Michael Schulze's Vater and Sohn (FG left)
Like the opportunistic
, the Portland
has yet another new contemporary group show called Rock/Paper/Scissors that went up this past weekend in the Suwyn gallery.
It is a small scale exploration of post WWII European art and is especially
nice because it is culled mostly from the museum's collection. More scholarly
than bombastic and appropriately sober considering Europe's need for extensive
reconstruction after the war, the work tends to highlight raw materials
and basic human needs like food, shelter and personal contact.
There is an understandable sense of morbid alienation here but I suspect that
malaise and senseless loss is slightly of unimaginable to anyone who has never
visited a war zone or major disaster scene. Needless to say one shouldn't expect
flashy visual fireworks, expect a thoughtful quiet show punctuated with the
more bitter tasting aesthetics of asceticism.
Upon entering it immediately reminded me of my visit to Dachau during high
school. This is probably because the work of Christian Boltanski which deals
directly with the holocaust was immediately visible on the far wall. Then again
I believe all art from 1944 to the present has been influenced by that event.
The title evokes the children's game as a metaphor for different strategies
to deal with objects
everything here is sculptural in some way.
British artists like Lynn
and Anthony Caro's most formative experiences took place during
the Hitler's horrifying blitz where V2 rockets forced Londoners underground
in a constant state of alarm that makes our terror alert levels sound like Casey
Kasem's American Top 40 broadcast. Chadwick's alienation is the most palpable
here with his Two Lying Figures on a Base
. The figures seem to me like
the living buried alive and memorialized.
Abakanowicz's entire Embryology at the 1980 Venice Biennale
worked under a politically repressive regime with simple materials
like burlap. These humble elements were favored by the influential Arte Povera
movement in Italy and laid the groundwork for later artist like Judd, Flavin
and Smithson but Abakanowicz is more indebted to the Italians than the Americans.
The partial Embryology series seen on view here (Embryology 100
hunger, fetal states and a sense of change biding its time to erupt in a way
that was very true to Cold War era Poland.
Wolfgang Laib's Reishaus
, 1989 (Miller-Meigs Collection)
Wolfgang Laib's Reishaus
is an ascetic historical rumination on both
medieval burial chambers as well as a meditation on impromptu grain storage
and the eastern practice of leaving offerings at temples. Laib is one of my
favorite artists and his quiet unassuming meditation on the necessities of life
as well as the unavoidability of death are always poignant.
Other than Laib, Abakanowicz, Caro and Chadwick the most rewarding work on
display is Michael Schulze's Vater and Sohn
. It is a strange mechanical
contraption consisting of motors 2 deer and a gun as a meditation on black forest
folk traditions and the father son dynamic (a loaded topic considering Schulze
was of the first generation that had nothing to do with the Nazis).
Without Beuys, CoBRA, or Anselm Kiefer this show is hardly an authoritative
exploration of post war art but it is a way to reintroduce elements of the collection
in a way that even the most seasoned art goers might find illuminating. This
is a very welcome, even surprising addition. The fact that it has such an important
historical background shows just how interesting PAM's collection can be if
Chief Curator Bruce Guenther has a nice statement regarding the show, "
A preoccupation with order- and time-based conceptual abstraction marks the
present in European object making. Like the spontaneity of the children's game
rock / paper / scissors, European sculpture presents itself for an immediate
response from the viewer to image, material, process-emotional and intellectual
resonance will follow."
It may not be a blockbuster or overtly entertaining but this is what museums
are here for, considered open-ended analysis of ideas, historical context and
objects. It is also a great compliment to von
Rydingsvard's exhibition upstairs