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Friday 09.22.06

« Round Up | Main | Huyghe Opens at Portland Art Museum »

Brenden Clenaghen's Endless Parade at Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery


Upon entering Brenden Clenaghen's "Endless Parade", still on view for another week at the Pulliam Deffenbaugh gallery, one is met with a glittering menagerie of paradox. Clenaghen's pieces appear to be objects of decadence, and upon first impression, one might dismiss them as such. Exquisitely crafted, the eye hungrily inhales each piece's silky, almost skin like surface, the sex of its fine design. The painted, dripping objects are adorned with ornamental blobs that float and hover in the picture plane, sweet bits of fluid, dark beauty that hang and wave, the streaming décor at some avant garde's party: unusual, elegant, curious. It is this bit of curiousness that holds the viewer, slows he or she down, asks him or her to look just a bit longer.

Swing Low (2006)

And we do. Moving through the gallery space, guided by the syncopation of these nebulous shapes, the "Endless Parade" seems to pulse with an effluvial sweetness that is rife with subtle symbols. At first glance, the floating, dripping shapes that abound in colors and patterns throughout Clenaghen's event/dimensions shimmer and glisten in the calm of a perfect and precise beauty. But this impression is too flighty and unfair. Upon closer scrutiny, these shapes reveal a light (and somewhat pathetic) covering of prickly graphite hairs. Their glistening is due to a layer of translucent intestinal wrinkling covering the surface of their lush colors, and faint pencil lines string them up like nebulous marionettes, pushed and pulled by the influence of outer forces.

These complexities suggest the depth of imperfect characters as opposed to the saccharine blobs of gorgeousness they relay at first wink. Here, sweetness dissipates a bit. Darkness enters. The eye searches for more clues as to the nature of these characters, and Clenaghen leads us to their environs. He pricks the fleshy joint compound surfaces with perfect globules of acryl, the outlines of which suggest chandeliers and tapestries. These patterns form a wallpaper of overabundant nostalgia that push the ideas of memory and time literally through the skin of these works. The loaded baubled ornaments sit at once on the surface of the painting and at the back of the room. They form interiors of an abstract plane, sans rules of perspective, a flattened world meant to simultaneously represent several dimensions.

Swing Low (detail)

From the occasional flooring of these dimensionless interiors, self-consuming patterns also spew forth. The sweetness dissipates further. These patterns conjure a myriad of connotations, yet Clenaghen leaves them open. Are those merely luscious ornaments that hang from ceilings and issue forth from floors, or are they also dichotomous symbols, poisonous obstacles for the characters that endeavor to move through the same space?

The characters of this Endless Parade are caught in a purgatorial interim, between heaven and earth, affected by gravity but not by weight, simultaneously going and coming in a world without time. Clenaghen's paintings begin to suggest narrative in this sort of abstract visual novella, yet we are without beginning or end, without conflict, climax, or conclusion. The title of the show suddenly becomes poignantly apropos. These blobs are otherworldly, obligated to none, floating along in a monotone hum, occasionally bumping into one another. They are pretty wastrels hung out to dry and humanly communal. We become participants in their goalless, haphazard, lovely promenade. Their (and our) journey is, indeed, just as Clenaghen says, an endless parade.

Clenaghen does here what he sets out to do conceptually while coincidentally pushing the boundaries of his medium. He attempts the depiction of the spirit, the ethereal and intangible in mediums created to depict flesh. He accurately represents both the second and third dimension and hints at others without being didactic or annoyingly aggressive about his ideologies. However, this lack of aggression may also be viewed as being slightly non-committal. In the end, the "Endless Parade" leads us to a boundless abstraction where answers are more catalyst than end. Clenaghen piques the viewer's interest enough to froth it into thought and then gently prods he or she along with possibilities of the intangible.

Posted by Amy Bernstein on September 22, 2006 at 9:49 | Comments (0)


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