Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action

Today's adventure in obscure stuff takes us to the Portland State campus again, to Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action, on SW Broadway. It's a set of granite panels with nature-inspired patterns on them, a companion piece to the nearby diatom sculptures titled Urban Hydrology.

Unlike its companion piece, there's almost nothing about this on the interwebs. Which is a shame, because I'm curious about the various patterns here: Are they simply nature-inspired, or are they images of something in particular, or...? None of the usual sources (RACC, Smithsonian, various online public art guides, etc.) have an entry for Patterns as far as I can tell. It does get a brief mention in PSU's Historic Resource List (even though it's not actually old), and a brief mention in the new Walking Portland, 2nd Edition, and all the other results I see are for my Flickr photos you see here. The artist's website isn't a lot of help here either, although it talks about a number of other interesting projects of hers.

Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Memory 99

So, the good news is that Portland's getting a new North Park Block, namely the block that currently holds the parking lot for the old Federal Building. The feds have moved out of that building, and it will soon be home to the Pacific Northwest College of Art. They apparently aren't going to need a parking lot, so it's going to be a park instead. And since it's a park next to an art school in Portland, it's inevitably going to sport some public art. The art, in fact, has already arrived, even though the park itself is still just a gleam in city planners' eyes.

So far so good. It turns out, though, that this means we're getting yet another Lee Kelly piece. Kelly, you may recall, is the guy behind Friendship Circle in Waterfront Park, the Kelly Fountain on the transit mall, Howard's Way on West Burnside near the stadium, Nash in the Central Eastside district, and of course Leland One, aka Rusting Chunks No. 5. Longtime readers might recall that I'm not always a huge fan of his work, and I'm not sure the city truly needed quite as many of his pieces as we've ended up with. I'm actually not feeling all that snarky today, though, so I'm going to just set that aside and take the latest piece on its own merits.

Memory 99 arrived at our future park block last October after PNCA purchased it with a grant from the Ford Family Foundation. The same piece was previously seen in 2010 at the Portland Art Museum's show about Kelly's work:

He's a superior sculptor, of course. But there are many around -- Mel Katz comes to mind locally. But when I think of Kelly, I think of that lyrical behemoth greeting visitors, "Memory '99," which Kelly made after public art funding had begun to decline. Kelly paid for the work himself, using computer programs to help design the four structures that resemble twisting, exaggerated musical notes.

That's a telling detail. At the time, Kelly was making vital work, much of which is in this show. But with "Memory '99," he wanted to sum up everything he knew about scale, volume, form and materials, and he wanted to express it in a way that artists stopped doing, either because they didn't have the opportunity or were afraid to.

In other words, Kelly created this chance to prove something to himself. In the 11 years since it was made, "Memory'99" has rested on Kelly's Oregon City estate, surrounded by unkempt grass and shrubs. No one bought it.

Now, the rest of Oregon has a chance to embrace "Memory '99" and other fine, lasting things that Lee Kelly has made.

A 2010 Oregonian profile of Kelly (to go along with the show opening) includes a photo of Memory 99 at Kelly's property in Oregon City. Kelly's website has a larger, similar photo. An article about the show at Art Ltd. discusses Memory 99, describing it as "the monumental Memory 99 (1999), which manages to suggest both gargantuan calligraphy and archeological ruin in its grouping of forms in Cor-Ten steel." The same article also includes a photo of Arlie, another piece of his, which is now on permanent display at the Portland Art Museum. Yes, another one. Sheesh.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Oregon Landscape

Today's adventure in obscure stuff takes us to the Portland State campus, where Oregon Landscape adorns the Park Blocks side of Neuberger Hall. It's a series of bronze sculptural panels attached to the first floor windows, depicting various Oregon landscapes from seashore to high desert. It dates back to 1960-1962, around the same time Neuberger Hall was constructed.

I had trouble finding any info about this one at first because the big Travel Portland art map calls it Oregon Country for some reason, and searching on that name yields very little useful information. The Smithsonian art inventory, PSU's historic resource survey, & the city archives all call it Oregon Landscape, so I assume that's the actual name. We'll have to go with that in terms of what's canonical, since Tom Hardy (the sculptor) retired last year at age 90, sold off the contents of his studio, stopped tweeting, and even took down his website. Hardy, incidentally, also created a couple of other pieces that have shown up here before: Running Horses on the transit mall (formerly in Pioneer Courthouse Square), & the Herons sculpture at the Bybee-Howell House up on sauvie island, etc. This one is by far my favorite of the three. Bonus points are hereby awarded for the octopus.

Oregon Country

Speaking of the city archives, which I was a moment ago, they have an old photo of Oregon Landscape dated 1970, before the Park Blocks were closed to vehicle traffic. It's quite strange to see a regular city street and traffic in that location.

Oregon Country

I was curious about Oregon Landscape when I was a student at Portland State, mumble-mumble years ago, but it was tough to get a good look at it back then. Either it was considered unfashionable, or the groundskeeping budget had been zeroed out during the years I was there; either way, the sculpture was barely visible behind a thicket of bushes. So it was sort of interesting to finally get a good look at it for the first time. If there are any signs around explaining what it is, I haven't come across them; a 2010 class blog post included a photo of the piece & wondered what the deal was with it. So if there's a sign somewhere, clearly I'm not the only person who hasn't noticed it. Which is always a relief.

Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country Oregon Country

Monday, April 08, 2013

Test post (G+ edition)

Ok, Google finally decided my longstanding "brx0" pseudonym was officially pseudonymous enough that I could use it on G+, so there I am. I also went ahead & created a "Cyclotram on G+" page for this humble blog (and feel free to add either or both to your circles if you're so inclined). I'm not entirely sure what it's good for yet, other than (possibly) more visibility. I've always suspected that Google's super-seekrit page ranking algorithm includes a component that rewards sites that do things the Google Way, which apparently I'm doing now. I don't usually spend any time worrying about search ranking and page hits and that sort of thing; I'm not trying to sell an actual product or service or anything here, so striving too much for that feels rather vain and self-promotional, which would invite the wrath of various ghostly departed Midwestern ancestors. Which would be bad.

In any case, I didn't have any real blog posts ready to go, and I'm curious to see exactly what happens when I publish a post now, and I'm still trying to maintain some level of standards here so pasting a blob of lorem ipsum simply wouldn't do. Hence the post you're reading now.

Actually since we're on the subject of blogs, I'm thinking about tweaking the blog template again. May just change some colors around again, may do something else, I'm not sure yet. I just thought a little fair warning was in order this time. Unlike the time I dumped the old black, blue, and green scheme on a whim one night when I decided it was too garish. The current scheme isn't so garish; it's just sort of unsatisfying, and I haven't put my finger on what's wrong with it just yet.

Anyway, enough about that. Time to press the "Publish" button and see where this thing ends up...

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Electronic Poet

If you've ever waited at the westbound Galleria MAX stop in downtown Portland, you may have noticed a strange metal object overhead, with a red LED display on one side displaying mysterious text snippets. This is Electronic Poet, which RACC describes as:

Keith Jellum’s “Electronic Poet” displays several curated collections of poems programmed in an evolving loop. The programs were intended to be rotated every six months and have included diverse selections including North American poets born before 1990; Native American poets; Oregon place names; Northwestern poets; European poets and many more. Jellum, wanted to create opportunities for moments of reflection within the urban landscape.

Electronic Poet

Longtime readers may recall seeing some other Jellum pieces here a few months ago, namely Transcendence (the fish-smashing-through-a-building thingy near the South Park Blocks) and Portal (the double hammer archway on 1st Avenue south of I-405). I liked both of those, and I've always liked Electronic Poet. But then, I tend to enjoy odd conceptual stuff like this, and your mileage may vary.

Electronic Poet

It didn't occur to me to make a video of Electronic Poet doing its thing; I just took still photos and called it a day, because that's what I always do. You're in luck this time, though, because someone recorded a full 10 minute Electronic Poet program and posted it on YouTube. That probably gets the idea across better than any photo I could take of it. While watching the clip, it occurred to me that there's something sort of archaic about the piece. It was created way back in 1984, when programmable red LED displays were still kind of new and exotic. Now it seems a bit quaint, sort of like a giant analog cell phone or a dual-cassette boombox with graphic equalizer sliders. I'm not saying change it; it's kind of charming and retro the way it is now, which is probably something they completely didn't anticipate back in 1984. Meanwhile, my neighborhood 7-11 convenience store has a full-color reader board that displays random stuff from Twitter, I suppose just to create a sense that they understand social media and the concerns of today's youth, that sort of thing. And someday people will sneer at that as a weird relic of the days before Holographic Smell-o-Vision was invented. Or something.

Electronic Poet Electronic Poet