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Wednesday 05.24.06

« Malia Jensen (part 3) Representation/ Simulation/ Decay | Main | Last Thursday? Oh Yes. »

May Gallery Roundup

Linda Hutchins at Pulliam Deffenbaugh

There were a # of good shows in Portland this month but that makes sense since May, June, September and October are typically the months when the art stars come out here.

Torrent (detail) by Linda Hutchins at Pulliam Deffenbaugh

Top Prize for May goes to Linda Hutchins' Line Drawing show. It works on so many levels; experientially it's an undulating flow of lines somewhere between Vija Clemins and Agnes Martin, in terms of human activity it's like a series of daily personal seismographs where Hutchins adds a new line every day. It's practically geological as slight hand drawn variations lead to meandering line shifts after several iterations.

It's a beautifully hung, perfectly executed and international caliber show from a gallery with a lot of momentum since they moved into this new space. It isn't monotonous, Hutchins has created a river of lines in ink and its currents slow the weary modern eye down to a more geological pace.

Zoe Crosher' "LAX, Caesar's Motel" 2003

Another serial show, Zoe Crosher's Out The Window LAX at Small A Projects, chronicles all of the hotels rimming the LAX airport. Crosher mentioned that a main critique of her work is that she doesn't break her own rules, OK but this is still a very good show and I like its lack of preciousness.

The low hang especially gives any viewer who is more than 5 feet tall a sense of suspended gravity and the pensive mood of a waiting room. One often can't tell if the planes are landing or taking off and this parallels the modern existential condition, one where home is elusive and change seems so routine it might not be change. It's good work but it doesn't risk enough failure, a future project with an archive of photos of a courtesan who claims a strange doppelganger relationship with Crosher is very promising. It all sounds very David Lynch and that isn't bad, although a lot of artists from LA seem almost like fan club presidents for famous film directors.

At Elizabeth Leach gallery the revised Fresh show looked a lot better since Sean Healy's "King of the Jungle" activated the room that previously felt static and too inward before the rearrangement. Healy's show in September should impress, he makes other artists look better even.

Malia Jensen collects flies...

Also at Elizabeth Leach Malia Jensen's Nature Studies marked the return of former Portlander Malia Jensen from New York. Although I consider her mobile with fake flies to be one of her best works to date (a play on constructivism and decay) I felt the show was unfocused compared to her PICA show years ago, although it is more subtle. Her cartoons work though and I think Ike's review has pretty said all that needs to be said about them. I think the real problem is the preponderances of 2nd string photographs. Her Haystack Rock series riff off tourist photos and your typical landscape expectations but in an age of Photoshop, a photo that lies so obviously is just filler and the show would be classier and less claustrophobic without em. Also the Coney Island Bear photos just make it look like Jensen is jumping on the passe Brooklyn fake wilderness trend even though she predated it by at least 10 years.

Anothor favorite, "Wrecking Pet (Guinea Pig #2)" is a hilarious rodent as tiny wrecking ball and has none of the passe and cute Brooklyn trend. Guinea pigs are domestic havoc personified with their air-raid like sound effects and are very dramatic. Is the wrecking pet a self portrait?

Omar Chacon makes variations on variations

Another favorite work was Omar Chacon's "Variation no. 1 of Variation no. 2 of Venezuelan Globular Cluster" at Motel gallery. It's an interesting study in accretion that is masked in tropical bird colors. It's thoroughly charming and I like a good abstraction that isn't afraid to assert itself like this.

Paul Sutinen's Mt. Hood Piece

Then there was a very welcome show by Paul Sutinen at 9 Gallery at 1231 NW Hoyt. His Richard Tuttle-esque "Mt. Hood Piece" captures the inherent tension of our currently not erupting volcano as a currently not erupting home perfectly. Stasis, tension and materials all minimally applied, no fluff... I would like to see more of Sutinen's work (although I've known both the man and his work for years).

Noah Nakell's Adrift (detail)

I also really enjoyed Seattleite Robin Stein's untitled chromomeric print at Tilt Gallery's Horizonline show. A house nearly levitating in the mist is an interesting take on landscape photography, it's part engineering part meteorology. Overall this juried by slide show was a little anonymous with most of the art being competent if not a little timid. Still, I wonder why other young non-profit spaces in Portland haven't been as professional as this show? Really what is the deal?

Horizonline is a well hung and on topic if a little too safe but I did like Noah Nakell's "Adrift" as well. Yes miniature dioramas are still in, existentially relevant and this one was well done, whereas Jason Jones "White Stump" further digs into the rut of socially conscious stump art was already getting old in 2005. Besides this stump in particular has way too much going on.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on May 24, 2006 at 0:45 | Comments (9)


There was a mid-career show of Sutinen's work at Art Gym a few years ago, and I believe a catalog was published at that time.

Posted by: tooldiva [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 24, 2006 11:48 AM

I am a student at Marylhurst University (where the Art Gym is located and Paul Sutinen co-chairs the art department). There are still copies of the above-mentioned catalouge available for purchase at the Art Gym. I believe they are $15 per copy.

Posted by: jtshotone [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 26, 2006 02:24 AM

i would not have picked linda hutchins as the best show in may mainly because paul sutinen's show was so outstanding. however, i also felt like her show relied too heavily on the female ghetto of obsessive, repetitve work with the additional punch of low compensation. did you see her prices? there are bargains to be had for the amount of work that has gone into the drawings.

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 26, 2006 08:43 AM

M, Portland prices are often way too low but believe it or not they have been rising. Good that you pointed it out, it isn't changing fast enough. This is a kind of breakout show for Hutchins so expect things to jump a bit next time.

Also, Ive never seen obsessive repetitive work as just for women. Tom Friedman, Matthew Picton, Wolfgang Laib and Donald Judd definitely work (or worked) within that MO. Maybe it's just that Agnes Martin was so influential?

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 26, 2006 09:02 AM

certainly it's not just the sole province of women to work in that way-it's just that the show, coupled with what i feel are low prices, left me feeling a pang of feminist pissiness. don't worry-that's not my usual mo.

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 26, 2006 10:08 AM

that's too bad, we're having an odalisque bonfire this weekend... I would've invited you....

Have you ever heard how Picasso originally titled Demoiselles d'Avignon "The Philosophical Brothel" ?

It's still just a brothel.

Posted by: Isaac [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 26, 2006 11:30 AM

that's pretty funny. i'll give you one of my bras to burn, k?

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 26, 2006 02:28 PM

I would thoroughly enjoy burning a bunch of odalisques, and while we are at it, let's just burn everything that was created during the Rococo period.

Posted by: Calvin Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 26, 2006 11:35 PM

back to the issue of low prices, jenn had something to say about that in relation to the pm4 discussion a few days ago:

"I would add, that in addition to follow through, affordable studio space and spaces to show work, a viable contemporary art scene needs patrons. I feel that there is a lot of attention given to developing a strong infrastructure for artists here. And for that reason, there are not only a slew of regional artists living here but a number of nationally and internationally acclaimed artists who keep their studio practice here. However, I feel the community is reaching a crucial point where we need to be developing a creative economy not just a creative culture. We need Portland's professional class to understand the value of art and see it as an investment that is not only fiscally fruitful but also sustains and builds a vibrant community. With a high value on intentional living and sustainability in Portland, there needs to be an understanding that buying artwork is part of the same system as driving hybids, running biodiesel, buying organic, purchasing crop shares from local farmers, and supporting small businesses. Buying artwork is not just a stylish indulgence, it is a direct economy that supports artists and the community. And it's a lot prettier than a mutual fund.

Posted by: jenn at May 16, 2006 02:45 PM"

jenn-this is worth discussing further. there are tons of marketing and pr people in portland that are tied to the arts community. with some savvy a broader collecting culture could be cultivated in line with the usual sentiments of portland at large. besides motel, which seems to be a great model for what you are talking about, what other ways do you envision engaging the citizenry?

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 29, 2006 10:22 AM

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