Portland Art Museum Summer Exhibits Preview: Cyclepedia and Man/Woman

[First Published at Blogtown PDX, June 8th, 2013]

Michael Embacher with his collection at home in Vienna, Austria.

  • Michael Embacher with his collection at home in Vienna, Austria.

Collection is a hobby that can get out of hand alarmingly quickly under any circumstances, but combine the allure of accumulation with a curious mind and the hobby doesn’t only become compulsive, it becomes fascinating. Michael Embacher, as an architect and designer, has one such mind and his ability to apply it to his strange and remarkable collection of rare and unique bicycles is the most captivating element of the Portland Art Museum’s new summer exhibition, opening tomorrow.

The Capo Elite ‘Eis’ Ice Bike is one of the stranger (and least commercially successful) bikes on show

  • The Capo Elite ‘Eis’ “Ice Bike” is one of the stranger (and least commercially successful) bikes on show

Cyclepedia: Iconic Bike Design showcases the forty bicycles in Embacher’s collection of over 200 that, we are told, best represent the turning points in the evolution of the form. Thankfully, though, the exhibit is far more than a dry procession to the modern racer, mainly because Embacher’s mind is far too liable to wander and his desire to obtain something rare leads him to glorious failures and left-field prototypes as well as commercial success stories. With a touch of his own architectural creativity, Embacher makes no particular distinction between the more sensible or outrageous pieces in the exhibit, suspending each one from the ceiling on an invisible track and leaving visitors to appreciate the more left-field bikes on their strange merits.

Lachaises Standing Woman is a stirring and imposing centrepiece to Man/Woman

  • Lachaise’s ‘Standing Woman’ is a stirring and imposing centrepiece to Man/Woman

Whilst there’s already something slightly strange about museum visitors dressed head-to-toe in cycling gear (helmets are accessories, apparently), it becomes utterly surreal when they’re surrounded by the sadly ignored Gaston Lachaise exhibit Man/Woman, also opening tomorrow. Lachaise’s sculpture’s, imposing and amplified nudes, were essential to American modernism in the early 20th Century and any time spent amongst his work clearly demonstrates why. His female nudes in particular, of which two are displayed in here, are formidable bronzes controlling the ground beneath them rather than reaching skywards. Yes, there are other distractions at the Portland Art Museum, but dismissing even this small Lachaise exhibit this summer would be a mistake.

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