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Preview: Portland Mercury: Visual Art

Portland Mercury: Visual Art

Portland's Most Awesome Weekly Newspaper. Covering Portland news, politics, music, food & drink, comedy, cannabis, film, and arts; plus the most extensive movie times, club calendars, and blogs.

Published: Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:00:01 -0800

Last Build Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2017 08:00:00 -0800

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Infinite Black Portlands

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0800

Intisar Abioto’s latest exhibition affirms Portland’s diverse Black community. by Jenni Moore

Photographer, dancer, and writer Intisar Abioto is a Tennessee native who moved to Portland in 2010 with her mother and sisters (one of whom is singer/songwriter Amenta Abioto). Abioto loved what Portland had to offer in terms of food and bike culture, but found herself wondering where all the Black people were—that’s partly what inspired her to document the Black community that is here. As Abioto began bumping into Black folk in North and Northeast Portland and asking them about their stories, an exploratory photo project emerged: The Black Portlanders. The portrait series became both an outlet for Abioto’s creative lens and for Portland’s Black presence to be seen and shared online. Her gorgeous photographs captured the attention of W. Kamau Bell, and were featured on his CNN show United Shades of America; Abioto was also a TEDxPortland speaker in 2016.

Today, the exploratory project Abioto began with The Black Portlanders continues to grow and evolve, with the 150-plus photo exhibit Black Portlanders, Black Portlands at PSU’s Littman Gallery, spanning five years of photographic work. Given how small Portland’s Black community is, I looked forward to seeing how many faces would be familiar. I’ve always thought Abioto’s portraits were beautiful. They’re not overly styled or model-y. Instead, Abioto captures her subjects in their natural environments, as if she just happened upon them in the middle of their day.


At Littman Gallery, Abioto has penciled some of her subjects’ names on the walls, while other labels include brief details like “NE Portland,” and other images have no caption or explanation at all. The photos vary widely in size, just as Abioto’s subjects vary in age, identity, background, and personal style. It’s beautiful to see the immense diversity in Blackness that lives here in Portland, and rare to see so much of it in one place. There’s a photo of a basketball squad. Of Senator Avel Gordly, the first African American woman to be elected to the Oregon State Senate. Of a man wearing a bucket hat at Good in the Hood in 2014. There’s a shot of an interracial family walking along the North Park Blocks, and another of a man playing drums nearby. There’s a picture of hip-hop artist Maze Koroma, and a shot of pioneering natural hairstylist Amber Stark smiling into the camera. Abioto also includes her family in the series, with a couple of photos of her mother and sisters, plus two self-portraits sprinkled into the mix.

In addition to being able to see the collective and individual beauty of my fellow Black community members, I love that Abioto’s work also documents Black folk participating in stereotypical Portland experiences. Like a slender man with blue hair holding an iced coffee, or a red rose bush with a trio of Black bodies chillin’ in the background, or the photograph of a young woman standing tippy-toed on her bicycle downtown. Seeing them all feels like an affirmation: “See? Here we are. We belong.”


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The United Colors of Arielle Bobb-Willis

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 14:18:00 -0700

by Kathleen Marie On the Mercury cover this week is the photography of NYC artist Arielle Bobb-Willis'.

Arielle Bobb-Willis

Taking back the preppy color palette of the 80s and reliving it in the urban scene of NYC today on 35mm, Arielle Bobb-Willis' photography empowers a connection between kids today and kids of yesteryear. Working with her peers as models, she's constantly shape shifting and color blocking, exploring what this body can do for expression when words are not there to dictate.

Arielle Bobb-Willis

The lack of showing face in her photography seems to even go as far to say I don't need you to see me to be seen. There's a protection of identity happening here, while still celebrating the individual.

Arielle Bobb-Willis

And you can't say that she makes it look easy. Each photo is a fully realized portrait, curating a specific look and contoured body shape which doesn't repeat itself in nature.

Arielle Bobb-Willis

Art that resonates today is troublesome and unapologetic, strong characteristics which flourish in Arielle's work and subjects. At a time when our political climate is a raging wild fire, it's art like Bobb-Willis' which we need to see our generational similiarities and not just our differences.

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From Magic Realism to Spatial Imaginaries

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 04:00:00 -0700

October’s Art Shows and Performances to Have on Your Radar by Megan Burbank It’s weird advice that always works: If you’re feeling sad, go see some art. When the news sucks and nothing seems okay, sometimes just getting outside, getting yourself to the museum or gallery, and looking at something someone made with their hands and their brain on a wall and not a computer screen will at least get you thinking differently. Portland’s full of places to do this. Here are a few to get you started. {{image:1, align:right, width:250}} The Wyeths: Three Generations at the Portland Art Museum Even if you don’t know Andrew Wyeth by name, you’ve probably seen one of his most well known paintings, “Christina’s World”: In spindly, near-photorealistic strokes and a washed-out color palette, a woman is seen from behind, her dress a cottony whitish-pink, strands of her dark hair caught in the wind, one sharp elbow extending outward at a visibly uncomfortable angle. At the horizon line, a house and a barn jut out from the place where the faded, once-green ground meets the anemic, barely blue sky. The buildings are likely not far from the painting’s subject, but they seem miles away. It’s an instantly evocative image, the kind of painting it’s worth seeing up close, that commands your attention, that all but begs you to lose yourself in its slender, un-fancy details, its meticulous composition. The framing sets up an expectation of narrative, but leaves the viewer to fill in the details. Wyeth’s world is one of magical realism; it infuses ordinary subject matter with a sense of mystery and David Lynch-esque dislocation. It’s not surrealist work by any stretch—it’s grounded in reality, no one has more than one nose, it’s clearly figurative, etc.—but nonetheless there’s something unsettling about it. Wyeth painted “Christina’s World” in 1948. The woman in it was his neighbor in Maine, who’d had polio, and, as Wyeth put it, “was limited physically but by no means spiritually.” The painting, then, is a nuanced tribute to her, one that legibly encapsulates both pain and effort, and a view that transforms an ordinary, finite stretch of land into an entire world reflecting its subject’s internal and external landscapes. Wyeth came from a family of painters, and in a new traveling show, The Wyeths: Three Generations, the Portland Art Museum will exhibit work from several of them, including Wyeth’s illustrator father, N.C. Wyeth; his painter sister, Henriette Wyeth, and Henriette’s husband, Peter Hurd; and Andrew Wyeth’s own son, Jamie, a portraitist. It’s a chance to get an up-close look at Andrew Wyeth’s quietly subversive style, and, with that much talent packed into one family, it’s also the art museum equivalent of The Royal Tenenbaums. 7-Jan 28, $16.99-$19.99 museum admission {{image:3}} This Is a Black Spatial Imaginary at Cascade Paragon Gallery One show opens and another closes: This week is your last chance to see work from This Is a Black Spatial Imaginary, a multidisciplinary group show at Portland Community College’s Paragon Gallery and in public spaces throughout the city. Funded by a grant from the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Precipice Fund, This is a Black Spatial Imaginary is huge, even for a group show: It features no fewer than 40 Black Portland artists—including Intisar Abioto, keyon gaskin, sidony o’neal, and more—working in a number of disciplines, including installation and video work, performance, and print media “at the intersection of art, collaboration, historical record, urban planning, collaboration, and creative exchange.” In his 2011 book, How Racism Takes Place, George Lipsitz, a Black Studies scholar at the University of California at Santa Barbara, defined the “white spatial imaginary” as white Americans’ relationship to place and property, rooted in systemic racism an[...]On the Edge

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