YU knows where we’ve been

The YU Contemporary Arts Center, located at Southeast 10th and Belmont in Portland, opens both its library and its inaugural exhibition at 6 p.m. on May 6.

The YU Contemporary Arts Center, located at Southeast 10th and Belmont in Portland, opens both its library and its inaugural exhibition at 6 p.m. on May 6. Selections from the Portland Center for the Visual Arts Archive will be the first of YU’s preview projects. The exhibition will examine a critical moment in the history of contemporary art in Portland, offering a historical context for YU while considering a future rich in potential.

PCVA was founded in 1971 by artists Jay Backstrand, Michele Russo and PSU Arts emeritus faculty Mel Katz. In the nearly two decades that followed, PCVA hosted some of the most important figures in the world of contemporary art. The exhibition will showcase ephemera, sketches, letters and archival documentation of visiting artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Terry Riley, John Cage, Sol LeWitt, Trisha Brown, Chuck Close and Ed Ruscha.

The inaugural YU exhibition will mark the first public viewing of the archives, which document PVCA’s attempt to showcase the best contemporary American art of their time. While PVCA raised awareness on contemporary art in America, many Portlanders are unaware of the role that their own arts community played during these critical decades, said YU Communications Director Neal Morgan.

“It’s one of the seminal art institutions of its time,” said Morgan. “Yet a lot of folks don’t even know that it existed.”

While honoring the legacy of the PVCA, the exhibition also provides a direction moving forward with YU’s own goals, said Director Sandra Percival.

“Portland hasn’t had a major institution with landmark space dedicated to the production and presentation of contemporary art since the PCVA closed in 1987,” Percival said. “YU will be the first major arts institution on Portland’s east side.”

YU is located in the Yale Laundry Building, a landmark on the national registry of historic places, and Percival hopes their tenancy will help to reinvigorate the neighborhood and expand the arts landscape of Portland’s east side.

The YU Contemporary Arts Center is not, however, simply a carbon copy of the PVCA model. On the same day that the exhibition opens, YU will open the doors of their library and simultaneously launch their first publication, “Veneer Magazine.”

Edited by Portland-based artist Aaron Flint Jamison, “Veneer” will be comprised of an eighteen-volume set, each volume limited to 300 copies, available by subscription or at the YU building. Subscribers will receive a bookshelf to house the entire eighteen volumes, the first of which was released in 2007.

In spite of the impressive building, new library and hand-crafted publications, the mission of the PCVA is at the very heart of what the YU Contemporary Arts Center aims to achieve: the cultivation and promotion of contemporary art within the Portland community. YU wants to help create a continuing dialog on contemporary art and the community, said Percival.

“YU will bring the most challenging international and national contemporary art to Portland,” said Percival. “Engaging artists in experimental ways that raise questions and catalyze new dialogue between the artists, the arts community and the broader communities. YU’s vision is to present the most though provoking contemporary work, to form a community of ideas relevant to Portland and to empower the artistic imagination and cultural life of the Northwest.”

The YU Contemporary Arts Center celebrates its inaugural exhibition, the opening of its library and its debut publication, “Veneer Magazine,” all with a very special opening reception, May 6, from 6 to 9 p.m.

The opening reception also includes a special screening of Richard Serra’s 1976 film “Railroad Turnbridge,” which was shot at the St. Johns Bridge. ?