On cue, the relentless Summer group show season is upon us with; STORE
for a month
, all the BFA and MFA shows, Green
(a nice lil roundup of the Portland art scene's mindset), Lesbian
(a dual show), Town and Country
... and for a big historical survey
there is PNCA
at 100 at PAM
, which exposes Portland's long tradition of being an artist's
enclave. Besides that sampler aspect, group shows often act as social mixers
or reconnectors and thus provide an important opportunity to tease out trends
and renew friendships... but for me it's the solo shows that provide the more
satisfying art viewing experiences.
Ben Young's Platonically Imperfect
This June was short on new solo show excitement with, DE May at PDX and the
interesting and well hung debut of Joe
... but overall the solo offerings seemed very minimal, pun
intended. Then I came upon Ben Young's Platonically Imperfect
probably the most surprising, almost magical...yet rigorous debut I've seen
in years at the Everett Station Lofts. Tractor is a space to watch, having formerly
been home to the Field and Nil galleries that launched a lot of careers. I like
the renovations (like walling off of the stairway) that proprietor Charles Olsen
has undertaken... it lets him put on tight solo shows and its part of the reason
New York Times briefly noted the space (as they continue to stalk Portland)
course, PORT told you about Tractor
over a year ago
More of Ben Young's Platonically Imperfect
Now onto Ben Young's philosophically and aesthetically astute debute:
The show itself consists of a series of geometric steel forms that collectively
fill the small gallery's volume completely. It was a deft move to weld the forms
on site as it allows for forms much larger than could be fit through conventional
single or double doors. This creates a series of volumes that require the viewer
to navigate through to take in the show and if one touches them they vibrate
all around the viewer like a struck tuning fork.
This vibrating kinesthetic obstacle course experience is really wonderful...
both making the viewer more aware of themselves and the geometric form around
them. Also, the title indicates that Young has more than a passing interest
in Greek Philosophy... and these open geometric forms are in fact fine examples
would have considered imperfect as opposed to "ideal
they have been rendered out of materials in the real world as opposed to some
mathematical algorithm... Plato believed that truth was an abstraction and an
algorithm is an abstraction). Plato was a huge admirer of Pythagoras
whose studies of geometry weren't just mathematical, but philosophical... leading
him to create a secret religious society called the Pythagoreans
devoted to understanding all things through mathematics.
Michael Heizer. North, East, South, West, 19672002, Photo: Tom Vinetz
There aren't any religious overtones in Ben Young's exhibition though and Platonically
reminds me a bit of Michael
Heizer's North, East, South and West at Dia Beacon
... a masterpiece
in large scale kinesthetic/mathematical awe. Both have a somewhat magical effect,
though Ben Young's piece isn't as developed or dangerous to viewers (those concrete
pits at Dia Beacon are 20 feet deep). Young has made a lot of good decisions
here and I'd love to see where this goes as an installation art series.
Through June 25th at Tractor
In many ways this review unintentionally rebutted Chas Bowie's doom laden and factually convenient review
of STORE for a month
so I think it is important to let the facts address it directly. Facts are Portland's alt spaces like Tractor, Rock's Box
, Gallery Homeland, Igloo, The Life, Disjecta, Appendix and Worksound are actually more numerous and professional (aka curatorially driven) than they were back in 2003... ie there has been no backslide (how about Green Oregon for a tight group show rather than a merely inclusionary one).
Instead of taking the whole scene into account, Bowie's review misplaced the implications and intended goals of Brodie's STORE. So instead of being a backslide, STORE is just part of the seasonal group show bonanza and a low pressure civic art scene mixer, nothing more, nothing less. Seriously, all vibrant art scenes switch to lower-pressure group show mode at least once a year. More importantly, the O's article conveniently ignores that these increasingly improved alt spaces have always been the primary driving force in Portland's scene... not the museums or PADA galleries, which are also important (but haven't taken the lead).
What's more Bowie's list of defunct galleries reaches back 5 years to try and make its point... but those closures though sometimes painful (other times expected as in Everett station Loft galleries) are just part of the natural cycle, but now with NAAU, Fourteen30, Charles Hartman, Blue Sky's infinitely improved new space and Fontanelle, we have added strong new professional venues (not that the current environment isn't difficult, but technically isn't a backslide... just a dig your heels in and tough it out moment).
What's more, with the addition of the Desoto Building, Jubitz Center (with the Miller-Meigs Series) and PSU's current art dept renovations, the soon to open U of O "White Stag" block galleries, PNCA's continual expansion and the eventual Lumber Room opening I argue Portland is gaining more and more professional infrastructure. Compare 2003 to 2009 and it is no contest... the Portland art scene in 2009 is has more venues, is more professional and is better funded (NAAU's Couture series + RACC's increasing budgets anyone?) than it has ever been. Yes, the O seems to be trying to craft a story of the art scene's withering but the facts still don't support it. It is being tested sure, but wither?.. I call BS.
PORT invites the O to a hearty public debate over this if they'd like to make this a more productive discussion. Yes there is always room to improve, but it is wrong to ignore advances for the sake of an angle or slant for a story. The facts simply don't support it... are these tough gritty times with a little steam blown off at Brodie's STORE
, yes... doom-laden backslide to 2003 no.
very interesting ...
I will host a debate for sure .