PNCA Press Center

Happy Birthday: A Celebration of Chance and Listening

Release date: 08/24/12

August 23, 2012

Lisa Radon, Communications Specialist 971-255-5528

Becca Biggs, Director of Communications 971-255-5511

Happy Birthday: A Celebration of Chance and Listening

Exhibition | Happy Birthday: A Celebration of Chance and Listening
Feldman Gallery + Project Space – PNCA 1241 NW Johnson, Portland
September 5-November 17, 2012
Opening reception, September 5, 2012 6-8 pm

Performance | A Portland Circus on Cage’s Silence
Swigert Commons – PNCA 1241 NW Johnson, Portland
October 3, 2012 7-10 pm

PORTLAND, OR – JUNE 12, 2012 – The launch of the 2012-2013 academic year finds The Feldman Gallery + Project Space at the Pacific Northwest College of Art opening its most ambitious exhibition to date. Happy Birthday: A Celebration of Chance and Listening marks the centennial of John Cage’s birth by tracing the long tail of influence of Cage’s ideas on sound and chance operations in visual art. The exhibition is curated by Mack McFarland, curator of the Feldman Gallery + Project Space and opens September 5 and runs through November 17, 2012. There will be an opening reception in the Feldman Gallery on September 5 from 6-8 pm.

John Cage is arguably one of the most influential American artists of the post-war period. He was a composer, music theorist, writer, philosopher, and visual artist. From the first intermedia performances he did with Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College in the late 1940s to his Experimental Composition classes at the New School for Social Research in the late 1950s, and extensive lecturing throughout his career, Cage influenced generations of young writers, artists, and musicians. Among the important poets, composers, and artists who attended Cage’s New School classes were Jackson Mac Low, Allan Kaprow, Al Hansen, George Brecht, Alice Denham, and Dick Higgins.

Through the work of seven artists spanning several generations, Happy Birthday: A Celebration of Chance and Listening explores the ways in which Cage’s teachings and ideas live on today, with a particular focus on embracing chance and silence as a method in working process.

The exhibition features Fluxus artist Alison Knowles, who studied with Cage in the late 50s; Paul Kos with his deeply Cageian The Sound of Ice Melting; and Walead Beshty, whose process and objects incorporate chance to create image and form. Happy Birthday also features works from Ray Johnson, Brad Brown, Molly Dilworth, Luke Murphy, Stephanie Simek, and a piece by Cage himself.

This exhibition is part of the Feldman Gallery 2012-13 exhibition series which has been supported by a $40,000 grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. This is the College’s first grant from this prestigious national foundation. With exhibitions from New York’s Drawing Center, and upcoming exhibitions with Chicago’s Threewalls and the Critical Art Ensemble, the series includes painting, drawing, object, and installation with thought-provoking public programs. Happy Birthday: A Celebration of Chance and Listening is also supported by the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

In conjunction with the exhibition, PNCA presents the performance A Portland Circus on Cage’s Silence on October 3 from 7-10 pm in Swigert Commons. Created by choreographer Linda Austin and sound artist Seth Nehil, this hour-long dance and music performance draws inspiration from the cacophonous, multifocal happenings of John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham, utilizing chance procedures to spark unexpected simultaneities.

PNCA prepares students for a life of creative practice and has been an influential force in art and design education in the Pacific Northwest since its founding in 1909. Today, PNCA enrolls over 600 students in 15 undergraduate and graduate programs, and another 1,200 students through its continuing education programs. PNCA’s graduate programs are part of its Ford Institute for Visual Education (FIVE): an MFA in Visual Studies, a Low-Residency MFA in Visual Studies, an MA in Critical Theory and Creative Research, an MFA in Collaborative Design, and an MFA in Applied Craft and Design developed with the Oregon College of Art and Craft, the first inter-institutional degree of its kind in the US.

PNCA is actively involved in Portland’s cultural life through exhibitions and a vibrant public program of lectures and internationally recognized visiting artists, designers, and creative thinkers. Portland Monthly, in its January 2012 issue, called PNCA “a creative class crown jewel.” With the support of FIVE, the College has an operating partnership with the nationally acclaimed Museum of Contemporary Craft. For more information, visit

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