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We. Construct. Marvels. Between. Monuments.

Nov 17, 2017 - Jan 27, 2019
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR
General Accessibility


The Portland Art Museum welcomes a dynamic, artist-led experiment that will transform the fourth floor of the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art through December 2018. We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments. is a series of five exhibitions developed in partnership with artists and art collectives that will activate the gallery with visual art,  performance, screenings, and discussions. Organized by visiting artistic director Libby Werbel, the programming invites a range of emerging and established voices to ask questions about how the Museum can become more artist-centered and inclusive in its practices and become more critically engaged with a broader array of emerging and established artists in the region. 

Watercolor purple and blue brushstroke with the words "We Construct Marvels." at the top and "Between Monuments" at the bottom

We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments. is a unique collaboration between the Museum’s curatorial and education departments with support provided by Sara Krajewski, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Northwest Art, and Stephanie Parrish, Associate Director of Education.

The programming intends to build a bridge between Portland’s independent artist-run spaces, activists, and the city’s established institution. Through this year-long program, Werbel encourages audiences to reflect on how museums historically have granted access to art and knowledge, and what the future of this institution could look like. She imagines the string of exhibitions as a sort of ‘museum alchemy.’ Each artist or collective is tasked with contributing their own ingredients to the pot, acting as a catalyst for engaging new perspectives. Artists Chris Johanson and Johanna Jackson have created an exhibition design to serve as both a physical and conceptual framework for the ongoing exhibitions and events. They will make over the white-walled gallery environment to more comfortably house the various projects by introducing sculptural furniture, a reading/seminar space, live plants, a stage, and a wayfinding mural through the Center for Modern and Contemporary Art.


November 17, 2017 – February 18, 2018
Ricky Bearghost, Kurt Fisk, Perry Johnson, Elmeator Morton, Lawrence Oliver, and Dawn Westover

The first project we. highlights works by six artists from Public Annex, Outpost 1000, OSLP, and Albertina Kerr, regional programs supporting artists with disabilities. This exhibition creates space for dialogue around how art world institutions can more thoughtfully integrate the work and the perspectives of artists of all abilities. Co-organized by Werbel and Public Annex with curatorial assistance from Sonya Hamilton, WE. has opened the process directly to the artists represented, providing opportunities for agency, self-determination, and reflection. Public Annex believes the arts provide a unique access point for those with and without disability to collaborate, create, and propose different ways of doing things, steps they consider necessary towards achieving a truly integrated society.

Public Annex will also lead a monthly Contemporary Trends class, free and open to the public, that will meet at Portland Art Museum each free first Thursday at 5 p.m. They will explore a different section of the Museum each time, creating a space for discovery and discussion amongst people who identify with and without disability.

Abstract yellow painting of a face with an open mouth and bright yellow brushstrokes around the face
Elmeater Morton, That’s My Brother, He is Junior and His Mother’s Blind and They Came Down Here, 2016, acrylic on canvas board
Painting of six Black men, in two rows of three with the names (from top left to bottom right): David, Michael, Jackie, Jerry, Perry, Terry. Across the middle are the words "Six Johnson Brothers" and at the bottom right is the word "handicap".
Perry Johnson, 2015, Six Johnson Brothers, acrylic, sharpie, on board.


March 2 – April 5, 2018
keyon gaskin and sidony o’neal

Co-curated by artists keyon gaskin and sidony o’neal, construct. challenges the museum’s core identity. Construction of new institutional practices is preceded by de-construction. De-construction invites other modes of entry – getting inside, going off, investigating, and allowing other values to emerge. o’neal and gaskin recognize the generative potential of conflict that arises when we engage historically oppressive, exclusionary, and revisionist institutional environments. This exhibition thus locates institutional critique in the persistence of opacity and black interiority. Commercial salon art and auntie aesthetics, alternative use of space, performance, and moments for dialogue become the substrate of an other space that holds detritus alongside desire – a critical site of generativity in a decaying world.

Tracy Andrews / Jay Bakari / Dana Baker / Justin Bua / April Harrison / Sarah Jenkins / Annie Lee / Johnny Meyers / Frank Morrison / Lonnie Ollivierre / Adee Roberson / Katherine Roundtree / Monica Stewart / WAK / Ellis Wilson / Wizard Apprentice


May 11 – July 8, 2018
NotMoMA by Stephanie Syjuco and Portland area youth artists

Marvels.presents Stephanie Syjuco’s notMoMA, a work of social practice art engaging local high school students. With this work, conceptual artist Syjuco investigates how museum collections are accessed and how museums shape notions of value and originality. NotMoMAasks students to remake artworks from the Museum of Modern Art (New York) collection by studying them on MoMA’s website. Their task is to reproduce the work to the best of their ability with the resources available to them. With notMoMA, Syjuco questions: What happens when young art students are tasked with refabricating famous artworks—works they have never seen in person? Do the aura of famous artworks still exist when remade by others?

Photo of a hand drawing on lined paper next to an IPhone with an image  of a woman on it

To begin the project, guest artistic director Libby Werbel asked curators from three independent art spaces in Portland—Melanie Flood Projects, Una Gallery, and c3:initiative—to select works using MoMA’s website that they would like to see on view at the Portland Art Museum. From this selection students from Jefferson High School, Gresham High School, and Reynolds High School chose pieces to study and recreate.

A square tin with tray full of blue paint in it. A paint knife sits in the paint.


July 20 – October 14, 2018

BETWEEN. highlights artists working within the queer and trans diaspora, and the unique voices coming from between or beyond the binary. This exhibition aims to queer the curatorial process, taking into account current visibility politics and presenting the work of LGBTQIA2S+ artists in ways that challenge normative art world conventions. Chris E. Vargas and The Museum of Trans Hirstory & Art (MOTHA) presents the fourth installment of his ongoing project Transhirstory in 99 Objects: Transvideo Store, a selection of contemporary short art films made by trans (or trans-adjacent) artists to examine a variety of ways trans stories and experiences have been represented on screen, both from outside and within their community. Accompanying these media works will be a visual art exhibition of work by artists selected through a dialogue-based research and sourcing process that touched a wide network of queer artists and writers with the intention to broaden curatorial authorship and directly serve the community whose historically significant cultural contributions have driven the arts and shaped contemporary thought. The exhibiting artists explore narratives of identity ranging from personal observation and portraiture to performative spaces of transformation and fantasy.  BETWEEN. aims to foreground narratives that exist within, around, under and/or in opposition to the patriarchal hierarchy present in art institutions.

Featuring artwork from Vaginal Davis, MOTHA, Zanele Muholi, Christina Quarles, Jordan Reznick, Jacolby Satterwhite,  and Vivek Shraya

Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects: Transvideo Store featuring films by:

Malic Amalya, eduardo restrepo castaño, Erica Cho, Cary Cronenwett, Zackary Drucker & Rhys Ernst, Xena Ellison, Reina Gossett, Josef Kraska, Sierra Tucker

The Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA) and the ongoing exhibition “Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects” was founded as is a conceptual art project by artist Chris E. Vargas who performs as its Executive Director. The mission of MOTHA is to ask audiences to think critically about what a visual history of transgender life could and should look like, and if it’s even possible to compile a comprehensive history of an identity category for which the language is fairly new, sometimes contested, and still rapidly evolving. MOTHA’s physical status is “forever under construction” which allows the project to take multiple forms such as poster graphics, performances, and a virtual artist residency program. The ongoing exhibition series “Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects” is a critical engagement with queer and transgender archives and a creative reimagining of aspects of our histories that have been under-historicized or are unknowable. The number 99 refers to the difficulty of narrating a history of this marginalized identity and pays pointed homage to two of the project’s influences: the British Museum’s book History of the World in 100 Objects and the Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects. Each iteration of “Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects” builds toward the accumulation of 99 objects and attempt to tell an unstable and expansive history of trans culture in the U.S. and North America.


October 26, 2018 – January 27, 2019
The Earth Expedition of Sun Ra

Film Screenings:
November 16, 7:30 p.m. Space is the Place
December 6, 8 p.m. Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise

January 2, 2019, 8 – 10 p.m. The Sun Ra Arkestra

Closing Celebration
January 25, 2019, 5:45 – 8 p.m.

Monuments trailer

In the final project of the year-long series We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments., artistic director Libby Werbel partners with Deep Underground (Bethlehem Daniel, Madenna Ibrahim, Mia O’Connor-Smith, and Janessa Narciso) to present MONUMENTS. The Earth Expedition of Sun Ra ―a multimedia presentation of film, music, and art by Afrofuturist artist, musician, and philosopher Sun Ra (active on earth 1934 – 1993). As the critical conversation develops around the removal of public monuments across the American landscape, we ask ourselves: what are the new monuments we wish to build? Who are the artists, thinkers, and heroes we wish to exalt and preserve for future generations? MONUMENTS. upholds Sun Ra as one of these visionary figures.

Film still of Sun Ra movie. A Black man in a golden and purple Egyptian, space age robes and headpiece, talking to a figure in a black cloak with a shiny reflective disk instead of a face

Sun Ra was a jazz composer, musician, bandleader, teacher, and poet who became known for his theatrical performances and personal mythology: his name references the Egyptian sun god, Ra, and his origin story proclaimed that he had come to Earth from Saturn. Sun Ra has been considered the pioneer of Afrofuturism, a school of thinking that utilizes science fiction, music, art, and political theory to propose a thriving destiny for black people. From the mid-1950s on, he led a musical ensemble best known as The Arkestra. They were infamous for their avant garde jazz compositions, dances, and clothing inspired by ancient Egypt and the space age. Sun Ra and The Arkestra collectively lived their lives dedicated to preaching peace and promoting enlightenment through their music, art, and film.

The exhibition and accompanying performances highlight Sun Ra’s idea of an “altered destiny,” a utopian belief that a more meaningful and just world awaits humanity in Outer Space. To Sun Ra, Outer Space was not an escapist fantasyit was a place where society, culture, and beliefs are reimagined to give power to the oppressed. Sun Ra’s message still resonates with many people, including Portland’s Deep Underground community, who have embraced his philosophy and see his art as a hopeful vision that offers significant pathways for black and brown identity.

Sun Ra and his collaborators left a comprehensive archive including 130 albums, countless books and broadsheets of poetry, posters, paintings, photographs, and performance attire. The exhibition includes artifacts on loan from the University of Chicago’s Alton Abraham Collection of Sun Ra Archive, with supplemental support from private collectors and music enthusiasts. Regional artists, fabricators, and designers have contributed to the exhibition design to help bring Sun Ra’s world to life for PAM visitors.

Organized by a cosmic kin of four women, Deep Underground (DUG) was originally founded in 2015 as an open mic project dedicated to instilling a sense of safety and freedom within Portland’s underrecognized black and brown community. Their work began in a 100-year old NE Portland home, creating intentional space to empower unsung people. Their open-mic sessions often end with discourse or reflection on themes of the times such as: Revolution, Vices, Love, Addiction, Human/Civil Rights, and Death. By creating a space to talk about revolution, these women have started their own. Since their genesis, DUG has gone on to throw large-scale events, in-depth youth programming, film screenings, concerts, and multimedia performances. The collective recently addressed city hall with the hopes of providing insight into the needs of black and brown artist communities. Their foundation is rooted in much of the same work Sun Ra was doing over 50 years ago; it is in that spirit they have been invited to lend their perspective and curatorial vision to the exhibition representing  this afro-cosmic hero.

Guest artistic director and exhibition co-curator Libby Werbel points to the current debate regarding the removal of dated monuments as a motivation for this show.  “Historian Carl Becker once stated: ‘History is what the present chooses to remember about the past.’ It might also be noted that history is recorded and preserved differently depending on the recorder or preserver, based on their value systems, power structures, and instinct to imprint their likeness into the role of the hero. In the case of confederate statues, it is understood widely now that they were all erected (as late as the 1950s) as tools against equalization or integration for people of color. As we reflect on what it means to take these monuments down, and own our own historical legacy in regards to systemic oppression- it might also be wise to broaden our gaze. What are other ‘monuments’ that exist as tools of oppression- those which continue to do the work of the men who built them in their own image?  What other statues, institutions, systems, or laws need to be re-evaluated under this lense? If we could start erecting new monuments, who would they be too, and who would they be for? How can we create new markers of historical value- new systems that are meant to record and preserve a myriad of narratives? This exhibition is a retrospective of the artist, musician, and radical thinker Sun Ra who worked his whole life to create opportunity and broaden the minds of the people he affected. His contributions to black identity and destiny are in themselves, monumental.”

We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments. is organized by visiting artistic director Libby Werbel in collaboration with the Museum’s curatorial and education departments. Funding is provided in part by the Miller Meigs Endowment for Contemporary Art, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Endowments for Northwest Art, and the Artist & Participatory Programs Fund of the Education Department. Public programs presented in partnership with c3:initiative. MONUMENTS. was made possible through additional support and sponsorship from Portland Garment Factory, Nike’s Blue Ribbon Studio, Form.xyz Foundry, and KMHD Jazz Radio. With generous consultation from Eric Isaacson at Mississippi Records.


Public programs for We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments. presented in partnership with c3:initiative.

We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments is funded in part by the Miller Meigs Endowment for Contemporary Art and the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Endowments for Northwest Art.