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Tuesday 12.13.05

« Toughlove for the Portland Art Center | Main | Exposette »

Backyard Icing

The new show by PNCA artist in residence Jenene Nagy is entitled Backyard Icing and uses unusual materials and subtle gestures to create imagery somewhere between botany, topography, and cake decoration.


Nagy inverts and complicates the basic vocabulary of art making, and materials and concepts constantly switch places. Nails become a visual end product, rather than an intermediary of construction. Throughout her compositions, Nagy uses nails painted soft pink and green; aggregated in the sculptures as though they were delicate flower petals.

Flows of plaster spill over pastel blocks of insulating foam, creating edible looking landscapes teeming with confectionary biology.

In cartoons, the idea of an environment made entirely of candy often occurs, but these environments are always well ordered and pleasingly organized. Nothing about the cartoon "candy world" suggests vertigo or displacement. Nagy's work capitalizes on the same cartoon imagery but introduces these less palatable ideas. Despite their confectionary day glow cartoon palette, many of Nagy's landscapes seem scathed or remote, of the wall pieces it is often unclear if gravity has any influence in directing the "growth." The pedestal pieces seem to be miniature aerial views of portions of the landscape, placing the viewer miles above the terrain, looking down.

The materials themselves generate an unsavory recognition which contradicts the idea of "icing" or "dessert." Although visually delectable, the compositions are made of pins, nails, spilled industrial grade paint, plaster, and insulating foam. These materials are totally undisguised and undeniable, breaking the illusionary quality of the candy world. What is interesting about this work is the tension created by that break, which can never quite be negotiated. Is this a feminist reevaluation of the minimalist assertion of materials? Or cartoon based fantasy art? Or just an unloaded, playful interaction of materials and fantastic topography? I prefer the latter.


On the central wall of the Izquierdo Gallery, Nagy's aerial perspective has gained the greatest height. The distance has become so great that we are now looking at a map of the continents. The land masses are pink and the sea is green. On the land, pink pins proliferate. Are they actual structures or marks of some kind of conquest on the map? The pins suspend spilled paint blobs above the map itself, signifying: countries? Clouds? Sugar canopies? The conflict between the sense of illusionary topography and the assertion of materials is overwhelming in this piece. Is this a map or simply an assemblage of hardware and housepaint on the wall? Looking closely a subtle and immaculate detail emerges: on the shoreline, wherever the pink land masses encounter the green sea, the entire continuity of the pink shapes are outlined in pencil, every island, every random shape accidentally placed by the roller. This subtle detail draws in the attention of the viewer, and bridges the space between the viewer and the object. The viewer starts looking at it at 3 yards away, and quickly closes to 3 inches, as if trying to plot a passage through the treacherous island chains.

Backyard Icing • Jenene Nagy • Manuel Izquierdo Gallery •

825 NW 13th Avenue • Portland, Oregon • 503•226•4391

Posted by Isaac Peterson on December 13, 2005 at 7:38 | Comments (0)


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