Paul Sutinen at the Nine Gallery
Unless you are camping or a cave dweller, buildings act as the main stage for most
human activities. We humans are essentially hive dwellers and buildings are our
Because of this, Paul Sutinen's Sculpture in the Form of a Small Building in
at the Nine Gallery collective (located inside Blue
in the Desoto
) was a welcome respite from all of the sculpture du jour
(self conscious with a light touch) on view for May's First Thursday.
The show consists of a simple perimeter wire armature floating in space and
a more performative wire supporting the building in the distance. It evokes
a host of pregnant spatial, social and conceptual associations from buildings
on the electrical grid to anxiety over property values and or redevelopment
the list is endless.
With its succinct, poetic and spare execution... it's the best thing I've ever
seen from Sutinen, a longtime Portland fixture (a one-time critic, installer
for the PCVA
and now head of Marylhurst's art department). Also, it is partly
the intensity of debate surrounding of Sutinen's most favored iconography&, generic buildings, that gives this work so much of its charge. Still, it's
how he treated this particular installation that made it sing.
For example the decision to suspend the entire tableaux at chest height in
the room gives it a sense of impermanence and gut level urgency. Yet the tabula
rasa emptiness of the room keeps the viewer self conscious (not the work). In
this artist's hands the Nine Gallery is a space with few if any distractions
from its subject matter and its singular yet inaccessible focal point make this
Sutinen's conceptual masterstroke.
The anxious state conveyed by this installation is something most home buyer/sellers
and owners can probably relate to and what Sutinen presents is a charged conceptual
cauldron of doubt and desires that the viewer can fill with their own projections.
Questions like; Will I ever own my own home? Are the building materials sustainable?
Where's the earnest money? How is the neighborhood? Is the counter offer too
low? Where did the surveyor put the lot line? What did the inspection reveal?
Will this house hold its value in these uncertain markets? Is my variable rate
mortgage financially sustainable? Etc
are all entertainable here.
I particularly like how the install keeps the focal point of the exhibition
effectively out of reach and still in the realm of ideas. The building is not
a monopoly hotel, is related to Judd and Carl Andre's work and it looks nothing
's dull 80's houses or even a real-estate development model. Instead,
it's precariously attached to a meandering line in a remote way and the other houses in the settlement
are its invisible phantom limb.
In the end, home might be where the heart is but shelter will always be an
existential necessity that breeds a constant need for reevaluation and company. Here in
the Nine Gallery Paul Sutinen has created a wonderful forum for exploring the
philosophy of dwellings as an external contruct within the hive.
Show runs through May 30th
Yes, the promised essay on spatial art in Portland is still coming... everything in it's own good time.