22 May 2014

[pdx] Photos On Sunday: Inversion Plus/Minus

In Portland, Oregon, you tend to get spoiled, visually. Public art is so easy to come by you begin to tune it into the background. A lovely, texturally rich background, but a background never the less, and backgrounds tend to get taken for granted.

I'm somewhat fond of abstract art so, a couple of years back, when strange lattice-like confections of reddish steel started going up at the corners of SE Grand Avenue and Belmont Street and SE Grand Avenue and Hawthorne Blvd, then, I kind of disregarded them. They were interesting, but not compelling. Just another interesting excursion into outdoor art, and in a city that just looks great even when it just tumbled out of bed, nothing all that remarkable.

Or, as I assumed.

This, as they say, is my bad. Since I've been working out with my camera so much lately, I've put more effort into not only looking, but seeing. A side effect of all this deep examination is that you begin to see things in a glance that you didn't notice in a long gaze.

The sculpture, parts one and two of which are eight Portland city blocks apart, are called Inversion: Plus/Minus. It's courtesy Annie Han and Daniel Mihaylo, of Seattle's Lead Pencil Studio, and honors the idea that buildings were once in those spaces … they're ghost buildings really. The south wing, at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge, is more obviously referencing the idea of a building … it has an obvious shape and connectivity.

It was the north wing that had me going for so long. As we were heading to the Dutch Bros at Grand and Belmont for that sweet, sweet free birthday coffee (there is nothing in the world that is wrong with this, by the way), I look up out the front window of the car, look down the street, and see …

… the negative space underneath the steel lattice. It's a pitched roof, as clear as anything. And I had never bothered to notice before.

Again, as I say, my bad.

The area on the east side of the Willamette, as anyone who travels down Grand and MLK might tell you, seems to be a ghost of a big town that could have been, or should have been. It's still rather disheveled, which is good … too much of Portland has been polished to a blinding gleam. At SE Yamhill and Grand is a four-story skyscraper-styled building which has, for as long as I've known, been a home for a beauty-supply house. The Arcoa Building, it's called. We parked aside of it and I got out and snapped some shots of this thing I've finally figured out.

Near by to this and across the street is a spire called The Weatherly Building. 12 floors tall, it's the undisputed king of the eastside strip. No other eastside building is taller, at least not south of the Banfield. And looking at it, I get the idea that the hoped it would be one of many.

But then, Portland had not yet really become Portland, not yet, anyway.

The illusion shatters, but in slow motion, as you pull aside of it

It was quite an experience, that frisson of recognition I got when I finally looked and saw. I don't think I could handle more than twenty or thirty of them in a day. 

I hereby resolve to take no more outdoor art in Portland for granted. 


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