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!