Saturday, March 28, 2015

HyoungTae Lim at Blue Sky Gallery, Portland

HyoungTae Lim
I see
Blue Sky Gallery

Whom or what do we self when we see ourselves. Are we realistic and content with what our DNA has given us even if that includes decease.
To love one self his one of the highest commands in many different religious practices and often is one of our greatest challenges. If we can't love the way we are in good or bad times nobody else will.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Susan Seubert at Froelick Gallery, Portland

Susan Seubert
The Fallacy of Hindsight

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In Hind sight God should had thought twice before he handed over his creation to human stewardship as more species have gone extinct during their relative short rain in all the billions of years before. In hind site memory is just a low budget B-movie with a director that has lost its mojo.

Hindsight is one of theses elusive concepts our brain is able to come up with the make smart asses even more ass like. We all can look back and pick out the moments when we lost our awareness in a flood of emotions and reacted unkindly to ourselves and to others.
This exhibit as lovely as it is didn't need in hind sight a conceptual theme as each picture on the wall each speaks volumes for itself about the mystery that life is as it unravels in front of our mental screen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

To feel what I am at Hap Gallery, Portland

In To Feel What I Am, curators Eileen Isagon Skyers and Iris Williamson take a nuanced approach, cultivating works by artists working with various media to survey the power and failure of communication in a digital age.

The Internet seems to be this magical place where anyone can be whatever they want. This is an assumption that leads to injury of the Ego. It's like trying to make lemonade out of a lemon tree.

I feel what I am -- I am feeling myself -- I am what I feel -- I am the profile I post -- I am becoming what I communicate -- at it's core its a struggle about identity about wanting to be loved even if it means to give false witness. We portrait our self as the best self we can like showing only the best picture of the vacation but not all the disappointments. We start to live in a make believe reality and missing real life which is not white washed by apps and filters.

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Hedonic Reversal

Future Ruins

A Metaphor is a stand in for a concept to big for us to explain in plain words.What is pleasure and why do some of us seek it through pain for example. Many times ruins give us a sense of nostalgia in which we wallow like a wild dog in dung. Mentally we know that life is a gateway to death. We stare at abandoned remnants of civilization in awe of our power to build but also to destroy -- the same counts for nature. The very oxygen we depend on is also one of the most poisoning substances on earth and makes everything corrode even ourselves. So psychologically we know that nothing lasts and the aging process turns us in a way into a ruin our self. When we look a ruins we experience the shadow side the price fro living.

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Cynthia Lahti at PDX Contemporary Art Gallery


Cynthia Lahti

In life everything is about context and how we judge what is perceived. Nature has infinite possibilities and as we learned as of very recent doesn't care much about anything but the continuation of creation. So it is with this art exhibit. Cythia Lahti has freed herself of self imposed or otherwise limitations and is going for broke to dazzle us with the never seen before.

In context to art she is a pioneer of sorts to shift preexisting notions of taste and in doing so is moving the human race a step forward in becoming more enlightened even against its own will. We pretend we know that what we see is the world as it exists but this is a flaw in thinking.

On our body a trillion living organisms are constantly reinventing us mutating and morphing with us as we march on as if nothing is happening and we are solid as a rock. The only thing solid is our narrow mindedness and ignorance. The battle is going on to keep evolution evolving and to keep art as fresh as this exhibit.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interview with Daniel Peabody -- Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Words, Words, Words: An Exhibition of Text Based Artwork | Feb. 5 - Mar. 28, 2015

Interview with Daniel Peabody
director at Elizabeth Leach Gallery
March 2015

What drew you to art and how did it inform your life?

I have always been a maker. Someone who made things, even as a little kid I made things. I think that as I grew up I found that art gave me an avenue to continue to make things and express myself. I also had a number of influential friends and family, who really mentored me, and encouraged me to be creative and express myself. Art was an avenue for that expression. Initially in college I did not pursue art, instead I began studies in the more "practical" area of the social sciences but in the end art was my passion and I just found myself taking more and more classes and in the end I changed my major to art because it was more fulfilling. I think art has, and continues to, inform my life, as I am a very strong believer in aesthetics, both in art and design and just simply how I live my life. While art with a capital "A" is far bigger than aesthetics, they definitely inform and influence each other.

When you think back to being a MFA student how has reality changed your view of the art world?

Academic art programs are incubators for talent. They are by design separate from the art market. The ideal things for an artist to learn in an MFA program are how to make good work that is authentic to themselves, how to evaluate artwork critically, ones own and the work of others, and also I think its essential to build a community of peers with whom to share a dialog about art. These are the tools an artist will need to move ahead on their own after grad school. Now, as an art dealer, my perspective is not really that different except rather than being in an art incubator I am in an art market which functions with a separate set of rules and goals. I don't really think my view of the "art world" has changed but my understanding of it is certainly more nuanced and has greater depth.

What is your job at Elizabeth Leach Gallery and what does it entail?

I am a Director at Elizabeth Leach Gallery. My job entails anything and everything necessary to organize and install exhibitions. And its equally important to sell the artwork from our exhibitions whenever possible. In a gallery setting we have two sets of clients, one is the artists we represent and the other collectors who we place the work with. My strong relationship and friendships with both sets of "clients" is very important to the success of the gallery. This includes dialog with our artists, studio visits, following the progression of our artist's work, planning to put on an exhibition at the correct time for each artist, and cultivating a dialog in the community about the artist's work. This dialogue includes the artist, other artists, curators, and art collectors. Another important thing I do is outreach to the gallery's contacts in terms of art collectors and curators and track people's interest as much as possible so that I can better match collectors with artist's work. The tools I use for this work involves a lot of email, phone calls, and conversations. Basically it’s a desk job with a lot more creativity, conversation, and cool field trips.

The new exhibit is about text in art. What can you tell us about that movement and its impact on Art?

I would not describe the use of text in art as a movement. It’s a tool, like many other tools, that an artist can use to convey their vision. Text is a tool to convey knowledge or information, both in art and more broadly. While the use of text in art has been associated with several art movements it is certainly not limited to those movements. Text, or written language, has played an immeasurable role in the development of human civilization and culture. When I consider the role of text in contemporary art I think it relates to many things but mostly it relates to a largely educated and literate audience. If you look at art history, for example, during the Renaissance, and even earlier religious art too, where symbols were used in art to convey meaning to a mostly illiterate audience. Symbols conveyed many things; this could be a Medici duchess holding a book in her hand to show that she was educated and learned. Or a king wearing and holding the crown jewels to denote power and authority and the "divine right" to rule. Or a dignitary might be shown in a military uniform, or religious costume. Or in a recognizably local landscape an artist might include an exotic animal or building to denote that it was actually a foreign location that the artist had never actually seen. All those symbols conveyed meaning about the subject of the artwork.

The use of text in art, as it is used by the artists in this exhibition, really started with modernism in the 20th century and the various movements and anti-movements that grew out of modernism. Modernism and conceptualism in the visual arts can only develop within an educated and literate culture. As many artists rebelled against the dead-end strictures of hard-edge modernism with the development of minimalism, pop art, conceptual art, feminist art, performance art, and all the other variations that make up contemporary practice, symbols could still be useful but words could also convey what artists wanted to communicate.

If you think about early Pop Art with Warhol, Lichtenstein, and others, the visible text in comic books and advertising had to be a part of their work. And then other artists like Ruscha began to use signs from poplar culture to convey nostalgia for specific aspects of American pop culture. The Standard Oil sign in Ruscha's early work for example. And still other artists used text as a tool to find abstraction, like Jasper Johns breaking up and using letterforms in his paintings. And then other artists went further using text, phrases, and words as the artwork itself including conceptual artists like Jenny Holzer or Joseph Kosuth, or more recently Jack Pierson has uses only letters from signs to create large text based installations that capture a feeling or moment while often being sentimental. Once text was made into a prominent visual art tool for any artist to use many more artists began to use it. It can relay a political point of view, or protest an injustice, or trigger an emotional response, conjure a real or imagined memory, or introduce absurdity into an artwork.

In our text show we have three works by John Baldessari from his recent "News Series" in which he has taken images from the news and altered them. He has also added a caption to each pictorial composition that is the description of an image from the news but not the images depicted in the pieces. For me this introduces whimsy but also a sort of unease with the images - a tension between the images and the phrase makes me question the images just like I should be questioning what I hear, see or read in the news everyday. While Baldessari does not always use text in his work, when he does use it is quite effective. I am not really sure there is a concise way to sum up the "impact" of text in art, that would be like summing up the impact of photography on art making - there are too many facets to be easily encapsulated. I think text is basically one of the many tools artists can use to render and share their vision regardless of what that vision is.

What does the title ‘Words, words, words” imply and how do you usually come up with titles?

The title is really just a simple way to advertise what the show is about. For artist's solo shows they usually tell us what they want to title the show so the gallery does not always play a large role in our show titles but in the case of group shows, like "Words, Words, Words" the gallery has total control of the title. Usually its a collective brainstorming type of situation where we have a conceptual or thematic framework for the show and Elizabeth Leach, myself, and the rest of the gallery team come up with ideas for the title and try to find one we all like. In the case of "Words, Words, Words" the title came from Elizabeth. If one of our artists is not sure what to title a body of work or a show we sometimes will have a similar process with them.

What do you think attracted these artists to incorporate text into the art practice?

The answer to this question is as diverse as the number of artists in the show. In the case of Michelle Ross, she is painting on pages from ArtForum so the text is a remnant of what was there before. Or in Pat Boas' work text is the source of letterforms that are layered to create a colorful abstraction. For me this using text and letterforms as a tool for abstraction can be traced back to Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, or even further back to the Russian Constructivists and the Bauhaus.

Our drawing study by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa also uses letterforms as a raw material, layering them into the form of an anonymous person, like his sculptures of human figures, the drawing conveys elements that are universal but also things that make us unique.

In the case of Barbara Kruger, she worked in advertising before becoming a fine artist so her use of pointed and poignant phrases, like her famous slogan "I shop therefore I am," grew out of her commercial art background. Jenny Holzer's work, whether her historic "Inflammatory Essays" or her "Truisms" or her more recent scrolling text signs and redaction paintings, all have political messages. She has repeatedly said she does not necessarily agree with the statements but that her goal is to trigger a reaction and to cause her audience to feel, think and consider.

Then some of the artists like Mel Bochner and Ed Ruscha are more related to the Pop Art movement and they are making work about everyday experience. Ruscha's work has a nostalgic quality, the ambiguous images in the background are meant to trigger some sort of emotional response and then the floating words hovering above add another ambiguous layer of meaning. A viewer is often unsure of exactly what he means which is intentional.

Some of the artists in the show do not always use text in their work but simply use it as a visual tool when it makes sense for their concept or piece. This goes back to text as a tool.

Do you consider these pieces as conceptual art?

Some of them are conceptual art but certainly not all of them. Text is a tool many artists use, some to find abstraction, some to convey a narrative, some to pay tribute to an influence. Each artist has a concept for his or her piece but not each piece fits within the conceptual art movement or genre.

How does Portland stack up to other art collecting cities?

I think for a city of its size Portland is incredibly rich in the arena of arts and culture. That said, the community in Portland is pretty laid back. Which is very nice in a place to live but not exactly wonderful if you are trying to motivate someone to collect art. After 9 years at the gallery and 11 years in Portland I would say that Portland lacks urgency. Art collectors here are not afraid to miss the next big thing, or to miss their chance to collect an artist "on their way up" like they are in some other communities. Visual art is generally a hand made, limited cultural commodity, if you like something you should grab it while you can. The artist may never make another piece like it again. I am amazed at how often I have collectors pass on something for any number of legitimate reasons only to come back later after the piece they liked has already sold asking for that piece again while rejecting the artists new work because they have an idea in their mind about wanting that specific piece they passed up years before. It can be pretty sad really. As Portland grows and develops I hope people in our community gain a bit more urgency - with regard to collecting art and contributing to our civic and cultural life here, and with regard to protecting the unique aspects of Portland that need to be preserved.

All that said, Portland is pretty great. There are some amazing collectors here who are adventurous, well informed, and very thoughtful about art collecting. Some have built world-class art collections, some very, very strong art collections. One of my favorite clients have built a diverse and beautiful collection for themselves and also their adult children have started collecting, and now they buy original art, usually priced under $1,000, for their grandchildren for special occasions, so now a third generation can learn to appreciate and enjoy living with original art. It is really very inspiring. We have a wonderful art collecting community in Portland, but I wish the art collecting community were bigger and more diverse. And that people felt a little more urgency but I do think some of that would develop with more participants.

What kind of emotional response do you hope for viewing art?

My response to art is far to varied to sum up. Sometimes the response is emotional and I am touched by something I see or moved by it. In other cases it’s an intellectual response and I look at something and mentally create a context for it. How does it relate to art history? How does it relate to pop culture and contemporary life now? Am I implicated in the work? Can I personally relate to it, emotionally, mentally, spiritually? I have very many different responses when viewing art. And sometimes I have zero response to something, which is also a valid reaction. If something does not appeal to me on any level, visually, technically, conceptually then I give myself permission to not engage with it. There is so much incredible art to see and respond to why waste time with work that doesn't conjure a response. Usually something has to catch my eye, and peak my curiosity and then if it can hold my interest for more than a few seconds I will investigate more time and develop a more complete response.

Which artists hit your nerve center?

So many it’s hard to list them. Some artist's work appeals to me conceptually and intellectually, some in an emotional or visceral way. I find the work of Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor very compelling whenever I see it, regardless of the scale - monumental or intimate. The stripe and grid paintings of Agnes Martin and Frank Stella's early black paintings, and Donald Judd sculpture, and Sol LeWitt's wall drawings and cube sculptures were all influential on my in grad school, But equally influential were the Quilts of Gee's Bend and the embroidered paintings of Ghada Amer who is in our text show currently.

Some artworks appeal to me because of the process of production or crafting the piece. The fabric and thread wall reliefs by Gina Phillips from New Orleans, or locally Liam Drain's ceramic works, or Heidi Schwegler's everyday objects created with different surprising materials. I loved her cement pillow that was at the Disjecta Art Auction last year. I am excited to see what she comes up with for her Art Gym show later this spring. And at the Art Gym right now, Ben Buswell's manipulated photographs are so subtle but incredibly dynamic.

Ryan Pierce's paintings that layer amazing abstract washes that add up to pictorial dystopic fantasies. I absolutely love living with his painting that I have at home. And some I just love and can't really explain why. Sean Healy's cut outs and cigarette filter or pill capsule paintings also get me every time. And David Eckard, MK Guth, Storm Tharp, Stephen Hayes, Isaac Layman, Joseph Park, Patrick Kelly… so many!

A small painting by Jaq Chartier was the first piece I bought after starting to work at the gallery because I couldn't handle the idea of Jaq taking the piece I loved so much back to her studio so I just had to buy it on the spot. I find that many diverse works "hit me" and stick with me. If something sticks with me over time I know it’s worth looking at and thinking about for a while, and if possible buying. Sometimes I think about and covet an artist’s work for years before I am able to buy it. An example of this is Judy Cooke who we will show this summer. She doesn't make very many small paintings and I have missed my chance on two or three that I still think about but one of these days I'll be able to get one!

How do you keep up with the constant stream of new artists and what are the criteria to be shown at Elizabeth Leach Gallery?

Well working in the arts it is my job to look constantly. I try to see as many shows as I can and travel to various art centers when I can (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami…). Basically I just keep looking and keep learning and try to keep up as best I can. As far as how can an artist be shown at ELG; there is no simple answer. The gallery is about 35 years old and we represent over 40 artists plus we consign work from other galleries and artists we do not represent for themed group shows. Basically, at this time, the gallery is not really looking to add any new artists to our roster but if we see something out in the world that could be a good fit for the gallery we explore the option and see what develops. My advice to artists is always the same - show as much as you can in as many venues as you can. There is more chance of someone seeing your work and including it in a show or gallery if its out in the world rather than in your studio, so work hard to get your work out there for people to see. Once we've decided to work with an artist and are thus investing our time and resource into them, we expect them to be professional and take their career seriously.

Does art still have the power to motivate changes in society or has it become an investment tool or mere decoration?

I think many people who participate in the art world want different things. Some are looking for an investment, some to decorate, and some to engage in a meaningful dialogue about culture and aesthetics and what makes life worth living. Art can certainly still cause changes in our society. It might not be quite like it was in the past where one dominant art figure or movement could radically shift social dialogue and culture but I still see changes occurring as a result of art. But I think art is one of many aspects of society that can lead to change and everything, including art, is more interdependent and intertwined then ever before, so its hard to draw a clear line from an artwork or artist to a social shift but art certainly factors into social changes. But I think it also goes back to what is the root of art and what is the root of life. Does art drive changes or reflect them? Did the changes seen in art during the Renaissance bring a about the Renaissance or were they a reflection of the shifts happening in society due to advances in science, philosophy, and education? I think art can both help drive social changes but is also equally a reflection of changes. Our digital age has speed up social change and the faster it gets the harder it is to track what came first.

Which piece in this exhibit speaks the strongest to you and what does it tell you?

All of the artwork in the show speaks to me in some way. Its part of why the work is in the show! In a diverse group show like this, to narrow it down to one piece is not really possible for me.

How do you foster local talent and what is their trajectory when living in Portland?

I am not sure I consider the fostering of local talent to be a part of a gallery's mission but if the fostering of that talent aligns with the gallery's mission and purpose then all the better. In some cases we do help artists grow stronger in their practice but this is really through dialogue and conversation with the artists we represent during studio visits. And through opportunities for exhibitions and through the viewing of exhibitions. Most artists really need to look at a lot of art, talk about it, think about and live it, in order to create it well. Galleries fit well into that ecosystem.

All that said, I do want to be clear that a gallery does not have a responsibility to offer "fostering" services to artists who we do not represent. If unrepresented artists want critique and dialogue they should foster that themselves amongst their peer group. I know a lot of artists who create a community of peers who visit each other’s studios and offer feedback and critique on a regular basis, which is really good. As I see it this one of the values of an MFA program, consistent time for critique and reflection but any group of artists can have this amongst themselves even when not a part of an academic arts program. Ideally artists do a lot of this work amongst themselves and a gallery's role is to push our own artists to excel and accomplish great things - to foster the careers of our represented artists.

As far as an artists trajectory, it used to be that artists needed to live in an art capital to thrive and achieve success but that has been changing more and more in recent years. Being close to the action certainly can help an artists career but it is not required. There are a number of very successful artists who live in Portland, show here, as well as in larger art markets, even showing with galleries and museums internationally. This is really an important part of a trajectory for a successful art career. Its fine to be based in Portland, or where ever makes you happy to live and work but long term success really requires getting your work out of where you live into a larger arena which is why its important for artists to show their work and participate in their own communities but also to be aware of and a part of a larger dialogue beyond our region.

Art walks have become a staple in every big city. What is their main purpose?

Education! So many people are not familiar with contemporary art and find the art world to be opaque and intimidating so art walks are a way that galleries encourage people to visit the galleries in a way that is comfortable for them. I hope that by being open late one night a month we help people educate their eye for contemporary art and start to ask themselves the questions that come with seeing artist's work. I also hope that after awhile of looking people will start to think that they would like to live with art daily and buy some of the work we show. But the art community in Portland is very welcoming and accessible all the time, especially in comparison to other art communities around the US, so people hopefully know by now that they can come visit the gallery anytime and enjoy the work when the gallery is less crowded.

What are the art trends given birth to right now?

Well there are a few that I am enjoying watching and am curious about, partly because they are opposites. There is a trend toward disintegration and work that is unstructured, poorly crafted, or already in decay. It sort of reminds me of Jean Tinguely's self destructive sculptural works of the 1960s. But how can some artists not focus on disintegration and destruction considering the major social issues we all face as human beings right now - climate change, expanding social inequality, and global social and political unrest? Some days it feels like the world is falling apart. So art will naturally reflect that. However, a trend I am seeing that is of more interest to me personally is artwork that relates to craft and labor. In response to our society's shift toward the digital many artists are returning to the hand made. The last Whitney Biennial had a lot of craft related work and I also saw quite a bit of it at Art Basel Miami Beach last year too. In our current text show there are several examples; Ghada Amer's embroidered painting, Lisa Anne Auerbach's knit panels, Matthew Picton's hand cut paper city portraits, and Andrea Bowers' meticulous graphite drawing reproductions of historical documents, in the case of our show, its an anti-war petition that Mark di Suvero published in the New York Times as part of his "Peace Tower" project for the Whitney Biennial in 1966.

And what kind of engaging shows can we expect from the gallery in the future?

We have two photography shows by David Hilliard and Christopher Rauschenberg planned for April. In May we will do a group show celebrating PICA's 20th anniversary. It focuses on the artists Kristy Edmunds exhibited at PICA during their first decade, so its both about the hear and now but in the context of where we've been. Then in the summer we will have a showing of work from the Estate of Al Taylor out of New York paired with Judy Cooke and Melody Owen, both Portland-based artists. I am very much looking forward to all of these shows as well as our autumn line up.

You are also spear heading PADA, what do you do there and what is its mission?

PADA is the Portland Art Dealers Association. Our mission is to support and strengthen our member businesses while representing the highest professional standards within visual art in Portland. Currently we have 11 member galleries. PADA is also in an alliance with Portland Art Focus, which is a group of a dozen academic galleries, museums, and non-profits. We publish the monthly Portland Art Guide, do outreach via social media and print media, and honor community members whose service to the visual arts in Portland has been exceptionally strong. I have served on the board of PADA for over five years but just became President in October. One of our current projects is a symposium on art collecting which will launch on April 8th at the Portland Art Museum. The event is being presented by the Young Patrons of the Portland Art Museum and sponsored by PADA, the Oregon Arts Commission, and The Ford Family Foundation. Then moving forward there will be a series of sub-topic conversations in PADA member galleries once or twice a month through the rest of the year. This has been my biggest project with PADA since becoming President. Like any professional alliance PADA is really a way for all of our member businesses and organizations to advocate for ourselves and advertise with more impact than we can individually.

Last but not least. What is great about Portland’s art scene and what could it do to up its game?

Portland has an incredible art community! The alliance between PADA and Portland Art Focus is a pretty unique collaboration that exists between the established galleries, museums, non-profit and academic arts sector. When I travel around I am struck by how unique this set up actually is. I think the collaboration, dialogue, and community that this allows is a really great gift and adds to the cultural richness of our city and community.
If I compare Portland to Seattle or San Francisco I am struck by the strength and vitality of our art community but also notice Portland's weakness in the arena of arts infrastructure. In Seattle or San Francisco their is a lot more arts infrastructure but there seems to me less of an arts community. In SF much of the arts community has been dispersed by overly rampant gentrification that has priced out artists and galleries leaving an infrastructure of museums and other arts organization that have fewer and fewer people to engage with it.

Portland should pay attention and make sure that we not only increase our civic and individual investments in arts infrastructure but also protect affordable housing and studio space for artists. Growth is good and Portland needs more growth but I hope we are smart about it so that we can keep the arts community strong and vital. Unfortunately, at this time, our community just does not invest enough in the arts. We need to build a stronger arts infrastructure here.

I'd like to see more investment in the arts in Portland at all levels, civic, corporate, small business, and individuals could all do more. This would mean better funding of the non-profit arts organizations that already exist and buying more art from galleries. And by the way, investments in the arts are very sound from a fiscal perspective. If someone comes into the gallery and buys an artwork by an artist who lives here, all that money stays in our community and is spent in our community. It makes its way to other local small businesses and helps strengthen our local economy. I'd like to see more people in our community participate and support the arts locally and not take the cultural riches we have for granted.

Increased participation and investment in the arts would really help Portland "up its game".


Daniel Peabody
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
417 NW 9th
Portland, OR 97209