Being Present: Revisiting, Somewhat Unfaithfully, Portland’s Most Experimental Art Experiment, PCVA

Editor's Pick
Southwest Portland
This event has passed. Sorry you missed it!
Nov. 16, 2019–June 14, 2020
Days vary
Cost: Museum Admission: Free for Members, $20 Adults, $17 Seniors 62+ & College Students, Free Children 17 and under
1219 SW Park Ave
Portland, OR 97205

The following description was submitted by the event organizer.

"Portland has gotten a lot of attention in recent years for its thriving arts scene, but few people know about the organization that originally put the city on the art-world map: Portland Center for the Visual Arts (PCVA). PCVA was an artist-run contemporary art organization that brought innovative artists and performers from around the country to share their work with Pacific Northwest audiences from 1972 until 1987. Through objects, films, tapestries and documentation created by an artistic/curatorial collective called Triple Candie, this multimedia exhibition explores the history of PCVA and its complicated impact on the community, and is likely to be one of the more unusual shows on view at the museum this year. " – Oregon Arts Watch

Being Present: Revisiting, Somewhat Unfaithfully, Portland’s Most Experimental Art Experiment, PCVA

From 1972 to 1987, the Portland Center for the Visual Arts (PCVA) was a major force in the Pacific Northwest, introducing progressive forms of contemporary art from around the country to Portland audiences. Temporary site-specific installations by major, mostly New York-based sculptors, announced its early ambitions. Later, an impressive schedule of avant-garde performances signaled a turn towards a more socially inclusive model—one that, unfortunately, proved financially unsustainable. More than 30 years after its demise, this artist-founded organization remains an inspiration for both the art it brought to the area and the impact it had on this city’s cultural scene.

But PCVA’s mythology as a leading-edge organization in one of the country’s most liberal cities is paradoxical. The exhibitions that brought it national attention reflected the social biases of an American art world that has long been less “progressive” than it has purported to be. Simultaneously, while Portland was being celebrated as a leader in urban planning—adopting urban growth boundaries and investing in bike trails and public transportation—it was engaged in the disinvestment in, and displacement of, its black and working-class communities. Given this layered context, how do we celebrate the PCVA’s extraordinary achievements while acknowledging that it bore some of the troubling qualities of its age? And in doing so, at what point do we risk falling victim to presentism; judging the past through current-day values and expectations?

This unorthodox exhibition, curated by Triple Candie, delves into these issues. Comprising unfaithful sculptural objects, spatial interventions, animated videos, tapestries and hand-drawn documentation—all fabricated by the curators themselves—plus quotes by witnesses to PCVA’s programs, Being Present is designed to transport viewers, if only partially and somewhat unfaithfully, to this bygone moment. Like other Triple Candie exhibitions, it seeks to turn our articles of faith back on themselves. Moreover, it asks us to reflect on how we define cultural progress and what art can, or should, do today.