Community, Travelogue

Travelogue: Portland, OR and San Francisco Bay Area, CA

Just came back from a trip to the West Coast to see family, friends, and art. Here are my cultural highlights…

Portland, OR

My old college buddy Victor Maldonado, who’s now a professor at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and seems to know everybody in the PDX art scene, was kind enough to take me around to galleries in the Pearl District. The scene is small but some spaces, like Elizabeth Leach Gallery, are clearly top-notch. The gallery owners were friendly and their storefront spaces seemed welcoming. Good times.

Jenny Holzer's tough-talking texts at the Printed Matter show at the Pacific Northwest College of Art's Feldman Gallery.

Jenny Holzer's tough-talking texts at the Printed Matter show at the Pacific Northwest College of Art's Feldman Gallery.

Gorgeous exhibition space in Weiden+Kennedy's foyer.

Gorgeous exhibition space in Weiden+Kennedy's foyer. Neat show examining work, including a publication with a prose poem by Victor Maldonado, an old college buddy.

I liked these photo-based color abstractions by Thomas Campbell in the Pearl Room at Powell's Books.

I liked these photo-based color abstractions by Thomas Campbell in the Pearl Room at Powell's Books.

Nice painted-out photos by John Beech at Elizabeth Leach Gallery. A beautiful space to boot; so happy for Ryan Pierce, who's represented by them.

Nice painted-out photos by John Beech at Elizabeth Leach Gallery. A beautiful space to boot; so happy for Ryan Pierce, who's represented by them.

James Minden's etched/scribed black plexiglas works; three perspectives on the same work.

James Minden's etched/scribed black plexiglas works; three perspectives on the same work. At Augen Gallery.

Hall of video portraits. Susie Lee. Portland Art Museum.

Hall of video portraits. Susie Lee. Portland Art Museum.

Video portrait by Susie Lee.

Video portrait by Susie Lee.

Erotic Victorian figurines by Chris Anteman, also in the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards show.

Erotic Victorian figurines by Chris Anteman, also in the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards show.

This work reminded me very much of the work of Bay Area ceramicist Erik Scollon.

This work reminded me very much of the work of Bay Area ceramicist Erik Scollon.

No photos but worth mentioning… The Museum of Contemporary Craft has at least two CCA connections, currently exhibiting an audio-weaving project by alumna Christy Matson and hosting a talk by faculty Deborah Valoma on July 9. Nice exhibition signage and web design to boot…. I also enjoyed my visit to Blue Sky Gallery, the home for the Oregon Center for Photographic Arts, and would encourage my photography friends to look them up.

I would have liked to check out some of the artist-run spaces in Central Eastside and the galleries at the surrounding colleges, but those will have to wait until a future visit.

San Francisco Bay Area, CA

I got to see lots of art, friends, and art by friends in San Francisco. Staying in the West Bay, I wasn’t able to make it to the East Bay enough. But I got to see ambitious projects by friends at familiar spaces (Stephanie Syjuco at Catherine Clark Gallery), new spaces for familiar galleries (such as Frey Norris Modern and Contemporary in the SOMA or Steven Wolf Fine Arts in the exciting destination arts district emerging around Southern Exposure), edgier galleries that may not be around forever, and spaces I just never made it to before (Di Rosa Preserve in Napa, CA, and SFMOMA’s top floor).

Casteneda/Reiman's landscape illusions and installations at Baer/Ridgeway, San Francisco.

Casteneda/Reiman's landscape illusions and installations at Baer/Ridgeway, San Francisco.

Steven Barich's meticulous graphite and charcoal works at Branch Gallery, Oakland.

Steven Barich's meticulous graphite and charcoal works at Branch Gallery, Oakland. Branch is a cool little space in that part of downtown that seems cooler than ever.

An aquatint with hand painting by Barich. Priced very affordably, as are all the works in the show. In my correspondence with the artist, I considered doing another information graphic comparing Bay Area art prices to those of other cities (haven't got the time or resources at the moment to take this on, sorry!)..

An aquatint with hand painting by Barich. Priced very affordably, as are all the works in the show. In my correspondence with the artist, I considered doing another information graphic comparing Bay Area art prices to those of other cities (haven't got the time or resources at the moment to take this on, sorry!).

Stephanie is super meticulous about the presentation of her work. I love the open backs of these crates and the industrial feel of the lasercut stands. The blurred out postcards are especially wily.

Stephanie is super meticulous about the presentation of her work. I love the open backs of these crates and the industrial feel of the lasercut stands. The blurred out postcards are especially wily. Knowing that the artist once worked at the Asian Art Museum, not far from Catherine Clark Gallery, makes the show quite cheeky.

Stephanie Syjuco's very finely tuned solo exhibition at Catherine Clark Gallery stages downloaded books and houseplants (!) in the back room.

Stephanie Syjuco's very finely tuned solo exhibition at Catherine Clark Gallery stages downloaded books and houseplants (!) in the back room.

Di Rosa Preserve, Napa, CA.

Di Rosa Preserve, Napa, CA.

Usually you can find an art opening when hipsters are lounging out front. Here, they're accompanied by Discenza's sign.

Usually you can find an art opening when hipsters are lounging out front. Here, they're accompanied by Discenza's sign.

Front of Inka Hoots' plane/shanty. Funny after building a shanty for Art in General just a week an a half ago.

Front of Inka Hoots' plane/shanty. Funny after building a shanty for Art in General just a week an a half ago.

Wall vinyl by Anthony Discenza. I like this writing-based practice; there's something distant and cynical while also engaged and a somewhat enraged.

Wall vinyl by Anthony Discenza. I like this writing-based practice; there's something distant and cynical while also engaged and a somewhat enraged.

Video installation by HalfLifers (Torsten Z. Burns and Anthony Discenza) at Zombie-Proof House at di Rosa Preserve. Short scenes where the artists portray zombies engaged in mundane tasks are interspersed with behind-the-scenes-like shots. Very appealing.

Video installation by HalfLifers (Torsten Z. Burns and Anthony Discenza) at Zombie-Proof House at di Rosa Preserve. Short scenes where the artists portray zombies engaged in mundane tasks are interspersed with behind-the-scenes-like shots. Very appealing.

Masterful photos, beautiful prints, nicely installed, very sad show. If the models' eyes are shown, they are downcast; expressions are grim; all but one are women, often nude, all very pale and probably underweight. This is going to seem like a very facile critique, but why do men still make work photographing nude, disempowered women? Is it because photography's connection to advertising allows for greater moral latitude or complicity with exploitative images?

Masterful photos, beautiful prints, nicely installed, very sad show. If the models' eyes are shown, they are downcast; expressions are grim; all but one are women, often nude, all very pale and probably underweight. This is going to seem like a very facile critique, but why do men still make work photographing nude, disempowered women? Is it because photography's inherent connection to advertising allows for greater moral latitude or complicity with exploitative images? Fraenkel, by the way, usually has great shows, and this fall's line-up is really exciting.

At Stephen Wirtz Gallery, Doug Rickard's photos pulled from Google Street View, primarily featuring dark-skinned people in dilapidated environs, made me a little sick too. I am all for art projects that appropriate Google Street View, but something about the selection of these images, and their presentation as nice, re-photographed photos, seems exploitative. I saw the Google van when it came down my street. I felt curious and powerless to escape its cameras. In these moments, the subjects are no more or less powerless in their relationship to the Google camera, but putting a magnifying glass to them for further inspection, and grouping them among other scenes of impoverishment, seems further, and unnecessarily, disempowering.

At Stephen Wirtz Gallery, Doug Rickard's photos pulled from Google Street View, primarily featuring dark-skinned people in dilapidated environs, made me a little sick too. I am all for art projects that appropriate Google Street View, but something about the selection of these images, and their presentation as nice, re-photographed photos, seems exploitative. I saw the Google van when it came down my street. I felt curious and powerless to escape its cameras. In these moments, the subjects are no more or less powerless in their relationship to the Google camera, but putting a magnifying glass to them for further inspection, and grouping them among other scenes of impoverishment, seems further, and unnecessarily, disempowering.

I liked a few different works in the group show at Haines Gallery in San Francisco. I'd loved an image of a camera obscura installation by Abelardo Morell, so it was nice to see this photo, though I'd rather experience the installation still.

I liked a few different works in the group show at Haines Gallery in San Francisco. I'd loved an image of a camera obscura installation by Abelardo Morell, so it was nice to see this photo, though I'd rather experience the installation still.

Small signs of protest against Ai Weiwei's detainment.

Small signs of protest against Ai Weiwei's detainment. Anytime people use Chinese take-out boxes, I cringe a little, but I appreciate the sentiment. This project appeared next to Christian L. Frock's Seed the Embassy materials..

Binh Danh's super cool daguerrotypes were also on view, for you to examine closely, at Haines.

Binh Danh's super cool daguerrotypes were also on view, for you to examine closely, at Haines.

These photograms by Wendy Small are quite nice. I overheard another visitor dismiss them as "decorative." Yes, they'd fit in as a cheeky Victorian element in someone's otherwise modern home, but still, the images are pretty neat.

These photograms by Wendy Small are quite nice. I overheard another visitor dismiss them as "decorative." Yes, they'd fit in as a cheeky Victorian element in someone's otherwise modern home, but still, the images are pretty neat.

Painting by James Chronister in Chromanticism at NOMA Gallery, curated by Liz Wing.

Painting by James Chronister in Chromanticism at NOMA Gallery, curated by Liz Wing.

Chronister detail.

Chronister detail.

These abstract geometric drawings on newsprint by Richard Kent Howie are sort of childish, but it was neat to see work that's ostensibly about color in such a limited palette. Also at NOMA Gallery.

These abstract geometric drawings on newsprint by Richard Kent Howie are sort of childish, but it was neat to see work that's ostensibly about color in such a limited palette. Also at NOMA Gallery.

Richard Kent Howie detail.

Richard Kent Howie detail.

Great video by David Claerbout at SFMOMA. Comprised of multiple shots of the same scene in an Asian high-rise apartment courtyard. The number and fineness of the images transition from believable to surreally plasticine. The video is called, Sections of a Happy Moment.

Great video by David Claerbout at SFMOMA. Comprised of multiple shots of the same scene in an Asian high-rise apartment courtyard. The number and fineness of the images transition from believable to surreally plasticine. The video is called, Sections of a Happy Moment.

Eija Liisa-Ahtila's message to viewers of her video installation at SFMOMA.

Eija Liisa-Ahtila's message to viewers of her video installation at SFMOMA.

2009 mica mural by Rosana Castrillo Diaz. That's a material I should work with.

2009 mica mural by Rosana Castrillo Diaz. That's a material I should work with.

Who can resist a Thiebaud cake? SFMOMA's Blue Bottle Cafe.

Who can resist a Thiebaud cake? SFMOMA's Blue Bottle Cafe. That means it's probably baked by painter/sculptor/cake-maker Leah Rosenberg.

Tobias Wong's mirrored puzzle. SFMOMA.

Tobias Wong's mirrored puzzle. SFMOMA.

A few moments after suppressing a few goodbye tears at SFO, I re-encountered this mosaic tile by Mike Mandell and Larry Sultan. Based on photographs of people awaiting arrivals, the faces are expectant. Reunifications are impending, and there's something very sweet about that joy counterbalancing the sorrow of goodbyes in equal measure at the airport.

A few moments after suppressing a few goodbye tears at SFO, I re-encountered this mosaic tile by Mike Mandell and Larry Sultan. Based on photographs of people awaiting arrivals, the faces are expectant. Reunifications are impending, and there's something very sweet about that joy counterbalancing the sorrow of goodbyes in equal measure at the airport.

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