PNCA’s Center for Contemporary Art & Culture Presents The Unknown Artist

February 17, 2020

Takahiro Yamamoto's The Property Of Opaqueness, performance

Portland, OR – February 17, 2020 – The Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) is pleased to present The Unknown Artist, a multi-event exhibition from curator and artist Lucy Cotter that stages a dialogue around obsolescence, the relative value of making, and its entanglement with artistic authorship and visibility. The exhibition opens on March 5 and runs through April 18, 2020.

The exhibition will present works by unidentified makers from the collection of the former Museum of Contemporary Craft, which have been stewarded by PNCA since the closing of the museum in 2015, alongside contemporary artworks that invite reflection on the current and future conditions for art making. These include a photographic series by Mami Takahashi engaging with social and artistic visibility, an installation by Asztalos Zsolt on forgotten artists in history and a video by Revital Cohen & Tuur van Balen on the unseen choreography of production. Two projects by Cannupa Hanska Luger respond to urgent site-specific issues through collaborative making processes. A performance by Takahiro Yamamoto will explore economies of looking and artistic validation. Cotter will also engage in two lecture-based performances in search of new entry points into questions of artistic ecology and cultural politics.

“This exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to implement a new vision for displaying works from the Museum of Contemporary Craft collection,” said Mack McFarland, Director for the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA. “While we’ve displayed many wonderful and well-known pieces from the collection in the past, The Unknown Artist highlights works whose creators are unknown, allowing us to examine and consider artistic visibility and authorship. Lucy’s vision as a curator and artist has proved instrumental in bringing this exhibition to life, and together we’re excited to help more people experience the history of ceramics and craft in the Pacific Northwest, as well as think about the future of art, craft, and design.”

Exhibition Affiliated Events Announced to Date:

The Unknown Future

March 12 – 7:00 PM, PNCA Mediatheque

Soetsu Yanagi’s pioneering book The Unknown Craftsman sought to reconsider the value of making and spearheaded the survival of craft at a time of threatened obsolescence, leading to the mingei (folk art) movement that became known worldwide. In this lecture-performance, Lucy Cotter looks to Yanagi’s reflections as entry points into questions about artistic ecology and the sustainability of art practice.

Something To Hold Onto
March 18 – 12:00 – 4:00 PM, PNCA Atrium

Cannupa Hanska Luger’s Something To Hold Onto workshop aims to utilize social collaboration to re-humanize abstract statistics about the number of deaths that occur during US migration. Participants will make fist-sized clay beads to contribute to 7,209 hand-made beads that will be strung together in a large-scale art installation, which makes tangible the unfathomable statistic that over 7,209 human beings have died while crossing the southwestern border of the United States over the past 20 years.

Property of Opaqueness
March 19 – 7:00 PM, PNCA Mediatheque

Property of Opaqueness is a collaborative dance performance by artist and choreographer Takahiro Yamamoto that investigates visibility and the physical emotional effects that performers and viewers undergo through subtle variations in acts of looking, moving, and paying attention over an extended time period. The performance is the second iteration in a multi-year project with the umbrella title Opacity of Performance, which will culminate in a major work at the Portland Art Museum in Fall 2020.

After Difference
April 9 – 7:00 PM, PNCA Mediatheque

In this lecture-performance, Lucy Cotter will take ceramic works by artists Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach and unpick the complexity of their renowned “East-West dialogue” in order to provoke reflection on the economy of cultural identities and sanctioned “difference” in creating artistic value.

Artist Biographies:

Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen are London based artists who work across sculpture, installation, and film to explore processes of production as cultural, personal and political practices. Both are graduates of the Royal College of Art in London. Their work has been presented at The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Serpentine Cinema, London; Mu.Zee, Ostend; Fotomuseum Winterthur; Para Site, Hong Kong; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, and Congo International Film Festival, Goma, among other venues. A major survey of their work will open at Z33 Kunstencentrum in Belgium in summer 2020 and their upcoming monograph 'Not What I Meant but Anyway' will be published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City (2020). The duo’s work is held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and M+ Museum, Hong Kong.

Lucy Cotter is an Irish-born writer, curator and artist, currently living in Portland, Oregon. Her multidisciplinary practice explores the relationship between aesthetics, politics and the unknown through ficto-theory, exhibitions, lecture performances and art critical writings. A regular contributor to journals such as Flash Art, Frieze and Mousse, her new book Reclaiming Artistic Research (2019) foregrounds artistic thinking. She is presently completing a further book, Art Knowledge: Between the Known and the Unknown, and an experimental play, The Entangled Museum, which revolves around issues of restitution, cultural beliefs and the limits of acceptable knowledge. She was curator of the Dutch Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, 2017, with other recent exhibitions and events at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam and EYE Film Museum, Amsterdam. She holds a BFA from Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork; an MA History of Art, University of Southampton and a PhD in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam.

Shoji Hamada (1984-1978) was a Japanese potter from Tokyo, who became a significant influence on studio pottery of the twentieth century, and a major figure of the mingei folk-art movement, establishing the town of Mashiko as a world-renowned pottery center. Hamada spent three years in St. Ives, UK, supporting the establishment of what became a world-renowned Leach Pottery studio of Bernard and Janet Leach. They had taught workshops together at the Black Mountain College as part of an influential tour of the US. In 1955, the Japanese Minister of Culture declared Hamada a “Living National Treasure.” Hamada’s used locally sourced clays and preserved traditional crafts by refurbishing Edo period farmhouses, warehouses, and nagaya-mon gatehouses unique to the Tochigi Prefecture and relocating them to his property, which later became the Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art. His works are held in the collections of Tate Museum, London; the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among other global collections.

Bernard Leach (1887-1979) was a British studio potter, writer, and teacher, often regarded as the "father of British studio pottery". Born in Hong Kong and spending early childhood in Japan, Leach attended the Slade School of Fine Art and the London School of Art. Moving to Japan in 1906, he turned to pottery and trained with the sixth Kenzan. Shoji Hamada and theorist Soetsu Yanagi, who initiated the Japanese folk art movement were close friends and collaborators. With Hamada’s help, he established what became the renowned Leach Pottery studio with potter Janet Leach, his third wife. He would champion the appreciation of traditional British and Japanese pottery all his life, authoring several books including the seminal A Potter’s Book (1940). He is associated with the rise of the artist-potter internationally and with the renewed interest in functional pottery in the US. Leach was bestowed with national honours in Britain and Japan. His work is held in museum collections worldwide.

Janet Leach (1918-1997) was an American studio potter from Texas who began her practice as a metal sculptor, working with the Federal Works Art project. She worked as a welder in the Navy during the Second World War. She turned to clay in her mid-thirties, while living in New York. On meeting potter Shoji Hamada during her studies at Black Mountain College, she moved to Japan to train with him and at the Mashiko and Tamba pottery villages. Her style and opinions on ceramics also reflected her interest in the Steiner community and anthroposophy. She ran the renowned Leach Pottery studio in St. Ives, UK, with potter Bernard Leach, who became her husband in 1956, and she continued the studio for 17 years following his death. A major retrospective of her work was held at Tate Britain, London in 2007. Her ceramic works are held in collections worldwide, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; the National Museum of Wales; Paisley Museum and Art Gallery, Scotland; the Smithsonian Museum, Washington and the Gardiner Museum, Toronto.

Cannupa Hanska Luger is a New Mexico based multidisciplinary artist, raised on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Working through social collaboration and monumental installations incorporating ceramics, video and repurposed materials, Luger communicates stories about 21st Century Indigeneity and interweaves performance and political action in response to urgent site-specific issues. His work has been exhibited at such venues as the Gardiner Museum, Toronto; Washington Project for the Arts, Washington; Art Mûr, Quebec; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, GA. Luger holds a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a Creative Capital Award recipient in 2020 and previous awards include a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant in 2019 and the Museum of Arts and Design’s inaugural Burke Prize in 2018. He is currently artist in residence at c3: initiative, Portland, Oregon.

Mami Takahashi is an artist from Tokyo, currently based in Portland, Oregon. Using photography, performance, installation and urban interventions, her practice often explores the complexities of being Japanese and a woman, living in the US. Her forthcoming solo exhibition at Blackfish gallery, Portland, focuses on her new project Lifting as We Climb, which engages with feminist histories in Japan and the US. Previous exhibitions and performances have taken place at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, OR; San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco; DANK Haus, Chicago, IL; The International Museum of Art, El Paso, TX; Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Alberta, Canada; Gwangju Folk Art Museum, Gwangju, Korea; Instituto Municipal del Arte la Cultura, DG Mexico and Toriizaka Art Gallery, Tokyo, among other venues. She holds an MFA from Portland State University, a BFA from Joshibi University of Art and Design, Kanagawa, and an AA in Japanese Aesthetics from Aoyama-gakuin College, Tokyo.

Asztalos Zsolt is a Budapest-based artist who works across installation, film, photography and painting to examine the relationship between art, artifacts and historical memory. He represented Hungary at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) with his project Fired but Unexploded. His work has been shown at the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest; Kunsthalle, Budapest; Milan Dome, Great Museum, Milan; ARCO, Madrid; Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait City; Contemporary Art Ruhr, Essen; Avantpost Contemporary Art Collective, Timisoara, Romania; Art Bologna, Italy; Candid Art Gallery, London; Galatea Gallery, Boston; among other venues. Zsolt holds a BA in Painting from the Hungarian Academy of Fine Art, Budapest. He was awarded the Munkácsy Mihály Art Award in 2016 and nominated for the Leopold Bloom Art Award at the Ludwig Museum, Budapest in 2019. This is the first time Zsolt’s work will be shown on the west coast of the US.

Takahiro Yamamoto is an artist and choreographer from Shizuoka, Japan, based in Portland, Oregon. His approach to choreography is interpersonal and observational. Starting his conceptual investigations with questions – currently about the ontology of performance, the mutability of identity, and the social implications of the gaze – he often invites collaborators to bring their own perspectives into the creation. His performance and visual art works have been presented at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland; Diverseworks, Houston; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle and GoDown Arts Centre, Nairobi, among other venues. He co-directs the performance company madhause with Ben Evans, and is part of the Portland-based support group Physical Education with Allie Hankins, keyon gaskin, and Lu Yim. Yamamoto holds an MFA in Visual Studies from PNCA. At present he is a Full-Time Visiting Artist at Performance Department at the School of Art Institute of Chicago.

Aram Lee was born in Seoul and lives and works in Amsterdam. As an artist, her research-driven practice revolves around reinterpreting materials found within institutions, often seeking to relocate their role and purpose through performative events, film and video installations. Sometimes taking up processes of performative action with the public, her practice shapes the way objects are described and circulated. Her artworks challenge diasporic amnesia and release impure, spectral and false fictions from the institutions to enable the dissolution of (cultural) predominance and visualize new structures. Her work has been shown and performed at, among other venues, De Appel, Amsterdam; Framer Framed, Amsterdam; Tetterode, Amsterdam; Zuiderseemuseum, Einkuizen; Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and the Bienal de arte textil contempornea, Guimares, Portugal. Recent artists books include From Pluto to Pyeongyang and back and Post Ghost Bust, Charles Nyples Lab (2019) and Landscape with bear (2019). She was an artist in residence at Jan Van Eyck Academie in 2018-19, and at the Goethe Institute, Marseille in 2019.

About Pacific Northwest College of Art
Pacific Northwest College of Art empowers artists and designers to reimagine what art and design can do in the world. Founded in 1909 as the Museum Art School in Portland, Oregon, PNCA offers 12 art and design Bachelor of Fine Art programs, eight graduate programs including Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts programs within the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies, a Post-Baccalaureate program, and Community Education courses for artists and designers of all ages. Learn more at