Portland Art History in Dialogue

In its three inaugural years, The Dill Pickle Club has brought us Oregon History Comics, a guided tour of Portland’s public works projects, field trips to African American public art projects, and a host of other happenings. This spring, in partnership with and Publication Studio, a local “experiment in sustainable publication,” the young club presents old books and new ideas.

The PDX Re-Print Series will re-issue four out of print, obscure texts, and gather artists, authors, and thinkers to honor Portland’s art history and examine its relevance to contemporary city-planning and art community. “In recent years, Portland has seen an influx in new residents, especially the rise in its young creative class and recent baby boomer retiree populations. It has also seen many of its neighborhoods adopt a modernist feel, with new facades and renovated buildings, says Marc Moscato, director of the Dill Pickle Club, “Consequently, there is often little connection to place, or understand the history and culture of the city’s neighborhoods. If we want to make informed decisions and enact good policy, we need an informed populace. This starts with community dialogue.” (See also the New Oregon Interview Series.)

The first of these dialogues, “Twenty Seven Installations,” takes its name from the catalogue of installation-based exhibitions at the now lionized Portland Center for Visual Arts (1972-1988). Exhibiting artists included photographer Robert Rauschenberg, musicians Laurie Anderson, composer Phillip Glass, renowned minimalist sculptor Richard Serra and abstract architect Alice Aycock.

“It seems that PCVA had just a small audience at the time,” says Mary Beebe, former director of the center, now director of the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, “And many didn’t realize the importance of the artists we brought to town. I’m not sure we did so much either, but they were interesting to us at the time and we had the help of artists in Portland. They actually started PCVA and did all the physical work of the installations on a volunteer basis. Amazing. I hear all the time – still – from artists who were students or young at the time – that it was important to them.”

Beebe, artist, teacher and PCVA co-founder Mel Katz, urban designer Tad Savinar, sculptor and curator Paul Sutinen and art writer Lisa Radon will all participate in a panel discussion to be held, aptly, at the Yale Union Laundry building, home to a newborn artist-driven contemporary art center. The catalogue will cost $35 for members of the Dill Pickle Club and $28 for non-members, entry to the event is a suggested sliding scale donation from $0-$10. —Elizabeth Pusack

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