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Monday 11.06.06

« Too Much To Do, Too Little Time | Main | Election day thoughts on drawing in the aughts »

Don't Blink

Jesse Durost at Elizabeth Leach Gallery

This weekend marked a new trend in art programming in Portland... short run installation art shows featuring work with industrial lighting. Both local boy Jesse Durost and Victor Popovic's shows opened on November 2nd at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery and the Portland Art Center respectively.

By Sunday November 5th both had concluded their runs.... here is what you missed:

Durost's syncretic use of industrial lighting and a tarp like red and white striped flag looked good, but political art is fraught with cultural forces that easily loose their potency with their changing contexts. Question is was this more of an illustration of the current political zeitgeist? I liked the show's title, "Hole in the Sky." It was ominous and confusing. It referenced superstition, a genuine fear of what may drop on the planet next, and a sense that the leadership at hand isn't ready for whatever is coming.

Durost's Moon

To that end the most successful piece was his lightbox, "Moon". With an almost Kubrickian black hole in the middle of the full moon Durost succeeded in a delivering something that will mean something 10 years from now. The rest of the show, although well done, just seemed to be a simple deconstruction of the American flag. The flag deconstructions gave context to the room and referenced the election tomorrow but somehow it wasn't complete without Moon. As a whole the show was a worthy and open ended political cipher with only a few stand alone pieces. That said Jesse did hang a great looking show (as Liz's installer it better be) and I wish more shows could be installed as well. Durost should leave politics to the experts next time and explore the irrational and superstitious side of human behavior more. I can't wait to see what he does next.

Popovic at PAC presented by PICA

PICA artist in residence Victor Popovic (from Croatia) did one his trademark chair and argon gas tube installations at the Portland Art Center from November 2nd-5th. This installation seemed less organized than his other works as the designer chairs were mixed with the ubiquitous folding metal variety as well as nondescript office varieties from the 70's. Still, it looked better than these photos convey as the lights acted as an organizing force. So what was it all about? Maybe this Eastern European artist is showing how bureaucracy (chairs) can be given the look of dynamic even purposeful activity if given the right kind of light? That would make it a meditation optimism, bureaucracy, fallow industrialization and propaganda? If so, great... but in the USA where our political and historical awareness is rather deficient I think a lot of people will miss those points entirely and try some tangential way to tie it to school funding, which doesn't quite fit because these aren't school chairs.

Popovic (detail)

Back to the larger local trend here I'm of two minds about the short shows (context: in 2003 I held this big production open for only 6 days and there were similar complaints following a packed opening. Afterwards it was followed by a steady stream of visitors)... yes people should get out there and having a short run does force that very important issue but I also think it will keep many people away because they seem to emphasize the opening night crowd over the show itself. Frankly, openings stink for viewing the work and this almost guarantees that most visitors, even hard core ones, will see the show only once. At the same time having these short shows can help blue chip galleries like Liz Leach engage a younger group of artists in Portland with solo shows, an absolutely essential step in developing these artists. Still short shows wont get as much press or critical attention as they might deserve.

Im still undecided, in the case of Durost it seemed like a great opportunity and Liz did a great thing making this happen. In the case of Popovic there must have been a good reason it was up for only 4 days, I saw it twice and felt sated with it but those who missed out might not feel the same? Care to comment?

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 06, 2006 at 11:28 | Comments (4)


I agree -- with so much going on (concerts, theatre, 1st Thurs, etc) this time of year, a few days is just too short for an exhibit unless there's no other choice. I really wanted to see Popovic but already had too many other things on my schedule to be able to make it down before the show closed. I really wanted to see it, too. Of course I understand if there's no other option but the shorter the run, the less likely I'm going to be able to see it.

Posted by: brett [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 6, 2006 02:17 PM

Yes, interesting and coincidental and simultaneous. Durost and Popovic are definitely having a conversation of sorts. Both situations really came about due to availability of space, and a certain leap of faith. Elizabeth Leach and PAC had space because of show changeover and planned accordingly. Viktor is here on an ArtsLink residency, the visits are traditionally for fact finding and networking and not necessarily exhibiting or creation of new work. When the artist suggested he wanted to make an installation while in town - we got on the horn and PAC took the leap. If there had been an opportunity for a longer exhibition we would have taken it. In the end- I think the exercise had some benefits. Popovic�s disorderly pile of mismatched chairs reflects his current environment, displaced or placed here- an arts hub (Portland, PICA and everything in-between) that is scrappy, resourceful, beautiful and flawed all at the same time. His wanderings and contemplation about this place led to the piece, his time here temporary, the moment and the piece fleeting. Viktor and I made it to Durost�s lecture at Elizabeth Leach and despite overtly iconic political and social imagery; Jesse talked about replicating a purely aesthetic experience and stripping the flag of its connotations. (Acknowledging of course this might be impossible) Similarly, Popovic created a mass suggesting order and disorder, his perspective on a place and time new to him � referencing his last piece presented in Croatia, a more orderly and sterile � political yes- but in the end about the glow.

Posted by: Kristan Kennedy [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 6, 2006 06:28 PM

I find Durost's work striking - certainly enough to warrant a full run. With a few really flat and self-consuming solo shows in the past few months I think this work was far more engaging. The political belongs in the larger thread of an international arts voice, especially now. I'm engaging so many anti-Bush bumperstickers daily round Portland, and that should, indeed, manifest itself in the four walls of a commercial gallery or non-profit. Being wise (and clever) always belongs, and as we currently have a very lopsided environment, economy and new fears - this is again, refreshing.

Unfortunately, due to 1st Friday and other personal goings-on, I too, was unable to attend either. I typically like to get out to see most of what's happening around town, and always stop in at Liz's joint, but alas - this show seemed to be anything but filler and was probably seen by 1/10th of the normal foot traffic that would ordinarily drop in. Perhaps it was a great opportunity to show in a beautiful space though. Certainly great shots for any resume and portfolio. Hopefully institutions and artists might consider using other opportunities to make-shift other warehouse spaces (like PICA fabulously did for this years TBA!!!!), alternative venues and non-commercial spaces in the future to avoid any scratchyness from the audience.

Posted by: TJ Norris [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 6, 2006 07:17 PM

It is indeed a shame about the brief time span of these installations and lacks every bit of sense. While I did not make it to the Durost, I sped my fastest to see the Popovic before it went down. What I encountered in PAC's very elegant space was an ethereal and formally magnetic sculpture. Popovic's installation was, inside and out, a formal feat. Physics and metaphysics were both tested as one was lulled by the slightly slower than motion pulsing of the inner flourescent bulbs while certain pieces of the sedentary armature resisted gravity's logic. I had gone into the exhibit not knowing much about Popovic or the piece. Yet, upon viewing I was curious to know more. The chairs seemed all to be of an institutional nature, as did the lighting, yet the piece itself did not truly lend itself to thoughts of such subjects. When I read the mini-blurb on the show card PAC had provided, I was surprised to learn that Popovic (or the staff at PICA, the blurb did not specify by whom it was written) had intended the piece to reflect the owner of each chair. This tidbit baffled me, as I did not think the piece did this at all, but something much more interesting. As I read Kennedy's comment (above), I can relate to these motivations and see their elements in the actual work. This could have been much better represented at the show itself to better inform the public.

Posted by: Amy B [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 7, 2006 01:25 AM

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