Keep Me Safe

Tracey Emin
(British, b. 1963)
Keep Me Safe, 2006
Neon; edition of 3
12 11/16 × 38 ¾ inches
The Miller-Meigs Collection, Corvallis

Opening today at the Portland Art Museum (1219 SW Park), Disquieted is an extensive show of contemporary work addressing challenging issues of the day ranging from secret prisons to race relations and the role of women in society. Some pieces come at an issue straight on like Glen Ligon’s text paintings, many approach at an oblique angle; some pieces express a general antagonism or anxiety, like Tracey Emin’s "Keep me safe," while some are simply button-pushing like Paul McCarthy’s gold lamé inflatable butt plug.

Chief curator and curator of modern and contemporary art, Bruce Guenther said that when he began working on the exhibition more than three years ago, it was to be "a market-driven survey" of contemporary art. But it morphed over time to something "thematically driven" at a political/cultural moment that to Guenther called for work that "reflects something we feel but may not be able to articulate," in the face of "war, acts of terror, and natural disasters."

Disquieted features 38 works by 28 living artists including John Baldessari, Gregory Crewdson, Tracy Emin, Andreas Gursky, Barbara Kruger, Shirin Neshat, Jan Tichy, and Bill Viola. The oldest work in the show is a Barbara Kruger from 1992. There is video, sculpture, painting, photography, all of it meant to provoke discussion. To that end, the Museum has admirably created an iPhone app that features both videos of many of the artists talking about their work as well as curators, educators, and art historians conversing about work in the exhibition.

This is an opportunity to see work by a number of important contemporary artists without traveling. Embrace it.