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Saturday 07.28.07

« Weekend Events | Main | Mark Rothko gets the Schama treatment tonight at 10:00PM Pacific on OPB »

David Eckard's Liveries (summer stock) at Mark Woolley Gallery

installation view (L to R) Proxy (beer bust), Bon bon bon & Bride (full bloom)

This last winter David Eckard, arguably the premier Portland sculptor of his generation, surprised us with an interesting series of paintings at Chambers Gallery. That work resembled geological forms, bound flesh and clothing in an essential flattened space that had everyone asking, what does this mean for the sculpture? The question was further complicated by a recent residency in Rio that took place after the paintings had been created. The sense was the Eckard was restless and had some major changes afoot.

More definitive answers came quickly with Eckard's show at the Mark Woolley Gallery, Liveries (summer stock), which delivers an important new shift to his work.

A lot has been made of this show's avowed connection to Duchamp's Large Glass, which also has a better title of "The Bride Stripped Bare of her Bachelors, Even." Admittedly, both Large Glass and most of the works in this show are public puns about the effects of sexual selection but they are essentially very different animals. Eckard is an aesthete with an entertainer's elan, whereas Duchamp was just the opposite, a wicked combination of semi-disinterested PR genius, a negater of aesthetic fetishes and cryptic social provocateur.

Their greatest common ground is their mutual taste for anachronistic aesthetics, a certain brown and yellow hued Victoriana that obliquely references the hypocrisy and repressed attitudes of that age (which ironically still persist). That is pretty much where all the connections end.

This show is a bit of a turning point for Eckard because he's finally reconciled his paintings and sculpture, creating his most complicated theatrical production to date. In many of Eckard's very sucessful earlier works like Podium he was an also actor whose participation was required for full effect. This lead to Float, a more crowd-pleasing yet somewhat less interesting piece than Podium. It seemed as if performance was starting to "stunt" the art. In this show Eckard makes the important turn of becoming the director and making the work his "actors" for a theater in the round. Suddenly it seems like Eckard has room to grow again by using Victorian faux finish painting & stagecraft techniques to create three dimensional characters. The one man show era had obvious limitations.

Oculist (hindsight tending)

The star of this show of characters, "Oculist (hindsight tending)", is one of Eckard's strongest works and at the opening I described it to the artist as Hans Bellmer meets Georgia O'Keefe. It's an extremely successful piece about seeing and holding the white wall which supports it in constant tension. Oculist essentially transforms the white gallery wall into a peep hole or orifice asking the viewer why they fetish things on the wall? It succeeds in being both a kinky critique of art viewing practices while being successful formally. This character here that is very much like the art viewing audience while questioning it.

Other works like "Casts Nets with Sachet" reminds me some of Elizabeth Murray's weaker moments. This character is akin to overacting and other pieces like "A Priest, a Soldier and an Undertaker Walk Into a Bar" and "Gendarme (tourist visa)" seem to practice a physical comedy they can't deliver. It's an excellent show though and pieces like "Bride (full bloom)" and "Bon bon bon" play off their flat planes to become more than illustrations, they are mysteries that remind me a lot of the cartoons in Pink Floyd's The Wall. I wonder what would happen if Eckard took on some of the epic scale of the art rockers?

Now that Eckard is no longer working just as a stage designer (Tournament Lumens) or Actor (Podium, Float etc) he is clearly the director. Eckard seems ready to step into the role of Auteur, where the viewer isn't looking merely a objects, but entire scenes which unfold. Liveries (summer stock) is an important casting call testing the waters for an exciting new direction that will shape how this transitional show will be seen.

Show ends today July 28th at Mark Woolley Gallery 128 NE Russell St.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 28, 2007 at 8:49 | Comments (1)


Eckard is a genius. I am not fond of throwing around superlatives, but I agree with you, Jeff, and the most exciting part is the feeling that his best work is still to come. The only thing that remains predictable about his work is that it is underrated.

Posted by: inexile [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 31, 2007 09:01 AM

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