Rodrigo Valenzuela in Oregon Live 8.23.19

11 Portland art exhibits to freshen up your fall

New shows this fall showcase the work of (clockwise, from top left): Noritaka Tatehana, Jeremy Okai Davis, Brenda Mallory and Rodrigo Valenzula.

The fall art season kicks off with solid offerings that include the Portland2019 Biennial at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival, followed by city-wide programming around the second annual Portland Textile Month in October.

Galleries and art spaces are mounting complementary shows of performance art and textiles, along with shows of photography, painting and sculpture by vibrant new voices and established regional ones.

Thérèse Murdza’s painting “Make More Cake” (2019). (Dan Kvitka/Courtesy of the artist)

Thérèse Murdza: “TAKE MORE CAKE / promise and permissions” and “FREE CAKE / you are already home”

Portland artist Thérèse Murdza undertakes an intense exploration of four-letter words in a new body of  work that will be shown at Luke’s Frame Shop in September and at Pushdot Studio in December. Her musings and anagrams forgo the obvious words, instead riffing on a prosaic vocabulary of nouns and verbs such as “know,” “tell,” “look” and, in these two solo shows, “cake.” Written in pencil or as block letters that frame brusquely painted abstract shapes, the quotidian words gain insistence through repetition.

Sept. 7-20, Luke’s Frame Shop, 4703 N. Albina Ave., or 503-841-5238.

Dec. 6-Jan. 30, Pushdot Studio, 2505 S.E. 11th Ave., Suite 104, or 503-224-5925. 

Jeremy Okai Davis’ painting “Metering” (2019). (Courtesy of the artist)

Jeremy Okai Davis: “The Presence of Color”

For a solo show as part of the Stumptown Artist Fellowship program, Jeremy Okai Davis is preparing six large-scale paintings that take Kodak’s Shirley cards as visual inspiration. The cards, which depicted white models next to color bars, were used to calibrate film processing machines starting in the 1950s. Kodak didn’t include people of color until the 1970s, and when film was developed, black and brown skin tones could get lost. Davis does some recalibration of his own in this series that uses vintage Jet magazine images to get at questions of historical inclusion and exclusion.

Sept. 12–Nov. 6, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, 128 S.W. Third Ave., or 503-295-6144. 

The Dope Elf, written and directed by Asher Hartman, Gawdafful National Theater, 2019. Actors (from left): Paul Outlaw, Joe Seely, Jacqueline Wright (center), Michael Bonnabel, Philip Littell, Zut Lorz. (Ian Byers-Gamber)

Asher Hartman: “The Dope Elf”

Yale Union finds a place it hasn’t gone before with a newly commissioned play and performance environment that Los Angeles playwright Asher Hartman created for his company, Gawdafful National Theater. The production will install a village of modular sleeping huts and other structures in the gallery, where the company will live for the show’s two sessions. The installation and actors will be livestreamed on Yale Union’s website for the duration of the show. Audiences can attend the weekend performances of Hartman’s scripted play — presented in 11 increasingly long installments — in person, becoming part of a monitored temporary world.

Sept. 14-22 (session 1), Oct. 11-20 (session 2), Yale Union, 800 S.E. 10th Ave., or 503-236-7996.

Rodrigo Valenzuela’s mixed-media piece “New Land No. 6” (2017). (Courtesy of the artist and Upfor)

Rodrigo Valenzuela

Chilean artist Rodrigo Valenzuela uses a medium-format film camera to photograph spaces that he constructs in a studio. He then digitally prints and reincorporates the images into his sets to photograph again. The monochromatic series that result from this manipulation of space and perception are often about more than the objects and spaces he captures. A new series focuses on Brutalism, a utopian architectural style of blocky massing and blunt shapes that gained popularity in the 1950s and ’60s before falling soundly out of favor by the 1980s. Valenzuela’s ruminations may focus less on its place in design history and more on how its life and death reflect both its historical milieu and our less optimistic times.

Oct. 2–Nov. 2, Upfor Gallery, 929 N.W. Flanders St., or 503-227-5111.

Lee Kelly’s stainless steel sculpture, “If Trees Could Walk They Need Not Fear the Ax I” (2019), pictured in front of his Oregon City studio. (Dan Kvitka/Courtesy of Elizabeth Leach Gallery)

Lee Kelly: “If Trees Could Walk”

The Elizabeth Leach Gallery uses the occasion of Portland playing host to the 29th International Sculpture Conference to show new work by an established Portland artist. Lee Kelly has maintained a consistently forthright sculptural vocabulary throughout his 60-year career. His large-scale modernist metal sculptures often have a calligraphic bent and can be seen in public spaces across the city. (Notably, his stainless steel “Water Sculpture” from 1975 is a prominent feature of the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park.) Kelly will show lithe works from a new series, “If Trees Could Walk They Need Not Fear the Ax,” alongside more voluptuous, earthbound work from his 2018 “Yucatan Goddess” series.

Oct. 3-Nov. 2, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, 417 N.W. Ninth Ave., or 503-224-0521.

Sarah Wertzberger’s woven piece, “Rising, Falling, Floating” (2019). (Courtesy of HOLDING Contemporary)

Sarah Wertzberger: “Color Vision”

Invented in 1804, the jacquard loom revolutionized the textile industry by allowing intricate designs to be woven into fabric using a programmable machine. Its punch card system is credited with being the precursor to computers. Artist and designer Sarah Wertzberger continues to push the possibilities of the technology and her medium, combining free-form stylings with hyper-saturated colors in blankets that can stand in as op-art wall hangings. Her smaller textile work combines not-subtle plaids — she skews towards the colors of 1980s Southern California — with silhouettes of classical amphorae. More recent pieces are like color washed paintings in textile. This show of her new and older work is timed to coincide with Portland Textile Month.

Oct. 3–Nov. 2, HOLDING Contemporary, 916 N.W. Flanders St., or 503-444-7101.

Red crystal heel-less shoes designed by Noritaka Tatehana. (GION)

Noritaka Tatehana: “Refashioning Beauty”

The Japanese designer Noritaka Tatehana captured the attention of Lady Gaga with his university graduation project: a handmade, heel-less and very high shoe. Equal parts glamour and historical allusion (sky-high wooden platform sandals were worn in Japan’s Edo period by oiran, or women of pleasure), variations of Tatehana’s fashion and engineering marvel are now in the collections of major international museums. Tatehana has also exhibited work such as traditional hairpins rendered at fantastic scale, embossed paintings, traditional samurai swords encased in glass, and a pool of painted brass camelias. For his solo show at the Portland Japanese Garden, he’ll show new and existing work from these series in addition to woodblock prints. But the ornate and beautifully crafted shoes that seem to defy gravity are really the show stoppers.

Oct. 5–Dec. 1, Portland Japanese Garden, 611 S.W. Kingston Ave., or 503-223-1321.

Brenda Mallory’s “Untitled (Red Glass)” (2019). (Mario Gallucci/Courtesy of the artist and Upfor)

Brenda Mallory

Robust yet elegant in its simplicity, Brenda Mallory‘s mixed-media work incorporates reclaimed and repurposed industrial materials, such as rubber drive belts, firehose, and nuts and bolts. Paper, thread and wax also recur in her minimalist, textured sculptures. Her work hews to a neutral palette, though this may be broken up by new work in glass that is the result of a recent residency at the Bullseye Glass Company factory. Prints and works on paper also will be included in Mallory’s first solo show at Upfor Gallery

Nov. 6-Dec. 21, Upfor Gallery, 929 N.W. Flanders St., or 503-227-5111.

Ellen Lesperance’s “Stop War 1st Priority” (2019). (Courtesy of the artist and Adams and Ollman)

Ellen Lesperance: “Flowers Wrapped in Newspaper”

Adams and Ollman expands into a 1,200-square-foot space on the North Park Blocks this fall, where its November show will feature the graphical and conceptual work of Ellen Lesperance. The Portland artist uses the language of knitting patterns — splayed sleeves, sweater fronts and backs whose designs have been daubed out in gouache on hand-gridded paper — to make pointed political commentary. Her past work has focused on feminist subjects. She mines photographs of activists and protesters for images of hand-knit sweaters that she recreates in two-dimensional grids and as fully realized garments, a combined portrait of a time and place and person. Her recent series conflates newspaper headlines, still with a political theme, into her patterns. She will knit a new sweater for the show.

Nov. 7-Dec. 21, Adams and Ollman, 418 N.W. Eighth Ave., or 503-724-0684. 

Beaten paper pulp mask by Jess Perlitz (2019). (Courtesy of HOLDING Contemporary)

Jess Perlitz: “People Making People Sounds”

At first glance, Jess Perlitz‘s smart, zany work may read as flippant — she lists clown training in her bona fides — but Perlitz brings sharp curiosity to a practice that encompasses interactive installation, sculpture and performance art. Her solo show at HOLDING Contemporary will include all-new sculptural work that explores whether the body can be divested of associations with either deification or violation, as it’s traditionally been framed in art, and be thought of simply as a container. Still in process, this inquiry will include a series of paper pulp masks amended with absurd protuberances and a larger piece that will be a presence in the gallery’s boxy front room.

Nov. 7-Dec. 14. HOLDING Contemporary, 916 N.W. Flanders St., or 503-444-7101.

Laura Berger’s painting “Through Me” (2019). (Courtesy Stephanie Chefas Projects)

Laura Berger

Laura Berger‘s languid female figures are more assertive in her recent work, pushing to the front of the picture plane and taking more space for themselves. Berger paints in a flat, graphic style that brings to mind streamlined Art Deco illustrations, an impression reinforced by a 1930s palette of ochres, brick and tomato reds, and mauve-y lavenders. The curves and planes of her interlocking figures, dark-eyed women who all look resolutely forward, are paired with crisp geometric shapes and lines in tight, visually intriguing compositions.

Dec. 7-Jan. 4, Stephanie Chefas Projects, 305 S.E. Third Ave., #202, or 503-719-6945.

Click here for more information.