Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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

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

Oregon Country

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