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Another Portland Blog

Thursday, March 10, 2005

 

The only museum in the state where you can kick the art

While I was an undergrad, the University of Oregon Museum of Art was a lonely, moss-covered building that no one ever went into. I ventured in once and discovered two floors of dusty art and faded carpets. If memory serves, I was one of about three people in there at the time.

What a difference a $14.2 million dollar renovation makes. The newly dubbed Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art reopened its doors on January 23rd. The university's murky collection now takes a back seat to interactive galleries, a coffee bar, a new modern art wing and a traveling Andy Warhol exhibit.

When I visited a few weeks ago the museum was actually crowded. The foyer alone had more visitors than the old museum typically saw in a month. Instead of hitting the galleries, Shanna and I immediately headed towards the Interactive Discovery Gallery, an OMSI-like room filled with exhibits catering to tykes. We immediately lost interest in the "Build Your Own Sculpture" section when we got a look at the "Silver Cloud" room (see March's photo of the month, above).

This is probably the only work of Warhol's accessible to the preschool crowd. Kids aren't big on screenprints of Chairman Mao. We spent a ridiculous amount of time in there kung-fu kicking the "clouds." If only more art allowed the viewer to give into their destructive impulses.




After passing through a wing filled with photos and the museum's European and Asian collection, we headed into the modern art wing. The blank canvas concept has been parodied in numerous comic strips and even a credit card commercial so I was surprised to see one in a gallery. Apparently, some conceptual artist out there finally made a go at it. There's no telling how much he/she sold this thing for. Art imitates Visa?

A small crowd was watching a video piece of a man standing in front of murky pond. I found myself entranced as we all stood there for what must have been five minutes. Finally, he swung his arms back and leapt but froze in mid air. Meanwhile, the water below him continued to swirl. After another minute I lost interest, crossed the room and took a look at this:




Why is this spike-covered heart on a leash? Maybe it was probably misbehaving. It must have peed on the wrong person, place and/or thing.




Finally, we wandered over to the Warhol exhibit. Some of the artist's more popular work was on display- Maos, Marilyn Monroes and Campbell's Soup. There were also iconic images of Muhammad Ali, Mick Jagger and the Kennedy assassination. I know absolutely nothing about art but still find myself compelled to give a review of the exhibit.

It rocked.




It's great to see the old place renovated into something relevant and functional. With any luck, the university will turn the attention of private donors towards the Collier House, a once great spot on campus that's been sitting mostly vacant for years now.

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