'Don't Make Friends,' a series of framed tinfoil masks by Arnold J. Kemp

Oregon's contemporary art scene

Oregon artists define the contemporary arts landscape in a new exhibit, "Portland2012: A Biennial of Contemporary Art," showing Friday, Sept. 28, through Dec. 8 at Schneider Museum of Art on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

The exhibit, which premiered last spring in Portland, was curated by Prudence F. Roberts, conceived and produced by Disjecta Contemporary Art Center in Portland and funded by the Ford Family Foundation.

Roberts reviewed nearly 300 applications and visited about 50 studios before selecting 24 artists, predominantly from Portland, to show in the exhibit. The Schneider will display works by 18 of these artists on a rotating basis.

"She (Roberts) wanted to present a plurality of styles, ideas, media and questions," says Erika Leppmann, the museum's interim director.

The exhibit includes crafts, installations, photography, paintings and films, to name a few.

"It's an invigorating exhibition of contemporary-art practice in the Northwest," Leppmann says.

One exhibit, "QRSEMAPHORE" by Susan Seubert, is a series of Quick Response codes that, when scanned with a smartphone or tablet, will take the viewer to a video. The videos are of a woman communicating through semaphore, a method of conveying information with flag signals. The exhibit makes a statement about modern communication, consumption and the resulting environmental impact, Leppmann explains.

"Don't Make Friends," an abstract exhibit by Arnold J. Kemp, is based on the artist's ongoing investigation of race and identity. Kemp created masks of crumpled foil, which he displays in handmade, gray frames.

The frames "are a subtle rumination on the notion of quantifying and calibrating race through degrees of blackness," Roberts writes in her notes about the show.

Meanwhile, the masks have a "haunting presence" and "contain a sense of anguish," she says.

Ben Rosenberg, whose family is from Southern Oregon, will show "This Must Be the Place," a crude model of his neighborhood made out of studio scraps such as foam core and cardboard.

"He traces the lives of neighbors as he imagined them from the evidence of their dwelling," Roberts' notes read.

Other participating artists are Akihiko Miyoshi, Anna Gray, Ryan Wilson Paulsen, Ariana Jacob, Ben Buswell, Chris Knight, Cynthia Lahti, Daniel Duford, Dustin Zemel, Erik Geschke, Mack McFarland, Marie Sivak, Matt McCormick, Sang-Ah Choi and Vanessa Calvert.

Three of these artists — Calvert, Duford and Choi — will be artists-in-residence this winter and spring at SOU, made possible by the Ford Family Foundation.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free, but there is a suggested donation of $5.

Call 541-552-6245 or see www.sou.edu/sma.

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