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Friday 05.02.08

« A "Cross-Cultural Encounter" at OSU | Main | Looking around »

Paul Sutinen at the Nine Gallery

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 honeycomb.

Because of this, Paul Sutinen's Sculpture in the Form of a Small Building in the Distance at the Nine Gallery collective (located inside Blue Sky in the Desoto Building) 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 like Jennifer Bartlett'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.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on May 02, 2008 at 14:37 | Comments (0)


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