PCS Blog

Armory Gallery Exhibit: Julie Alpert’s “Stacked and Piled”

Posted by Megan Harned | 04 February 2014

Julie Alpert, Mini Pile #3, 2013. Watercolor, ink, permanent marker, and colored pencil on paper.


This month last year my friend and I were planning a weekend trip to Portland. After spending the last few days of February mixing business and pleasure it was decided; I was moving. Across the country in New York City I had been working at The Metropolitan Opera, so I started my job hunt by researching the performing arts scene in my home-to-be. The results were pleasantly surprising. I was moving to a city with a plethora of established and up-and-coming, traditional and experimental companies and venues. From that diversity PCS’s mission stood out, “Portland Center Stage inspires our community by bringing stories to life in unexpected ways" and kept my attention. I applied for three separate positions before arriving in August as a Sales Associate in the Patron Services Department.

When I started taking our patron’s calls, selling tickets, making exchanges, and answering questions, I only hoped that I might have the opportunity to bring my background in visual art history to bear in support of our mission and our community, so I cannot emphasize enough what a privilege and a pleasure it is for me to introduce our exhibition of Julie Alpert’s recent work, titled Stacked and Piled.

 Currently on display in our lower lobby gallery, Alpert’s layered compositions of muted leafy peaks and colorfully patterned rock-like forms reveal how topiaries, textiles, and architecture influenced this body of work. Her statement calls attention to the works as explorations of the “relationships between forms and the edge of the page.” It is not clear while standing before the works if we are looking through a picture plane at a landscape, or looking down from above at a yard. The breakdown of an easily understood perspective becomes disorienting, which increases the sense that our perception itself is illusionary. 

This contingency of meaning, and therefore of understanding, compliments Chinglish’s theatrical exploration of cross-cultural miscommunication on the main stage. Alpert’s description that “the page becomes a kind of container for the arrangement inside it the same way a yard contains a home, its decorations, and its landscaping” provides a jumping off point to understand theater as the deliberate coordination of otherwise distinct cultural practices towards a larger creative goal. A theater serves as a container for the arrangement of the stage, the costumes, and the set, all with culturally specific signifiers, which come together to create a mutually intelligible performance, ideally. The degree to which a performance “fails” or “succeeds” to convey its meaning to its audiences is resonant with the degree of separation or familiarity the viewers have with the many languages at work.

Our discussion of the construction of meaning in theater brings us back around to Julie Alpert’s practice. While we have the pleasure of engaging with her flat work, Alpert’s artistic focus is installation. She brings the viewer’s attention to the often unused and unseen parts of a room by activating corners, walls, and floors through a variety of media including paint, paper, and objects. Alpert strives to inspire the audience “to reconsider their experience with architectural space and interior decorations.” Thus installation as practice provokes us to reconsider how we relate to artistically produced sites. Similarly theater in general, and Chinglish in particular, asks us to consider our relationships to each other as historically and culturally bound.

Later this month I have the pleasure of introducing, and I hope you will have the pleasure of reading about, our upcoming exhibitions for February and March.  Patrick Kelly’s mirari is on display in the studio lobby gallery from February 1 to March 15, and Victoria Reynold’s Interior Satellites will be on display in the lower lobby gallery from February 22 to March 22. The artists will be present at the receptions on February 6 and February 22, respectively. Until then if you haven’t yet seen Chinglish I hope you’ll try and make a performance before the run closes on February 9th. 

Regardless, please stop by the Gerding Theater for First Thursday on February 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. You'll have the chance to view Alpert's Stacked and Piled in the lower lobby gallery and attend the reception for Patrick Kelly's mirari in the studio gallery.

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