Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reading the Street

Reading the Street Reading the Street

Today's stop in the ongoing tour of Portland transit mall art takes us to SW 5th & Oak, right in front of one of Portland's famous food cart pods. Reading the Street is the low railing with the glass panels that you leaned against while waiting for your pad thai last week, without even realizing it was Art. Don't be embarrassed; everyone does this, myself included. TriMet's Green Line public art guide describes it thusly:

Mark R. Smith's Reading the Street consists of a series of glass panels with images of silhouetted figures arranged in horizontal rows. Through body language and gestures, the images are meant to be read and deciphered like text, as the work addresses the complicated nature of human interaction in crowded urban thoroughfares.
Reading the Street

This post illustrates one of the things I enjoy about doing this blog: It makes me stop and look at things I've walked past (or leaned against) countless times without ever really noticing. I tend to think these "Hey, wait, what's that?" moments are interesting and worth sharing, which they may or may not be. And if not, I still enjoy taking the photos and doing what passes for research here, so there's that. Reading the Street

It seems the artist behind Reading the Street is an instructor at PCC Sylvania, and had a show last November at Portland's Elizabeth Leach Gallery. I've run across less than a handful of mentions of Reading the Street on the interwebs, but I did come across an interesting article about a 2004 commission of his at Lewis & Clark, so I figured I'd pass that along.

Reading the Street

CultureNOW does have a photoset on Reading the Street, but my photos are better, quite honestly. I wish they'd written a bit more about it instead; I'd actually be interested in the design process & requirements around the thing. The food cart pod was there first, years before MAX and the accompanying art arrived. The heavy railings above the panels seem to indicate they were designed assuming that people would lean or sit on them. Which fascinates me, because although this cart pod has been around for over a decade, it's still just a collection of mobile carts on a parking lot, an ephemeral thing that could be gone tomorrow if City Hall or the lot's owner suddenly took a dislike to food carts. So it's entirely possible the railings could outlast the reason they're here. A decade from now, once the parking lot's been replaced by a condo tower for rich Californians, or an anti-zombie fortress, or an Applebee's, or some other dystopian horror, people may glance at the railings and wonder what they were originally for, while fleeing for their lives.

Reading the Street Reading the Street Reading the Street Reading the Street Reading the Street Reading the Street

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