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Wednesday 03.14.07

« Why not? | Main | Re: Dude's Night out in McMinnville Friday »

"Paper Chase" at the Guestroom Gallery

"Thomas Lloyd" 2006 Philip Iosca
Photography courtesy Dan Mclaughlin

This month the Guestroom Gallery offers up their tasty take of what seems like a called suit in Portland's art scene recently: the medium of collage (see Liz Leach's 25th anniversary show as well as December 2006 for the Chambers Gallery). Call it Dada or jazz or appropriation or whatever the hell you want to call it, the medium offers up a freedom that many artists often turn to in order to shake their own systems, as well as the ones in which they immerse themselves. Bob Rauschenberg rocked the art history books in the fifties with his
"Canyon" Robert Raushchenberg 1959 Sonnabend Collection, New York

"Combine Paintings" , collage pieces that literally fused the seam between the here and there of art and life, opening up the possibilities of what might be considered art. The artists in Guestroom's show "Paper Chase" attempt this fusion as well, combining the oddball detritus of an image gluttoned society in order to forge new language while making fun of the abounding found.

James Gallagher's photomontages of pairs of masked Kennedy's throws the famous couple into an awkward, semi-anonymity.
"Kennedy Card 8" James Gallagher 2006

Even without their gorgeous mugs, their bodies and dress are inculcated into our cultural memory, letting us know who they were and the details of the logistics of the American dream for which they posed. Ironically we see them more clearly in all of their falsehood and their vulnerability, their intimacy with one another as a family, and lack thereof. This political masking cannot help but refer to the recent atrocities of Abu Ghraib and the horrific ceremony of political decapitation by various terrorist groups. In both of these acts of terrorism, the void of identity was an imposed humiliation and dishonor. Gallagher manages to raise all of these questions with the very simple device of a reverse manipulation of context: small paper circles and shapes hold the weight of the western world's cultural memory. Yet, here, it is the context of identity rather than place that alters what we know and expect.

Philip Iosca's body of work also deals with context as he pushes the lines and boundaries of what art does, what it looks like, and most importantly, can we play with it? While Iosca is not the first artist to attempt to redefine the context of where sex is comfortable or even funny (see Annie Sprinkle), he is still indeed a pioneer and completely unique to this otherwise innocuous show. Play is an enormous part of Iosca's work in this show, as porn becomes part party, part arty. By turning pornography into party favors Iosca magically lightens the weight of cultural insinuations associated with porn and sex. As the viewer strains to see the images on the insides of each link of his "Paper Chain" and discovers what he or she is visibly itching to see, the viewer becomes the point of the piece in which he or she willingly participated. We have to laugh at ourselves. Ironically, if Iosca had chosen to use women instead of men in the portraits, the entire dynamics of the piece would be altered. As play runs rampant and endless world play becomes tangled at the edge of our lips when we naturally think of blowing up balloons, Iosca forces us to face the limits of our comfort zone and question them. After all, it is just paper. Iosca takes the ego out of ambition and immortality as he chooses the form our earliest festivities: the paper chain of childhood celebration. The first memories of delight tangled in so many ways, Iosca boldly yet eloquently says what it seems everyone else is afraid to.

Jenny Strayer's work is also of notable consideration when perusing the vast diversity of "Paper Chase". First time curator and paper connoisseur, Strayer's own work reflects the span of art history she chooses to address. Perhaps a bit too vast to encompass in one show, Strayer's work seems to want address the absurd and morally outrageous in the every day practices and conversations of the art world. Her cartoon collage sketches of animals lounging in the midst of Versailles are humorous yet slightly confusing in their lack of narrative among characters or direction from Strayer. However, what is even more confounding are the two pieces Strayer has in the front window of the gallery. These two works, "Your Name Here" and "Parsing Peter Schjeldahl",
"Parsing Peter Schjeldahl" Jenny Strayer 2007

which supposedly speak of the unbridled nature of today's art market, are pitted at $1,000 a piece. Not only is this an outrageous price for the nature of such work from a relatively unknown artist, the sum exactly plays into what the artist supposedly rails against. While Strayer orchestrates a rather diverse medley of artists using the medium of paper to push the limits of their own voices, her editing tactics could be a bit more strict and streamlined; when you say everything, you often say nothing, and Strayer could take some liberties as conductor here.

Posted by Amy Bernstein on March 14, 2007 at 8:14 | Comments (3)


Two quick comments on this:

One unfortunate loss for our city was having to say goodbye to 12x16 Gallery (due to lost lease). They were one of the CEAD spaces (http://www.firstfridayart.com/) which consistently presented some of the best collage/assemblage work shown in Portland last year. They were just getting started, and were a mighty fine collective (see: http://www.12x16gallery.com). One of those hidden gems.

Also, regarding Iosca's work, the sexual paradigm you construct seems particularly scewed towards a very straight reading, I mean that with all puns intended. The work is fun, but can carry much heavier weight depending on the particular set of gzing eyes. The ring piece is especially engaging, and anything that recontextualizes porn is OK in my reading, whether the pages stick or not.

Posted by: TJ Norris [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2007 10:02 AM

Sometimes a balloon is just a balloon... but not here! I'd also be curious to see how a eunuch relates to Iosca's work? Wistful, philosphical, sour grapes, water under the bridge, etc.? Eunuch's please respond...

TJ, this all reminds me of that great Cary Leibowitz show you curated years ago at Soundvision. I don't think anyone has pointed out how precient that was recently.

As far as Strayer's pricing goes it definitely is a pickle... On one hand I think charging $500 for work ghettoizes an artist and I recently had a great conversation with a dealer who felt a low price definitely undermines the artist's attractiveness to some galleries... so it's a kind of dare to a collector to purchase untested work for a grand (which is a fair but gutsy price in an expensive city like Portland which has no shortage of nice work for under a grand by artists with degrees from RISD, NYU, CCA and Art Center).

The possible hypocracy that Amy pointed out is part of the art world paradox, I see her point as well.

Picasso once said something like, an artist has to sell a lot of pictures for a little money if they want to sell a few pictures for a lot of money. It's somewhat true and the only artist who has controlled their market as well as Picasso did (while alive) is Damien Hirst who seems to be reading Picasso's playbook with particular insight. I suspect Hirst may figure out how to control his market post mordem as well.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2007 10:37 AM

Thanks for recalling that Jeff. It was Leibowitz's debut in our fair city, his second wind renaissance, just prior to being the the Featured artist in the Armory Show the following year. Andrew Kreps features a few of the items I showcased back in '02 on their site: http://www.andrewkreps.com/lebowitz.html

Posted by: TJ Norris [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2007 08:16 PM

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