unidentified bird of prey in Mt Scott Park Saturday August 5th
Ok it was a modified form of "art in a park" and on paper it sounded like a potentially terrible event, but it wasn't. Sure, some of the work was iffy but some was pretty good to excellent (Michael Keenan, Carolyn Zick, Ellen George, Harvest Henderson, Jacqueline Ehlis, Justin Oswald, TJ Norris+Abi Spring and a few others all had particularly strong works). Many had a lot of interesting references to Robert Smithson's work, utilizing a reflective/dislocating surface (Ehlis, TJ+Abi) and Harvest made a circle akin to the spiral jetty made of salad (with a name like "Harvest" it's unavoidable I guess). The fact that a couple of what I think were falcons (of the gyr variety? in Portland?) were hanging out in the park only made it cooler.
Harvest Henderson's Food for Birds (lettuce Flower #2)
What interested me was the focus of the event was, "Living a carefree life of ease, comfort or prosperity." A while back Tyler Green emailed me about contacting these two crazy kids from Portland who where hanging out with Andrea Zittel in Joshua Tree. I thought, hmmm I bet I know them... but who? The answer came soon, they were Scott Wayne Indiana and Harvest Henderson. Like Zittel's work, Indiana's show is a focused on lifestyle and the BF Skinner-ish formatting that determines the shape of the outcome. In this case it was a rather nice park in one of the most livable big cities on earth, sure it isn't a perfect world but existentially it's important to find beautey in something, unless you enjoy being unhappy. Yes, I did do some minor break dancing on Marty Schnapf's installation (as it instructs). Well someone had to! (luckilly only one artist saw it... and they may be the only one to ever see that...)
Justin Oswald's "Tree"
Update: if we are going discuss this work we might as well show it
Ehlis' "Smooth Walker"
Carolyn Zick took some great pictures here TJ also blogs it
Abi Spring also has a post
and last but not least curator Scott Wayne Indiana has his site
The concept of having a contemporary art show in a public park makes my stomach turn, but there's something really funny about Ehlis leaning her painting against a tree. A couple of years ago, Seann Brackin suspended a huge painting out of his studio window at the base of the Burnside bridge. Brackin's action is infinitely more interesting, because it seems to really point at his desire to show the world how he "sees" things, rather than just to have his work considered in an art show.
Look, Ehlis' work isn't just leaning in a park... it acted as a mirror along a slight bend on a foot path and it was a very considered and surpringly successful installation. Also, the work's title is "Smooth Walker" and it does have a wry take on the sorts of muscle cars that take up certain postures in the parking lots of public parks across the country. Granted, this reflexive/reflective quality wasn't so obvious from the pictures but it was to those who were there.
Instead of a passive, "please look at my painting" ploy hers was an engagement with the environs where the viewer was both reflected and integrated with the other features of the painting, rather than a simple act of bravura it's a trojan horse.
To be fair, Brakin needed that kind of jump to his career, wheras Ehlis is probably the second best selling artist in the city (and just promoted to a leadership role at one very lucky university). She probably liked the idea of painting as a trigger for satuday in the park epicurean moments, she isn't the "include me" type.
A mirror acts like a mirror, while a painting leaning against a tree is just a painting leaning against a tree. A muscle car posturing in the parking lot (ala Richard Prince) is the "real" thing and also a wry take on what you are implying that Ehlis' work is about.
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