L to R Unica Zurn, Virginia Woolf and Valarie Solanas
Portland is currently teeming with more interesting alternative spaces than ever before but Rock's
has earned some distinction in less than a year with the only thing
that really matters; four consistently intelligent, daring and engaging shows.
Admittedly, these weren't all necessarily masterpieces but they were challenging
and consistently professionally executed (note: proprietor Patrick
is himself one hell of an artist [with an MFA from SFAI] and a rare native Portlander).
The latest show, "Johann
Neumeister - is - Dr. Herbert Dreadful Introducing: Psychopsychoanalysis
is easily the tightest and most impressive show at Rock's Box to date. Upon
entering the first of three rooms one encounters three strange uterine sculptures
and a series of paintings of historically complicated women including Valarie
Solanas (she shot Andy Warhol), Virginia Woolf and artist Unica
(Hans Bellmer's girlfriend).
All of the paintings are resting neatly on the floor while leaning against
the wall. Across the room the anatomically inaccurate sculptures seem to display
models of monstrous or at least highly unusual uteruses. There are also a series
of open ended questions designed to set up expectations on the poster for the
"How do I determine if I need a Psychopsychoanalysis treatment?"
"Is the Psychopsychoanalysis crazy?"
"Do I lie on a couch?"
The mood is an unsettlingly misogynistic barrage, provoking the impression
of a waiting room as a form of institutional critique (both the gallery system
and the often very sexist nature of old style Freudian analysis). One should
note space (in both galleries and offices) is often a projection of power
and the patients/paintings here seem to have very little, while the monstrous
genitals take on a kind of trophy status. Thus, Neumeister's Dr. is playing the misogynist
and it brings back everything I read by Elaine
and the movie Dead
Neumeister being an Austrian would be well acquainted with his countryman Freud's
history. For example, Freud and his compatriot Josef Breuer gained great reknown through
the case of Anna O
which can be generally characterized as a kind of psychosexual
tug of war between the paternalistic psychoanalyst and the "hysterical" patient.
It isn't the way modern psychology is practiced anymore and one senses that
Neumeister's Psychopsychoanalysis is just another purposefully irrationally
arty take on psychoanalysis. It is however interesting as art turning the viewer
into a hack psychologist or beleaguered patient, but weve seen this many a times.
In the movies it was done best in Mel
Brooks' High Anxiety
Video with some pretty peculiar vacuuming
What an art exhibition does better than any movie though is allow one to explore
and experience things actively and this show is very well laid out. The next
room definitely starts to fracture Dr. Deadful's psychological practice with
a video and three white chair frames. On the video screen we see the character
of a cleaning lady vacuuming the top of a shiny metal table next to an aluminum
Eamco chair. For the armchair psychologist it prompts the diagnosis of obsessive compulsive behavior since the
shiny surface reveals that it is already clean. As behavior this definitely isn't a
productive pastime but as art is it really something that needs to be cured?
It is also a funny indictment on the yuppie fetish of brushed metal surfaces and new fangled vacuuming.
How professional is the Dr?
Last but not least is Dr. Herbert Dreadful's office, consisting of a bed with
black satin sheets, a huge ashtray stuffed with cigarettes, a fan and a classic
artists joke on the wall about a collector where the doctor's certification
should normally be. When Portland artist Jesse Hayward was being analyzed we
heard some primal screams during the session (that is gonna happen when you
speak to Jesse eventually).
Clearly, the show is about being an artist always being, scrutinized, sorted
and labeled as well as the way artists always defy the expectations placed upon
them. Overall, this is a fine show for the art crowd that doesn't try to hard
to be feminist or arty while discussing the artistic need to avoid conformity.
Unlike real psychology, the results here don't really matter as much as the
opportunity to put oneself into the gallery/skinnerbox and explore how clinical
experiences are a lot like the way spaces and our expectations institutionalize
Open Sat & Sun 12-6
Runs through March 2nd 2008