Brown, Essenhigh by Zach Kircher
I don't expect much from August gallery shows but there were more than a few
things for the curious this month. You've still got through Saturday the 27th
to catch most of em.
Actually, I'm still surprised at how fast Portland is growing up
in the Pearl District
and some of the newer buildings are finally showing a new boldness in design.
I predict a second phase of condos seeking to distinguish themselves from the
rather OK designs that have already gone up.
As for art my favorite work in August was Zach Kircher's, "Brown, Essenhigh"
at Savage Art Resources. (gallery closing thoughts at end of this post, art
Kircher's one hell of a painter. Will we see Cecily Brown in Playboy or Maxim? It's possible (she's been in Vogue enough), but truth be told this painting is more revealing than the cheesecake.
I like both painters but Inka Essenhigh is better and less of a pouty-panderer
than Brown and I want to believe that is why Essenhigh has a slightly less revealing
pictorial situation here. Also, there is something hilarious about hard edge abstraction as a bra for two abstracted but still figurative painters too. Kircher is awfully good and he's skewered everyone from De Kooning
to Elizabeth Peyton over the years.
For First Thursday (as usual) I started at The
Laura Russo Gallery
, where Mel Katz was predictably good. The gallery is
just blocks from my place in the heart of Portland's expensive pasta district,
NW 21st Street.
This is another strong vital show from a smart, vibrant guy with brilliant
white hair. His art smarts show in the elegant designs of his sculpture and
he was a key reason the legendary PVCA kunsthalle
hosted the likes of
Dan Flavin and Carl Andre. It is no secret Portland could now really use another
truly serious kunsthalle
As for Katz's work, his clean, spare and unfussy work simultaneously reminds
me of Ellsworth Kelly, Calder and Mark Di Suvero ( a list of favorites). Some
artists get sappy as they get older and some just get clearer and even more
unapologetic, Katz is in the latter group.
I felt Emily Ginsberg's show at the Nine Gallery (PORT review here
was well done but not as effective as her brilliant wallpaper pieces a few years
ago. These works were somewhat Rube-Goldbergy and their diagrammatic silhouette
quality reminded me of Kara Walker but lacked any coherent narrative charge,
humor or seriousness that distinguishes Walker. They were more like the symbols
found in an unusually entertaining DVD player owner's manual.
Brendan Clenaghen's New Eyes (L)
Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery
had a group show with some really excellent pieces. The best of which were Brendan
Clenaghen's "New Eyes," Brian Borrello's new motor oil and charcoal
works and Linda Hutchin's "Reiteration" series.
This was to be the last PD show in their (ugh) carpeted space before the move
into their swank space on NW Flanders street but the bay area bazaar curated
by Laurie Reid for will have that distinction in September. Notably, the new
gallery space is dealer owned and will sport uber chic, gun metal grey clad
steel flooring.PD's new digs
Yes, this is Portland's first iron clad gallery. The new space
will hopefully be ready at the end of September? PDX
's new home will be next door.
With these two galleries, Elizabeth
around the corner and Blackfish across the street, this block
between NW Glisan and Flanders on 9th will become the undisputed gallery hub
Just down the street the 2 month old Beppu Wiarda Gallery on NW 9th Street
Judy Vogland's "Reluctant Reliquary" was a deft bit of assemblage.
Somewhere between a more frantic Joseph Cornell on roids and a somewhat cleaner and more
timid Robert Rauschenberg, this is a nice piece that outclassed everything else
in the gallery. She also gets points for the mirror which reflects the viewer's
it's an engaging work. Often the other works simply filled their pictorial space in
a suffocating way.
At the Everett Station Lofts Amy Ruppel's show at Pause showed how far she
has matured since she was the poster child of the last Oregon
This was a sustained well executed show and all she needs is to
do is incorporate more surprise and risk. Then she will be ready for gallery representation.
Hint, don't overexpose your next body of work and ask for some studio visits from the new gallerists. Lots of artists are talented, but Ruppel is solid on
top of it. All she needs is a little more nerve.
powers show Michael Leavitt's The
Greatest American Hero
was a guilty pleasure (and completely dates me as
a child of the 70's). Noted designer Alex Gross's "X-Ray" painting stole
the show though. Yes it's completely reliant on nostalgia but it masters that
trendy beast so well I have to approve.
Corey Smith's Southward
At Backspace, pro snowboarder Corey Smith had a lot of Baudelaire meets Warhol
paintings. Some were nearly witty like, "My Secret to Staying Young and
Handsome," which sported some cigarettes and beer. Maybe that painting
is too much of a Bon Mott
and more of a lifestyle illustration than strong
art but "Southward" shows a level of wry restraint that has me watching
the neo-Victoriana temple
of princess power had some very good and some disappointing works. My favorite
was, "The Lovers," by Jesse Rose Vala who created all of the strongest
pieces. "The Lovers" has all the classic moves, an odd couple and
weird forces beyond their control plus stark negative and positive space.
As a show the lavender wallpaper and satin ribbons made this otherwise simple
drawing show a kind of surreal Disney meets Richard Dadd in fairy-land event.
, I was
happy to see a young artist like Paul Fujita selling so well. It's a good start
for a new gallery too. His work is still a bit young but I like how his gallerist
got behind him. Work #3 is his best but I'd love to see what would happen if
he took some cues from Braque's later work and mixed it with his Skateboard
culture savvy, right now it is too dense and doesn't breathe.
Last, at Gallery 500
Dan Gilsdorf's Interstate show was even heavier handed than Daniel Kaven's show
last month. Since I juried the coming September show, it had better have some nuance after these carnivals (not bad but they get old fast). Gilsdorf is a crowd pleaser for the ADHD art viewing crowd and is filled with well made gizmos but it's so literal it puts me off. On a more positive
note his shadow works with oil drilling platforms were a nice antidote. They
were touching, ghostlike and not heavy handed in the same way, in fact they
where like classic B&W films. Wheras, an art machine that makes army boots
march called "Destination Known" may serve a political purpose but
it's basically a motorized political cartoon.
Gallery Closing: Savage Art Resources
Also, this was the last show at the now closed gallery as reported in the
; the signs were there weeks ago and became clear when the gallery
pulled out of the Affair
at the Jupiter Hotel art fair
First, I just want to say that I appreciate any progressive gallerist with
the guts to do it. This is all despite the fact the generalist press likes to kick arts people on the way out, especially if they dont drive a Ford Festiva. Let's be honest, serious gallerists are heroes because it's an impossible and thankless
job and it is much easier to be a private citizen. Gallery closings are natural and only boring art scenes have galleries that never close.
With that in mind Savage has put on some of the best shows in Portland for
the last 5 years. Simply put, Tracy Savage no longer had the fire to run a gallery and it's better for her to bow out than linger.
Her legacy is the Greenberg
, a deal which she brokered and brought to the Portland Art Museum in 2000.
She also showed the city what a classy and edgy gallery can be.
Portland's greatly expanding art scene has room for 2 or 3 more top tier established
galleries and the race is on between newcomers like Chambers, Motel, Gallery
500, Beppu Wiarda, RC and at least 2 other galleries that are threatening to
materialize. To survive they will need a mix of young energy, good eyes and
intense PR savvy because this is one crowded and competative scene.