Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Green Man of Portland

The Green Man of Portland

So, here's the latest installment in our ongoing tour of public art on the Portland transit mall. This time we're visiting my new least favorite piece, "The Legend of the Green Man of Portland". It's a collection of various ugly items strewn along 5th & 6th avenues between Burnside and Glisan. They're supposed to fill you in on the details of a bit of fake mythology the artist made up, heavily inspired by (or maybe freeloading off of) actual mythology. Two big clumsy ceramic-looking pedestals with little statues on top, which I suppose are supposed to be "gateways" to the thing. Plus a series of art panels, one per block, filling the avid viewer in on more exciting details of this dumb legend, executed in a properly hipsterish graphic novel look. I took photos of several of them; I missed at least one because there was a drug dealer leaning against it, and I didn't feel like disturbing him.

The Green Man of Portland

I probably should have taken that photo anyway, since it was a great juxtaposition: The official vision for the area, in which hip artistic types move in and gentrify Old Town and make it safe for upscale condo towers; and the Skid Row reality on the ground, which essentially hasn't changed since Portland's lusty seaport years of the late 1800s. That would have been a great photo, if only I was a braver street photographer, and/or owned more bulletproof items.

The Green Man of Portland

When I do an art post, I usually try to find out more about the artist and understand what their motivations and influences are and so forth. But I can't say I'm intrigued to learn any of that this time. If I had to speculate, I'd call it a typical example of the "Lumpy Little Dudes on Posts" movement of the mid-2000s, of which we have several new (& unattractive) examples in the new batch of transit mall art (and I'll get around to the others later).

The Green Man of Portland

Every time I see any part of "The Green Man", I just think "Oh, gawwwd" and roll my eyes and think it was a damn fool waste of money. Which I realize is a perfectly Philistine response, but an appropriate one, I think. The fact that we celebrate (and publicly fund) amateurish hipster art like this is one of the many reasons non-Portlanders keep making fun of us.

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