outdoor sculpture Ideals by the late Muriel Castanis in 2005 at the corner of 9th Avenue and NE Oregon.

The collection is OAC warehouse circa 1985. I had several nice chats with the inhabitants who had no idea of what the artwork is, who made it, or whether it was interesting or not. I could smell the Halcion, tho. No mention elsewhere of the “State Office Building Collection.” Like the artwork, the program which collected and mounted it, has been forgotten.

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The Regional Arts and Culture Council unbolted Contact II, by Alexander Liberman, a pop art sculpture located at Jamison Square in Portland, and hauled it off for Spring cleaning and a new coat of paint.

See Pop Art Classic in Need of Help, posted here just one week ago! Very good.

A guess, but probably 98% of blogs poop out after six months. Three categories of successful blogs: 1. The blogger is paid by an outside source, 2. The blogger deducts time spent from taxes (the business model of the moment!), 3. Determined and / or pathological amateurs.

(A pro secret – Google ads with arts-oriented keywords pay a very low rate – about $.01 per 500 hits. Very generous for an advertiser to pay more than double this rate.)

Tyler Green rules the art blog world with Modern Art Notes, a subset of Arts Journal, where he catalogs both the happening and the historical from an insider sensibility.

That Ain’t Art – Four Seattlite artists post their findings from the web with brief commentary.

RACC’s Jeff Hawthorne has Culture Shock, a mix of personal and professional with good pics and recent applause for Henk Pander’s recent fellowship award and comments on the Chinese dragon controversy.

As per usual, Eva Lake is morphing into something new, and shows it in Eva Lake, a branch (I think) of the LoveLake site. Eva is a artist, artist-watcher, curator, and not shy with opinions rooted in skepticism and experience. Eva blogs in the original sense of the tool, a personal journal written for the world to see.

NEWSgrist – where spin is art – tracks the intersection of art and pop political culture; always readable and often provocative. New York-centric; long blogroll of peers.

The Anonymous Militant Art Bitch can probably source actual numbers, but the majority of lauded gallery reviews still go to men; from the legalization of the pill to Bikini Kill we held the revolution and women progressed – but not to equality. This site also wins an award for huge numbers of comments without always succumbing to analogies to Nazis, defying Godwin’s Law.

T J Norris used the crippled Oregon Live blog tool for a while, but has converted to T J Norris | Blog, a very nice format for showing his work and commenting on local events and shows.

ArtDaily.org has something like a blog but more of an aggregator (a site of sites – like Boing Boing for pop culture or Hypemedia for mp3 culture, but combines press release material from museum openings worldwide with great photo galleries.

The Intrepid Art Collector perhaps started as a book promotion, but has advanced to announcements and trend-spotting: well written and professional within the constraints of Blogger. I have the book around here somewhere and will read it eventually.

More proudly provincial than even this blog, PORT is a mix of opinions, but dominated by Jeff Jahn. The editorial is mostly about Portland gallery shows, but seems aimed at acquiring advertising and not differentiating. Who’s the audience?

In the mid-1990s, The Oregonian made a terrible business decision (or Advance Publications did – hard to sort that one out) to build an enormous and complex telephone system whereby you could call and listen to someone read movie reviews or Steve Duin. A boring business bust, they hung on tenaciously for a decade too long. Their swagger is maintained with Oregon Live Blogs, a hodge-podge of squibs and duds, some updated regularly, some randomly, some not at all. Within this context Visual Arts writer D K Row has launched his blog, now with comments. It could be good, but will it be read?

Abi Spring curates A-Blog, a portion of her artist site, with comments about arts-goings-on and her current work. She has a good eye – example, post on Christine Wallers & Steve Peters.

Is clothing design art? If so, UltraPDX does a good job mixing some Portland stylists with international trends. They keep up a good pace and the style-on-the-street photos are good.

Is architecture art? If so, Brian Libby’s thoughtful and researched Portland Architecture gives another sort of tour of the town. For a city so purposefully platted, never bombed or burned, never broke or seriously corrupt, Brian shows an inventory of interesting buildings, spaces and conversation about the museum we live inside of.

A blog / news site way out of town which all should be watching is from the blog from the Your Gallery section of Saatchi site. Jpegs can defeat time and space and the persecution of yokels. It can be done.

Other current non-art favs

  • Mary’s Great Ideas – shares the brainstorms, inventions and adventures.
  • Librarian Avengers – cool trick from smart girls.
  • Cat Eyes – A Cat Woman’s Photos – A life devoted to saving feral cats. When we respect not the smallest of lives, we throw our salvation to the wind. Those who pass the suffering or cause it and learn to look away with ease seal the fate of their souls and of our future. The writing is intense, complex, personal and excellent. Every post is a short story.
  • Contact II, a gift to the City by Portland collector Ed Cauduro in memory of Ernest and Teresa Cauduro, is a great sample of artist Alexander Liberman’s pop art style.

    Besides his work as an editor at Conde’ Nast, Russian born Liberman, 1912-1999, was a prolific essayist, photographer of famous artists, painter and sculptor, churning out dozens of urban items like this example, many of them also a bright, specific red-orange, usually from cut and curved half inch iron, and set against a natural background.

    His intimate portraits of painters such as Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Duchamp and others are unmatched. Many / most were collected for a show at the Getty in 2003, Photographs of Artists by Alexander Liberman. Liberman authored the essential undergrad text, The Artist in His Studio, based on his unique experience meeting and capturing the greatest artists of the century.

    See Begob at University of Michigan.
    See Iliad at Columbia University.
    See Symbol in Rockford, Illinois.

    Barbara Rose created a major retrospective of Liberman’s work in her 1991 Alexander Liberman.

    The artwork is located at the William Jamison Square in downtown Portland. Jamison, a Portland gallery owner and bon vivant, died in 1995 at age 49. Also in the one block square park are four totem towers by Kenny Scharf, a wonderful fountain which draws flocks of small children on sunny days, trees, a “beach and boardwalk” area, and a recent incongruous addition of a granite sculpture of a polar bear cub and seal cub cuddling (which is a really twisted message for the kids) by Mauricio Saldana and donated by the Pearl Rotarians.

    Contact II is in bad shape. The surface layer of red-orange paint has chemically changed, either by sunlight or from a chemical wash – a more likely cause. It has transformed to a pale pink-orange, and where before the powder coat paint job was highly resistant to scratches and vandalism, the altered surface can be etched easily – and has been. There are now large, mostly abstract (!) scratches to the surface layer of paint, clearly visible from the street, which probably follow a pattern of where the chemical wash adhered to the surface.

    To gain the trust vital for future gifts of this quality, close and informative communication between the curators of the City’s official art collection and the street and ppark maintenance crews is essential. Gifts like Contact II are to be treasured, and not damaged.

    BTW, thanks again Ed!

    What is the timeline of a bad decision? What is the lifespan of carved red granite?

    D K Row of The Oregonian floated a solution for the RACC / PDC Chinese Dragon, deaccessed over the weekend from the corner of 4th & NW Davis after local businesses objected to the posture and position of the figure – not to mention the steel gauntlet wrapped around it’s neck.

    The solution apparently comes from a clutch of Buddhists from up in Clatskanie. Sight unseen, they don’t object to its posture or position, and freed from the heavy metal collar it would find a good home in their new monastery. One problem lies in the way – the City of Portland reportedly paid $22,000 for the sculpture, good or bad.

    See D K Row – Brian, meet your friends at the monastery

    And following it up, see D K Row – Enter the Dragon

    Perhaps in all the fuss artist Brian Goldbloom still owns the artwork and is at liberty to sell the sculpture or give it away. If so, that’s a reasonable solution.

    But I don’t think Goldbloom owns the sculpture anymore. The city of Portland owns the sculpture, and unless the Buddhists cough up $22,000 – they can’t have it.

    Here is a solution which resolves the big and small problems.

    The sculpture now contains a completely different, important, and distinct meaning. Carved red granite lasts thousands of years and will certainly carry its new meaning for at least a generation.

    I suggest the dragon be installed in a discreet but public niche at City Hall, perhaps under a stairwell, to be visited by anxious bureaucrats prior to making difficult decisions. Relief, insight, and perhaps wisdom will be found contemplating the history of the Dragon, and from experiencing it’s piercing scowl.

    Add an incense burner, a small gong, and an 8 x 10 inch bronze plaque listing Niebuhr’s serenity prayer. Forever after – or at least until the next big remodel – city staffers seeking good luck and good fortune with community engagement can use the Dragon as a totem for meditation, contemplation and self-reflection.

    Portland’s become an arty city, a burg of portent, of width and height and girth and tons of stuff sorted in all sorts of styles, set about in all sorts of ways. That’s just the vital point of this blog – Portland has an abundance of art, out in public, ready to be seen and enjoyed, given to you, the ubiquitous tax-paying wandering-around audience.

    As one of the very few adamant and amateur art crits here, it’s my task to identify the real stuff – no fluff, no highlights, no friends, no fashion, no mainstream art hooey. And to point out crap – both as artwork and as art politic – when it occurs.

    D K Row, art writer of The Oregonian, wrote A committee approach slays Chinatown’s dragon, and seems to understand the unenviable position public art admins face. (A dreadful purgatory for one who loves art and the creative spark, damned to filing paperwork and explaining rules of the game. Of course we can find fault, but also take pity.)

    Important to note, as PPA showed in December, More Dragons Emerge from RACC, more than just one of artist Brian Goldbloom’s sculptures are duds; by our count all four Dragons are duds, and four more are still to come, or have been delayed because of the controversy.

    Row’s article today is worth reading fully. He reports the budget for Goldbloom’s eight part Chinese Dragons is $191,000 – considerably higher (and more reasonable) than the $22,000 figure from the Mercury in January. Perhaps the $22K figure refers to the single Dragon which the Chinese community has objected to.

    In 2005, City Auditor Gary Blackmer, in his performance audit of the RACC, Percent for Art Program: Financial allocation process is informal, inconsistent, and may not fulfill requirements for public art (pdf), asked to bring transparency to the process of allocating public moneys for artwork, to assist building designers and project managers. The Chinese Dragons problem should be an anticipatory red flag to city & culture admins – full disclosure now on public art purchases.

    There’s no bureaucratic or technical reason to withhold this information. RACC does a good job (in comparison to many other arts bureaucracies) in providing online information.

    Information about all Portland art purchases should be available online, including,

    • Policy for selecting selection committee members
    • Committee or decision process
    • Cost of artwork
    • Cost of transporting and installation of artwork
    • Cost of maintenance over estimated lifetime of artwork
    • Number of hours of staff and volunteer time spent on project
    • What project budget(s) purchases each artwork
    • Members of selection committees, agenda and minutes

    But don’t point at the committee process as the culprit. Diligent public art managers, in purgatory or not, are the intermediaries between rules, artists and the community; they’ve accepted this fate.

    The community’s rejection of Goldbloom’s Chinese Dragons is much larger than the Chinese community and shows Portland is becoming more cosmopolitan: we reject the canned, pre-packaged, suburban qualities of Dragons not only because it’s “bad luck” or any sort of low rent juju, but because it’s bad art; ill considered, poorly manufactured, and as tasteless as the chow mein at House of Louie.

    Row ends his essay with a telling quote from Eloise Damrosch, ED of RACC, “At this point, we’re not ready to delve into who did what wrong and why. But we’ll look into it because we’d be irresponsible not to.”

    Don’t wait – now is always time to right a wrong. And in public. We’re ready.

    Aww I am getting beat on this quiz every time. This large mosaic artwork is NEW, in a PUBLIC PLACE which has been in the news a lot in the past year, but you cannot guess where it is!

    Use the comments below and name where this artwork is!

    Extra bonus points if you can name the artist – or artists! Check back for the answer tomorrow.

    Hint – Near water and below ground! (Of course it’s in Portland.)

    ANSWER – And I gave you an extra day. The artwork is a mosaic of glass designed and arranged by Mark Brody and students at Buckman Elementary School, Portland’s only arts-focused public elementary school. The artwork, in the style of Native American, perhaps Chinook, people’s artwork, is mounted at the spanking new swimming pool in the Buckman basement.

    Mark Brody: I believe that every person is bringing to the table a story or vision that they want to express, and I want to show them ways in which art can speak for them. From the RACC Neighborhood Arts Artist Directory

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