Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rowland Ricketts: The Museum of Contemporary Craft’s Last Exhibition

Rowland Ricketts: Work Time installation shot. Image courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Craft. Photo: Matt Gaston '15

An installation with cascades of indigo textiles draped above the exhibition space functions as the center piece to the Museum of Contemporary Craft’s most recent and final exhibition, “Rowland Ricketts: WorkTime”.  Ricketts uses centuries old Japanese methods and natural indigo dyes to create large scale contemporary installations and designs. Unlike modern indigo production, Ricketts prefers to use slower and more natural methods to honor the quality of traditional indigo practices. I originally came across Ricketts’ work at a panel discussion at the College Art Association Conference in 2014. I was eager to see his work in person after his memorable artist talk. Seeing “Rowland Ricketts: Work Time” did not disappoint, but unfortunately news of the Museum of Contemporary Craft’s impending closure has overshadowed the exhibition.

On February 3rd, 2016 the Pacific Northwest College of Art sent out a press release announcing the closure of the Museum of Contemporary Craft. PNCA’s reasoning for the closure states that the, "vision of transforming the museum into a dynamic, student-centric educational resource was not fully realized. In the meantime, the financial cost to the college has remained high." The museum’s collection will be absorbed by PNCA, who will open the Center for Contemporary Art and Culture.

I was deeply disappointed to hear the news of MOCC’s closure especially considering my academic passion and dedication to crafts inclusion and importance to the contemporary art world. MOCC also functioned as a leader in Portland’s notable craft community. My own interest in contemporary craft stemmed deeply from the Portland’s craft artists. I see the closure of MOCC as a direct result of the long asked question, “Is craft art?” Even in a city that held one of the nations largest and oldest institutions dedicated to craft, this argument continues to develop. Daniel Duford wrote on the news of MOCC’s closure and craft’s importance, “For all the academic patois and MFA art speak around “radicality” and “criticality” it is in craft where the voices of women, indigenous cultures and working people are first heard.” This argument rings true and was evidenced in MOCC’s previous exhibition “Alien She” which highlighted the influence of the Riot Grrrl movement on contemporary craft artists. Artists in this exhibition discussed issues of race, gender, sexuality, and commercialism all through the radical medium of craft.

In light of MOCC’s upcoming closure, I am left wondering about craft’s future in Portland. Who will carry on the legacy? Make sure to stop by for MOCC’s final exhibition, “Rowland Ricketts: Work Time.”

Related Articles:
“PNCA Answers Some Questions About Closing theCraft Museum”- Barry Johnson

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Liz Robb- PDX Window Project


Liz Robb, Réttir (detail), Icelandic wool, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.

I stumbled across Liz Robb’s work while walking the streets of Portland in the PDX Window Project, housed by PDX CONTEMPORARY ART. I have always enjoyed the idea of utilizing the gallery window to entice and surprise people walking past and going about their day. The PDX Window Project allows unknowing passers by to interact with contemporary art as well as allows the art to interact more directly with the city environment. I came across Liz Robb’s work in much the same way. I was just leaving another gallery, admittedly disappointed in the work that I saw. I was not expecting to come across Robb’s textile sculptures and I was pleasantly surprised.

Liz Robb, Sauðfé, Icelandic wool, wood, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.

Liz Robb, Réttir, Icelandic wool, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.

 “I respond to the inherent energy of the materials and how they interact and form my decisions, balancing the tension between my control and relinquishment of control through the process” –Liz Robb

Robb created the textile sculptures during a two-month fiber based textile residency in Iceland with The Icelandic Textile Center. One of my favorite facts that I discovered while researching her work is that she used yarns mostly found at grocery stores and gas stations and they were woven on over 100 year-old looms. I also enjoy that Robb is invested in the meditative processes of working with textiles. She states that the repetitive motions of dying, weaving, wrapping, and compressing foster a connection between the subconscious of the mind and the body. I too have noticed the meditative quality of textile and craft based arts, but Robb is one of the few artists that I have come across who uses this process to inform her work.

Liz Robb, Torfbærinn, Icelandic wool, wood, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART. 
“I utilize the power of the materials to construct architectural frames from which to build weighted objects in space” –Liz Robb
Liz Robb, Huldufólk III (black), Icelandic wool, reeds, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.
Robb’s description of her sculptures accurately defines my experience with them. One piece in particular, Huldufólk III (black), stands in front of the other pieces and is suspended from the ceiling. The long black tassel has certain buoyancy despite its large size and the inherent weight of the fibers. Her sculptures hold a totem-like quality. The sculptures also study the relationship between chaos and order. Compact and detailed grids unravel and cascade into a heap on the ground.

Liz Robb's Window Project will be up through February 27th.

PDX Contemporary Art
Tuesday - Saturday
11 am - 6 pm
925 NW Flanders
Portland, Oregon 97209