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Friday 01.30.09

« Right Brain Re: Logic | Main | Video »

Oregon Painting Society at Fontanelle

North Wall, Oregon Painting Society

The history of artist groups is incredibly important considering the way the Impressionists, The Nabis, Die Brucke, de Stijl, The Ten, the YBA's, Superflat, Royal Art Lodge, Forcefield and New Leipzig Schools all have left a lasting imprint. They often bring attention to art in out of the way places signaling a shift in the art world. If there was ever a time the art world needed a shift it is right now as the Miami art fairs or sales driven art ecology finds out Bernie Madoff has absconded with their trust fund money. It's time to get back to creating for art's sake.
Nate Shapiro's Unitled Cube2

Interestingly, the rather masonic lodge meets pop-feudal-paganism stylings of the Oregon Painting Society at Fontanelle gallery is the first time in my decade of experience in Portland where we've had a formalized group of artists presenting a clan like agenda and this second version of the OPS at Fontanelle gallery is a lot better show than the 1st version we were introduced to in December.

The group consisting of; Ana Briseno, Birch Cooper, Matt Carlson, Liam Drain, Barbara Kinzle, Brenna Murphy, Julia Perry, Molly Pringle, Nate Shapiro, Eliza Sohn, and Jason Traeger have put together an exciting collection of mostly collaborative works with a few works by individuals which give clues as to who did what on the collaborative pieces.

Detail of north wall

When one first enters the gallery the first thing notices is the way the exhibition more resembles an anthropological exhibition space (like the Pacific Island galleries at the de Young or Chicago's field museum) than a traditional art show. Everywhere one looks there are 2 to 3 layers of masks, strange fetishes or totems and a bronze age looking hut or barrow.

OPS's Untitled "UFO"

The barrow is a collective work informally referred to as the "UFO" but it has intentifiable components. For example it is prominently festooned with Jason Traeger's heraldic cartouches on banners and inside we find Nate Shapiro's modular pyramid in the center of this makeshift shrine.

Interior of "UFO"

The entire contraption lights up the inside of Shapiro's pyramid and plays Matt Carlson's electronic music reminiscent of an amorous humpback whale possessed by Jimi Hendrix when a foot pedal is depressed to boot.

Birch Cooper's The Demon Tear instrument

Similarly, The Demon Tear instrument by Birch Cooper is a kind of modified touch sensitive theremin I could play using a hybrid of Oud and Eddie Van Halen hammering techniques was able to produce something like the restless dreams of a constipated Robert Moog crossed with a laughing Woody Woodpecker. In short, the kind of fun Coldplay would never attempt to have. As sculpture it's a cross between Victoriana, Blavatsky-esque spiritualism and classic 60's Haight Asbury psychedelia.

OPS's untitled cane-like sculpture

The collaborative sculpture that looks like a cane used by both Louise Nevelson and the log lady has a similar vibe with some interesting nods to Brancusi's fetish of the plinth.

South Wall, Barbara Kinzle's A Desert(center)

Whereas, Barbara Kinzle's solo work A Desert with its Donald Judd-esque array boxes showed how collage and combines were an integral part of even solo works here. Same goes for Jason Traeger's stepping out, a weirdly twisted reconfiguration of broom handles and PVC pipe as canes in a holder.

The buck toothed broom?

The OPS's trademark is the broom. They are generally modified mass market available jobs and I have two favorites. One of the favorites is nick named the Buck Toothed Broom.

Jason Traeger's Heaven Bound

The other is Jason Traeger's Heaven Bound, with its heraldry and odd drum major meets Queen Anne style Victorian house detailing.

Overall it is Shapiro and Traeger who stand out most here but I'm already somewhat familiar with their work (I currently prefer Traegers sculpture to his over-dense paintings, suggestiongo to Pam and see the 2 Neo Rauch's on display... they are clearer and less muddy). Their work here seems more unrestrained than what I've seen before by these two. In fact, I see this festival of styles as a workshop for some potentially wonderful solo shows by any of the participants.

South Wall, the red and blue sculpture with a flag is Untitled by Liam Drain

I'm really interested in seeing more of Murphy and Drain's work too, and one can liken this exhibition to a cloud seeding… I expect more group and solo shows to come.

Overall the important thing is that these artists have continued a fruitful dialog with other artists outside of art school (mostly PNCA). True, a lot of this art reminds one of Forcefield but it's also different, with all the Victoriana, spiritualism, pop-paganism and heraldry.

Oregon Painting Society has served the entire scene notice that a whole new crop of young artists has decamped in Portland.

Show ends tomorrow January 31st 2009, so catch this if you haven't already.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 30, 2009 at 11:06 | Comments (0)


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