RUDE BROOD 2012 Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibition at the White Box | Portland


I believe in science the same way most Christians believe in God:  with faith, rather than understanding.  I trust logic and order that science offers as explanation for my reality without real comprehension.  Humanity inherently sees scientific and technological innovation as both threatening and liberating.  Will it turn on us one day?  Will it eventually offer us paradise?

Olivia Storm, BFA 2012, member of the Rude Brood, Portland, Oregon

In their inaugural video to announce the opening of their June 2012 White Box exhibit, The Rude Brood showed us an anonymous hand crudely slapping coffee grounds into an auto-coffee maker:  “Thwap!”  Steam wafts off the appliance, the mystery hand pushes the start button, and black fluid flows into the carafe.  We see a counter top littered with java grounds, and a lone coffee mug.   The hand reappears to pour hot coffee into the white mug.  The mug is turned to reveal a horned skull.  As if this image is not quizical enough, the skull seems to be frozen, mouth open in jest or gesture.  This is the Rude Brood’s coat-of-arms:  the skull human remains are decoratively surrounded by acanthus, a crown tops the shield-like image, and a fist holds tightly to two decidely non-digital tools, paintbrush and x-acto knife.   The words “Rare Breed” grace the emblem in a ribbon-swirl. Undoubtedly, the students of the Rude Brood knew their audience would be captivated by this crest, and, indeed as you stare, the skull sticks out its tongue and blows.  The caption bluntly reads, “Brewed Rude.”

And, so is your first experience with the Rude Brood, the 12 digital arts students who completed their Bachelor of Fine Arts in the Portland Digital Arts Program at the White Stag, spring 2012.  For spring term 2012, the Rude Brood percolated under the guidance of Colin Ives, UO Professor of Digital Art.  Previously, the group had been instructed by Craig Hickman (fall term, 2011) and John Park (winter 2012).   Coming together in Portland for the final three terms that would culminate in receiving their Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, the Rude Brood’s ideas bubbled and brewed finding increased expression and clarity with each review and project.  You may preview images of the final review on the University of Oregon:  School of Architecture and Allied Arts Facebook page.

In her artist statement (reproduced in part in the quote above), Olivia Storm offers a glimpse into the curious, skeptical, and questioning nature of the Brood.  Proudly owning up to their penchant to be disruptive, the Rude Brood was particularly bent on exposing and investigating the world they were about to wholeheartedly, and post-graduation, venture into. The Rude Brood designated the maxim of Choose Your Weapon to represent their oeurve.   Their “weapons” perhaps sybolically represented in their Rude Brood crest (a paint brush and an x-acto knife)—came across as the weapons of their process:  not necessarily violent but containing the potential to be disturbing; not specifically aggressive but capable of creating works ranging from frightening to uncomfortable.  The Brood shows a vulnerability, an aggression and a demand to be heard, here and now, balanced with the pride and confidence of well-educated youth. Their work brazenly explores themes of suffering, nostalgia, commitment, and the human capability for communication.  With that intention, the students presented a wide range of work varing from explorations of the horror film genre to a complete on-film exploration of self-help advice and “how to be successful.”  And that’s just the beginning.

Just look at Michael Cooper’s contraption.   Almost hinting at an “Eckardesque” appreciation and fabricated out of black leather, reflecting mirrors, and cold welded metal, a cell phone sits in the middle filming what is going on in front while the mirrors depict what transpires behind.  One reviewer during the final review session, was overheard commenting that this object suggests an interesting “fetish-like” quality.  The harness of this piece fits onto one’s shoulders and subjects the wearer to confront all angles of visual sensory perception.  Cooper projects an experimental aesthetic with a nod to Da Vinci-like body accoutrements and an embrace of modern technology.  Is this to evoke an idea of suffocating cerebral overload or a comment on our brave new world of constant smartphoning, where being “out of touch” simply has ceased to exist?

Rude Brooder, Grahame Bywater audiciously proposes an almost mocking sneer at expected social etiquette, privacy and confidentially.  He audio broadcasts his personal secrets from inside the cavern of a whiskey barrel for all to hear (if you are so inclined to want to lean in and publicly show your interest).  Should we be embarrassed to be curious?  Why do we want to hear his intimate musings?  Or is this one more step in the curating of our selves to others?  Bywater doesn’t seem to care—he puts it out there, but sinks his secrets well within the barrel.  His audience has to show their interest thus exhibiting care, empathy, compassion, and, for a few moments, granting him our full attention.

So eager and experimental was another, Tyler Centanni migrated off to uncover a “real world ” experience devoting himself to three months of door-to-door sales in a corner of suburbia.  He opted for a shirt and tie, hair slicked back, attempted a “dressed-up” assemblage.  His experiment culminated in marriage to his girlfriend during the final review officiated by another Rude Brood student.   Reviewers and bystanders were left to question the seriousness of this ultimate evocative gesture and wonder if he thumbed his nose at button-downed tradition or truly was about to enter the world of marital bliss.  Can a legal union be so spontaneous at the risk of seeming callous?  Was it up to us to question their understanding of the sanctity of marriage, or the seriousness of being connected to another person? This was Centanni’s version of success, but one he read in a book and so seems doomed to failure.  Perhaps it was all a comment on our own personal paths to happiness and achievement.

That’s just a peek at the savior-faire of this unique group.   The work will make you think and wonder at your own ability to communicate, to feel compassion, and to recognize your propensity to pay attention.  Overall, it will compel you to question how you interact with others and if you are paying enough attention.   The Rude Brood provides a journey for you to wander through their experiments of human social, visual, and auditory interactions.  How much you glean from this is left completely up to you: how much of your personal ethos and circumstance are reflected back in Cooper’s mirrors, is your business.  The Rude Brood has done an exceptional job drawing the viewer into their frame of reference, into their cultural tapestries, and into exposing their fears, apprehensions, and insecurities.

Make sure you step close, but not that close to Christine Thomas’ wall;  please pause to see Leah Chan’s cultural exploration and see a struggle to work through tradition and mesh with modernity;  stop in front of Amanda Riebe’s probing questioning of image and internet; and the mixology of electrode brain science put forth by Keith Stedman.

But that’s not all, Olivia Storm will show you form inspired by cinema and you will wonder at function, man, nature or robot-inspired;  Keith Chaloux will astound you with his new take on old art history and let you tread on his creation as it winds through the White Box; Brett Ciccarello’s short film of science fiction and robotic creatures will charm and amuse and you will feel empathy for a completely digital, non-living thing;  McKenzie Sampson will confront you with a floor to ceiling mural-like depiction of androgynous characters, with significantly noticeable time-telling pieces.

Trevin Swick will rock your world using three large balloons and plenty of conceptual issues;  and Katya Vitovskaya will, let’s just say it, shock and horrify but soften it all with lovely water colors.  Her world of movie violence and grievious injury absorbing into the paper but shown to us on video as if to say, here there is no wiping up the gore.  We can’t even touch it.

If you are in Portland, take a moment to walk around the exhibit at the White Box and see the Rude Brood’s work.  The exhibit is up until July 21, 2012.  You will experience a fascinating glimpse into both the Rude Brood’s self-conscious personalities and their natural, impulsive inclinations.  This exhibit is a bit rude in places, outspoken, questioning, arrogant, and more than a trifle rebellious in justifiable ways that seek to draw the Rude Brood audience to new conclusions and socially relevant realizations within a contemporary culture that has come to rely on digital methods.  These emotions and inclinations seethe and brew in the Rude Brood and fuel their creative process.

We wish them well. . . .let’s hope they continue to question and experiment with the incredible talent they possesses.  If you want to walk down memory lane with The Rude Brood, we have blogged about them before.  Look at their work from winter 2012. And see a gallery of images from their work with Craig Hickman.

Follow along with students learning about bicycle transportation in Denmark and the Netherlands

Spring term has just ended and most students are enjoying their summer breaks, but 14 students are already back in the classroom. We shouldn’t feel too bad for them because their classroom is in Copenhagen, Denmark, as a part of their three-week Sustainable Bicycle Transportation course in Denmark and the Netherlands.

Students in Copenhagen. Photo by Marc Schlossberg

The students are led by UO Associate Professor Marc Schlossberg. He has planned a three-week itinerary that begins in Copenhagen and continues to Utrecht, Netherlands, and then moves to Amsterdam. In each of the cities, students will do coursework, experience the urban environment on bike, meet with local leaders, and keep a diary of their experiences.

" We started off the day with our first formal lecture, but held the lecture in the kitchen of a local family!" Photo by Marc Schlossberg

While the diary of their experiences is written for themselves and their instructor only, all students and Schlossberg are writing more publicly about their experiences in individual blogs. They arrived less than a week ago, but most students have posted their first reactions to bike culture in Copenhagen and posted pictures that illustrate their experiences. For all of the students’ blogs, check out the class blog directory.

Here are a few highlights from the blogs so far:

Photo by Molly Bacon

Molly Bacon posted a detailed account of the first three days in Copenhagen.

“I conclude from my time cycling in Copenhagen that bicycling is natural. Everyone here is just doing it. It has rained every day I’ve been here and I’ve been told this is normal. They don’t even really bother to cover their bicycle seats when it’s parked in the rain, like many people in Eugene do. It’s just so common that bicycling is a way of living. The hipsters ride fixed gears just like in the USA. People bike in the rain or sun, either way they will still bike because it’s just more convenient.”

Photo by Emma Newman

Emma Newman chronicled the scavenger hunt by bike the students embarked on in their second day in Copenhagen.

“It was really great to talk with locals and compare the bicycle infrastructure here to some of the infrastructure that we have back home. There are so many simple changes that could be made throughout our cities in the U.S. that would make bicycling more feasible and safer.”

Photo by Kory Northrup

Kory Northrop documented specific infrastructure improvements that make cycling in Copenhagen easier and safer than cycling in the United States.

“Stop lines for cyclists are often placed a few meters in front of the stop lines for automobiles to increase visibility and safety. “Right hooks” are still an issue in Copenhagen, but this simple treatment has made a difference. Retrofitting lorries with additional mirrors is another simple technique to decrease the likelihood of collisions.”

Photo by Marc Schlossberg

Marc Schlossberg posted a round up of some of the first experiences on the trip so far.

“It is quite satisfying to be on a bike and be part of the dominant mode where all vehicles yield always (and where cyclists all yield to pedestrians always).”

The students will continue to update their blogs as they move to the Netherlands, so keep following along. The blogs demonstrate what the students learn from the experience, but also take everyone else along and teach us about what is needed to build a successful bicycle network and culture.

Thomas "Gunny" Harboe Keynote Speaker at 2012 McMath Symposium

The Rookery | Image Harboe Architects, PC

Chicago architect and award-winning preservationist, Thomas “Gunny” Harboe, FAIA , was the inaugural keynote speaker for the George McMath Symposium on May 30, 2012 at the University of Oregon in Portland at the White Stag Block.  The lecture was held in conjunction with the presentation of the George McMath Historic Preservation Award.  This year’s 2012 award was presented to Portland architect, Hal Ayotte.

Harboe works with the firm of Harboe Architects in Chicago.  Harboe’s lecture, “Restoring Chicago’s Icons:  A Public/Private Partnership,” focused on describing Harboe’s fascination with the past, respect and passion for historic objects, and his work with some of Chicago’s most historically and architecturally relevant restoration projects. For over 20 years Harboe has played key roles in working to restore iconic structures of the Chicago cityscape, including the Rookery, the Mies van der Rohe apartments on Lake Shore Drive, and the Reliance and Marquette buildings.  “Preserving our collective cultural heritage is important to society,” commented Harboe, “we need to give it a life that will extend it beyond us.”

With a lifelong interest in conservation and preservation, Harboe credits his childhood experience of living in a New Jersey Revolutionary War-era home as fostering an early affection for history and objects.  It was in this historically relevant family residence that the young Harboe discovered an interest in found objects and gained an appreciation for antiques.  Harboe soon turned to an education steeped in historical study, spending a year in Denmark at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen; and later earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Brown University and a master’s degree in historic preservation from Columbia.  His hands-on and practical skills were cultivated further with his work as a carpenter eventually leading to a job on the team that would restore the Frank Lloyd Wright Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Harboe has credited that MoMa experience as being “where the epiphany happened.  I realized that the key decisions about what got done had already been made by somebody else: the architect.”  Hence, he turned his focus to pursue a master’s in architecture from MIT.

The Rookery | Image

Harboe, equipped with load-bearing quantities of academic, visionary and practical experience was soon working with the Preservation Group at McClier, the architects who would be commissioned by the Baldwin Development Company to restore The Rookery.  Considered the jewel in the crown of Chicago’s  architectural and commercial built environment, The Rookery is a 1888 Burnham & Root building that included a lobby by FLW.   As luck would have it, Harboe was the intern-architect-in-training at the firm, and he amusingly recalls “I was the guy who knew something about preservation.”  The rest, as they say, is history.  And so, began Harboe’s presentation to the UO audience.

Harboe initially presented his work with the Rookery, completed in 1992.  Revealing intriguing details such as how each window had to be removed, all original sashes put back in place, and having to cope with  4000 corners of fenestration where water had ample opportunity to leak in (and it had), Harboe walked us through the trials and tribulations of  careful, accurate and painstakingly detailed historic restoration and preservation.    Removing approximately 20 layers of black paint from the oriel staircase (removed and cleaned by crushed walnut shells under pressure), and having to rely on a creative interpretation of replicating single piece teardrop elements as two pieces glued together, the architect-preservationist confided aspects of the process to reconstruct the original LaSalle Street and Adams Street lobbies to the original [circa 1910] appearance.  Harboe spoke of the importance of finding sources to help recreate or restore elements to an historically appropriate form.  This might include the use of historic photographs, finding a small but original fragment of wall or flooring, or simply cleaning a surface down to a semblance of its historic original.  Graciously offering credit to the workers and craftspeople who joined him on the project, Harboe firmly advocated for the importance of hiring “the right people for the job,” saying “craftsman make a difference.”

The Reliance Building | Image Harboe Architects, PC

Harboe’s preservation, restoration and rehabilitation of  The Rookery was praised by both the architectural and historical preservation professional fields as well as the city of Chicago.  Having completed this very successful project, Harboe moved on to his involvement with the Reliance Building, also by Burnham and Company  (1891) and completed by Charles Atwood (DH Burnham and Company, 1896).  The Reliance Building is one of the most important early skyscrapers in America.  At this point, Harboe paused to address the importance of the Federal Tax Credit to his historic preservation work.  Harboe explained the effectiveness of the Federal Historic Preservation Tax incentive program as contributing to positive and cost effective public/private revitalization programs and, hence, directly influencing his projects.

The Reliance Building (renamed and converted to the Hotel Burnham in 1999) has been termed “proto-modern” by architectural historians. Its expansive and elegant fenestration and strip-like sections of white glazed terra cotta are distinctive and highly relevant to its design. Like all of Harboe’s projects he addressed during his lecture, the building is listed both as a National Historic Landmark and a City of Chicago Landmark.  Harboe noted the remarkable steel curtain wall that is made up of an internal steel two story-high column and provides all structural support for the building.  He also spoke of the importance of being creative and flexible when needing to find substitute materials. For instance, the windows in this building were beyond repair, they were replaced.  The original cornice that had been removed in 1948 was reconstructed in cast aluminum.  Even with these alterations, Harboe stayed persistently true to the original patterns. Harboe further emphasized his use of historic photographs, drawings and remaining fragments in the detective-like job to authentically replicate a structure.  Harboe also brought up another important issue in his historic preservation projects, that of the importance of place and infusing a place with renewed vitality.  The primary focus of this historic preservation project, he commented was to “give life to [the street] and that [was] the intention of the project, to revitalize.”

Sullivan Center | Image Harboe Architects, PC

Harboe’s work on the Sullivan Center (built 1898-1904) involved all exterior restoration, Federal Tax Credit Program consulting, and City of Chicago façade examinations.  A building best known for the elaborate cast iron storefronts and a curved rotunda, the project truly relied on the Tax Credit incentive; Harboe briefly discussed how his focus had to fixedly remain “not doing anything that would jeopardize the Tax Credit.”  In order to create the necessary elements for this building, Harboe turned to a sculptor to recreate the details characteristic of the original designer, Louis Sullivan.  Working with a craftsperson familiar with the techniques available to create ornamental work was of great importance.   With exceptional workers, Harboe maintained his team was able to place remarkable attention to exact detail and towards the investigation of existing parts to restore this building.  Speaking of the reconstruction of the ribbon windows, the matching of the colors for the glass elements, and the color matching for the terra cotta (working from found fragments buried deep within the walls), Harboe stressed the challenging aspects of his work.  Turning to an amusing anecdote of good fortune on-site, Harboe recounted the team finding a large fragment of paint that had been trapped under a canopy.  The fragment would consequently be used to attain a correct color match and be the most formative piece leading to an accurate hue.  Using and having a knowledge of forensic investigative-like techniques is very helpful in the restoration field, commented Harboe, noting that he relies on such investigative strategies for each project.

Much of the cast iron work for the Sullivan Center was done off-site. Harboe recalled how this turned the project into a gargantuan job with disassembly of parts that “in many cases were held in place by the friction of the corrosion.”    Harboe added that this campaign of difficult structural situations made each stage arduous especially with the added logistical difficulty of having to remove each piece to an off-site location.

Chicago Board of Trade | Image Harboe Architects PC

Harboe’s work on the Chicago Board of Trade Building (1929, Holabird and Root), one of the finest Art Deco style buildings in Chicago, began in 2004 with renovation efforts to restore the Art Deco aesthetic of the lobbies, improve elevator operations for 24 elevators, and modernize building systems.  The building was of particular importance to Chicago as it is viewed as a symbol of the city.  Harboe began this project by cleaning the exterior limestone surface of the structure simply with water.  He advocated for using “environmentally friendly substances whenever possible.”  Important features of this project included the interior lobbies with six varieties of marble, nickel silver metal trim and ornamental plaster as well as a luminous ceiling featuring a panel of light.  All of the lobbies were illuminated by stylized fixtures using nickel silver frames and glass, the challenge here was to recreate missing fixtures, and nickel silver features.  On this project, Harboe related finding some original treated elements that became key pieces to the restoration.  Harboe’s keen attention to detail and his willingness to really look, explore, observe and delve into the hidden pockets of a structure and find minute details of ornamentation, color, and materials has lead to many of his discoveries that end up being the pieces that put the puzzle of historic restoration together.  The necessity of being able to look and investigate, research and uncover is one of the most important aspects to any restoration project and cannot be underestimated.

Commenting on his experience with all these projects, Harboe again emphasized the importance of the workers who help realize the projects.  “The tradesman make the difference,” he asserted.  Concluding his lecture with this advice, Harboe took questions from the audience.