Portland

Portland

Various Venues

Museum officials––all on their way to the Big Meet in Seattle––came strag­gling into the city like so many rumors of casualties into Washington after the Battle of Bull Run. Undoubtedly, the most curious ensemble were those dele­gates of 12 foreign museums who were wined and dined one evening mid-month by Oregon Ceramic Studio’s staff, mem­bers and friends. The group, traveling under the monicker of the Fourth An­nual Tour for Foreign Museum Profes­sionals, was sponsored by the U. S. State Department. They arrived on the Pacific Coast in April, and since then have been on a bus tour visiting coastal art and natural science museums. Of interest to them have been everything from display techniques to trustee-cura­tor relations.

Taswir H. Hamidi, the 23-year-old head of the 40-year-old Moenjodaro Archeolo­gical Museum in Kokri, Pakistan, said he hoped to encourage women’s activi­ties in his town’s only museum upon his return.

Similar accord was voiced by Moti Chandra, director of the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay.

“We lack funds, just as many of your young museums do,” said Chandra, “but with the children’s programs, publica­tions, etc., that your women’s auxiliaries do, your museums are living bodies.”

Ralph Herbert Riccalton of New Zea­land’s Canterbury Museum found spe­cialization of U. S. Museum personnel even greater than he anticipated, while sculpture at the studio by Betty Feves, Manuel Izquierdo and others elicited some acid comments from Doctors Hugo Wagner and Zdizislaw Zygulski. Their combined global conclusion was that artists are doing pretty much the same thing. Wagner, curator of the Berne Mu­seum of Fine Arts in Switzerland, opined it was no longer possible to distinguish painters from one country to another. . . . He hoped the “epidemic” might soon end. Zygulski, keeper of the Czartoryski collection of medieval armor in Krakow, Poland related that Polish artists were aware of American currents. “Rothko, Tobey and Sam Francis are fashionable in Europe now,” said Wagner, “but so were the neo-romanticists in Paris a century ago . . . ” 

Two of the most absorbing shows at the moment are at Arlene Schnitzer’s elegant new Fountain Gallery (across the street from Portland’s Multnomah Hotel), oils and collages by Mike Russo, and at Mt. Angel College, paint, plastic, chains, canvas, fiberboard and diligent needlework by Joyce Britton. What ap­peals most in the Russo solo are the quite numerous, balanced representa­tions of the figure, i. e., Expulsion in Contention, and Fat Women Blasting Oblivion. Here we see figures merged with half brilliant, or half shadowed backgrounds. One can’t say the same, however, for the cubistic mish-mash Pranksters Weep in Purgatory which seems to have been done by a third personality quite different from the two we have already come to identify with Russo. The gem in the show is Carya­tid which has more voluptuousness due to subtle modeling with light and shade and negation of background. Rus­so has made brilliant use of planes of ultra-sophisticated color to mold fig­ures. What ties this hydra-headed show together (other than a foggy emphasis on the classic nude) is the architectural solidity of the distant and contempla­tive figures. With the exception of a witty collage and a misty social-realist throwback, “Amity,” there is no attempt anywhere at specific realities or dis­tracting detail.

Re Joyce Britton: Here in Oregon we have Duane Zaloudek, who with his great disks of disembodied color, real­izes the artist completely involved with paint as paint. In sculptor Hilda Morris’ work we find created in those thready bronze wombs and projections a strange, organic, undersea kind of life, sensitive, exploratory, suggestive. Joyce Britton is another type.

This exhibition, her second since the closing of the New Gallery of Contem­porary Art last year, is, she says, “A study in painting forms outside the con­ventional rectangle . . . Forms,” she adds, “in which the viewer can become an actual element in the painting.” Miss Britton calls her melange of assem­blages “new expressionisms,” and the message seems to be: what will our de­sensitized society market next?

From the evidence her answer is: body parts (legs especially), pain, and king-sized band-aids. Pains are served up as SCREAMS and the viewer gets these whole as well as sliced and pick­led. Crude as these bagged, bottled, plasticized commentaries may be, they are in a sense the ultimate kind of real­ism in art. We think of them as ruth­lessly incorporating the outcast mem­bers of our machine civilization into exhibitable form. They come to us from the collage to the assemblage by way of the found object.

The symbolism suggested here is not entirely casual and it is not insignifi­cant. Other gleanings of gold could be found elsewhere this month, too, as in the fairly successful attempt to com­bine ideas in ceramic and welded met­al sculpture by Ray Grimm at Portland State College; the somewhat uneven but nevertheless dynamic oils and prints by John Rock at Marylhurst College, and the timely-for-Portland “Visionary Ar­chitecture” exhibit at Reed. The only nugget in town was the Kandinsky ex­hibition, and about it much has been said. Possibly, all we can add is that in Improvisation No. 29 and Com­position VII, we were able to see the deep well from which the local boys have been drawing their water for so many years.

Andy Rocchia