“I gently lay my brain in cold rice” at Oregon Contemporary – Oregon ArtsWatch | Team Cansler

The exhibition I gently place my brain in cold rice is the first installation by homeschool founders Manuel Arturo Abreu and Victoria Anne Reis during their year-long curatorial residency at Oregon Contemporary. The homeschool, which has existed since 2015, aims to provide creative nourishment for unhindered contemplation around contemporary art. This can take various forms, including an art school, a distance learning platform, a pop-up room, a crafting curriculum, and other possibilities. All iterations emphasize slow learning, individual relationships, and diversity of thought.

exhibition view. “I gently lay my brain in cold rice” at Oregon Contemporary. Image courtesy of Mario Gallucci and Oregon Contemporary.

Reis and Abreu describe their professional synergy, non-deterministic approach to curation, and existence of homeschools as a “space of sacred duty.” I understand this phrase as a necessary cultivation of an educational culture that exists beyond the traditional tired, non-inclusive, and for-profit learning environments. I gently place my brain in cold rice features work by eight national and local artists across a range of disciplines. As a whole, it reads as the visual embodiment of homeschool pedagogy that emphasizes the transmission of community caring and healing through the lens of contemporary art.

In every opportunity for action, contemplation, or relationship, an eternal witness is embodied that follows you through all your changes without voyeurism: not quite the last angel of history, not quite the first/original demon of the future. Water is memory, and when the air bubbles damp, the breath itself reveals its archive. When the water is running, she gently puts her brains in cold rice.

Upon first reading this excerpt from the exhibition text, I registered ‘eternal’ as ‘inward’, thus interpreting the statement briefly, not as a temporal alignment but as a more intrinsic action for viewer and artist alike. That is, my interpretation of the line set in every decision, every possibility of movement or connection, an internal signifier that glides with the unpredictable stream of creative output.

Intisar Abioto and Studio Abioto. reclaim beatrice, 2022, digital pigment prints on parchment and glossy foil, earth, plants, typewriter, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Mario Gallucci and Oregon Contemporary.

The eternal and the inner merge in the multimedia assemblage Reclaim Beatrice by Intisar Abioto and Studio Abioto. Photos, newspaper clippings, inspiration and a live installation of plants make up the historically and emotionally poignant work, named after Portland civil rights activist Beatrice Morrow Cannady. The images collaged on the south wall of the gallery are a mixture of portraits by Abioto and archival images by early Black Oregon/Portland photographer James S. Bell (taken from early issues of The Advocate, published 1903-1938 and edited by Cannady himself). Abioto’s characters appear behind the lens with vigor and determination – depicted in poses with bodies moving, grasping, or simply resting – stoically and confidently captured. The juxtaposition of contemporary photography with historical records of Black Oregon residents provides a connecting thread for an ambitious and successful intergenerational narrative. Abioto honors the deep-rooted black radical traditions and dreams practiced by Cannady and continues that work with the related project of buying and remarrying Cannady’s home in Northeast Portland. In the gallery, the foliage planted and dormant at the foot of the wall serves as a living focal point for this work.

exhibition view. “I gently lay my brain in cold rice” at Oregon Contemporary. Image courtesy of Mario Gallucci and Oregon Contemporary.

Another photographic offering is the work of Kigali-based artist collective Ibisazi Designers Nyabyo (IDN). Periodically hung in the gallery, Shadows of Ideas (2022) is a series of works specially commissioned for this exhibition by Kigali residents wearing or posing with functional art: windrows of fabric, repurposed foliage, living and found material. The exhibition materials describe the images as illustrating “the hidden and undivided thoughts of every living thing.” shadows of ideas are solitary, still, stills of lively, improvised and grandiose performances made in and with the Rwandan community in which they were recorded. This intentional stilling of movement, the translation of living human activity into a digital space, keeps the spirit of improvisation of the collective opaque. Gallery-goers observe a person in makeshift raft clothing half-submerged in water and holding a television on their head, or another person standing upside down with their head immersed in a barrel-like vessel and their legs stretched well over their torso , two sculptural elements casually placed on each foot. Approached with the understanding that the images presented are meant to both reveal and intrigue, shadows of ideas begin to exist in a liminality of their own creation.

Detail. Jasmine Nyende. Offal, 2022, yarn, 168 x 12 x 12 in. Image courtesy of Mario Gallucci and Oregon Contemporary.

Offal, a yarn sculpture by textile artist Jasmine Nyende, hangs from the ceiling in the back gallery and falls to the floor in a soft spool. Its pink and purple layers appear to ripple and pulsate; Layers deliberately drape over each other, alluding to the traditional intertwining of internal organ systems. Although the yarn appears thick and sturdy, my emotional response to this work instead invokes fragility, speaking to the spirit of one’s ‘inside’ and feelings with a tendency to unravel, drip and morph.

Likewise, the movement of artist Olivia McKayla Ross evokes a movement towards the transformative sea ​​of ​​stars, a physical printed release and installation of the same name. Several copies of the blue, spiral-bound book sit between two pieces of obsidian (recognized for their grounding and protective properties) on a shelf in the gallery. sea ​​of ​​stars invites the viewer to delve deep into his poetic imagery and find a compositional point for healing. The tangible book is a succinct example of a personal longing, a wish for freely formed feelings to find their appropriate means of expression in a natural way. As visitors flip through the pages, a video recording of the artist scrolling through their social media feed is projected onto the underside of the bookshelf as a mirrored, digital translation of the experience. Ross solidifies the exhibition’s resonance frequencies that weigh the boundaries between a private and a shared self.

Olivia McKayla Ross. sea ​​of ​​stars, 2022, print publication, 4 ¼ x 5 in. Installation made of aluminum wire combs, polycarbonate, Plexiglas, obsidian, digital video (00:10:14), variable dimensions. Image courtesy of Mario Gallucci and Oregon Contemporary.

The poetic line that ties together all the works exhibited at Oregon Contemporary is the propensity to experience them beyond their static limits. I gently place my brain in cold rice is an evocation of the imaginative possibilities and potential of the present. Like a drowned phone being dunked in rice when in the fritz, the same can be said of an overheated and overstimulated brain. With constant content saturation, these works offer the opposite. The gallery is activated in relation to each artist’s reflections and requests in their practice, bringing a sensual immediacy to the exhibition. I gently place my brain in cold rice draws from a conscientious and generative contemplation that aligns external craftsmanship with personal caring.


I gently place my brain in cold rice is on Oregon Contemporary through January 8th. Oregon Contemporary is located at 8371 N Interstate Ave and is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The gallery is open on November 25th, 26th and 27th.

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