Kara Walker
Sept 4–Nov 18
Cooley Gallery


Image: Dan Gay
Stephanie Snyder: The Curator

 When Stephanie Snyder hung Kara Walker’s paper cutout The Humane Acquisition of Chitlins at the Cooley Gallery in 2008, she recalls getting “an earful” about the artist’s send-ups of antebellum black-white relations, not from students, faculty, or the public, but from one of the other artists in the show: Faith Ringgold. 

One of the grandmothers of black feminist art, Ringgold is hardly the only African American artist of her generation to find Walker’s work, which has hung in solo exhibitions at major museums around the world, discomfiting. Artist Betye Saar bluntly called it “revolting” in the hundreds of letters she sent to institutions nationwide in an attempt to stop the showing of Walker’s art. 

Undeterred, Snyder is now presenting an entire show of Walker’s prints, maquettes, and a new film, Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale. But no less surprising than Ringgold’s ire last time is the enthusiasm for the art in this show from the local collector lending most of it: Jordan Schnitzer. 


Image: Dan Gay
Jordan Schnitzer: The Collector

 “[Walker] takes this elementary form,” Schnitzer says, recalling the similar cutouts he made as a child, “and puts the most intense images in our face. There’s nowhere to go from her work: she makes us deal with this history.”

Snyder plans to steer clear of the most notorious of Walker’s images, in which she brutally and exuberantly sexualizes (and often recasts) the power dynamics between slave and master. Instead, the show will focus, Snyder says, on “the more intimate dialogue her work has with history”—the prints riffing on Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War and the film on 19th-century dioramas and vaudeville. She knew nothing of Schnitzer’s interest until Walker’s New York gallery told her about the “Portland collector who owns not only editions of all of Walker’s prints, but the only two series of steel cutouts she has made”—precisely the work Snyder wanted to accompany the film. “I’ve never heard Jordan speak so richly about an artist’s work before,” she recalls of her first meeting with him about the show. 

Walker will lecture on October 2, and Snyder is working with Reed’s new VP for institutional diversity, the poet Crystal Williams, to develop programming for both a campus and a city that have had uneasy race relations. 

“We want to be careful and circumspect about the show’s contents,” Snyder says. “We also hope to have serious conversation.” —RG



A still from Kara Walker’s film Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale



Happy Birthday: A Celebration of Chance and Listening

Sept 6–Nov 17 In prominent conceptual artist Paul Kos’s installation The Sound of Ice Melting, microphones surround two giant ice blocks to capture the elusive, entropic tones of ice turning to water. It’s but one of the pieces that sets the tone for this cross-media, 100th birthday tribute to John Cage, a giant of post-war art and music. Other highlights include a striking piece from Alison Knowles, whose award-winning work in the Fluxus movement drew on the radical techniques she picked up as an early student of Cage, and Portland-based artist Stephanie Simek’s solar- and plant-powered musical window-box experiment. —Kit Mauldin Free. Feldman Gallery + Project Space, PNCA, 1241 NW Johnson St.


The Body Beautiful

Oct 6–Jan 6 Landing on American soil for the first time here in Portland, The Body Beautiful explores the human form through priceless Greek and Roman works drawn from the British Museum’s collection, including the iconic discus-throwing Discobolus. To mark the occasion, PAM will partner with Nike and OHSU for a series of talks and programs looking at the body—classical, contemporary, and futuristic.
—JM $20. Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave. 503-226-2811.


MK Guth

Oct 7–Dec 9 When nothing else subsists, smell and taste remain is both a backward glance and a forward look for this homegrown art star. A book published by the Art Gym caps Guth’s interactive projects. Then the show itself initiates a new direction exploring the act of gathering to share food. It will include serving objects and recipe books that provide guidance and utensils for a series of dinners inspired by art, places, relationships, and milestones, such as Dinner for John Cage (based on the composer’s Mushrooms et Variationes) and Dinner for the Woods. There will also be weekly discussions about food, including one about German drinking songs, because Dinner for Crying involves crying in your beer. —AS Free. The Art Gym, Marylhurst University, 17600 Pacific Hwy, Marylhurst. 503-636-8141.