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Friday 07.10.09

« vardian vision | Main | Raphael's La Donna Velata comes to PAM »

Midori Hirose & Joshua Orion Kermiet at Fontanelle

Work by Hirose and Kermiet, the two patterned boulders in the foreground are by Kermiet the Polyhedrons are Hirose's

The most exciting show in Portland this month is the dual debut of Midori Hirose and Joshua Orion Kermiet at Fontanelle Gallery. In fact, just seeing the array on the floor pedestal alone left me feeling like somehow Brancusi was once again relevant to the artists of today and not just as an unreachable benchmark for their own (often) more ironic yet stifled ambitions.

Kermiet's work is less geometric, more organic/lumpy and camouflaged than Hirose's. It reminds me of artists like Ara Peterson (who is way better) and all of the other contemporary psychedelic patterning in vogue since the 2002 Whitney Biennial. But it is Hirose's work with its tension between crystalline gradients and textured meringue-like richness that really lifts this show into the realm of something else.

Top right corner: Blue White Polyhedron and Mirrored Polyhedron by Hirose

With works like Blue White Polyhedron (a 3D revel outdoing all but the best 2D efforts by Jules Olitski, while channeling Yves Klein's genius for texture and color) in conjunction with the Smithsonesque Mirrored Polyhedron we've got a kind of delicate idealism that is very much in the spirited but fragile hopes of the newly minted Obama era.

Hirose's Black Mammoth

In fact, for the first time in years I wondered what Clement Greenberg (whose personal collection lives across town at the Portland Art Museum) would say about some of the better works here? Would he compare Hirosi's knowingly kitschy Black Mammoth to the Art Institute of Chicago's overwhelmingly grim 1951-52 by Clyfford Still (dubbed the Monster)? Well probably not, there is a Japanese Otaku culture fetish of candy like texture in Hirose's work that Clyfford Still would never tolerate. But then again that's our age… we are acclimated to threats of nuclear, biological, ecological and terrorist based annihilation and thus give ourselves permission to smile. At the opening, people clearly enjoyed the work.

Jules Olitski's Noble Regard, 1989 (courtesy Portland Art Museum)

Unlike the Still, Hirose's Mammoth isn't a basalt monolith as much as a giant lump of charcoal that might become a diamond… or maybe it its better as a giant burnt marshmallow? Without being figurative it grins at its own grimness like the best Murakamis. Yet, it isn't as self-consciously satirical as one of Franz West's lumpy public sculptures. Still Hirose has a ways to go before she can rival West, whose outdoor work easily the strongest sculpture being done today. Also, Hirose's works aren't as erotic as West's or Ken Price's work, but that's their charm… they are like big marshmallows from a box of lucky charms on steroids rather than Price's Jewels or West's absurd furniture. Instead, Hirose's works evoke food or a giant pollen grain more than something man made that is intended to last forever. All this is to say they feel both aspirational and existentially hedonistic.

Hirosi's Copper Violet Polyhedron

How can someone not smile at the iridescent Copper Violet Polyhedron? How can one not see Untitled as a decent attempt at addressing Smithson, Klein and Eva Hesse with nautical rope decorations? Ditto for her Gold Rings.

Hirose's Untitled

Hirose's wall works aren't as original as the sculptures but still I found myself wishing I could take this Untitled gouache back home and put it on my wall. She definitely has a way with setting up color gradients and making crystalline structures quixotically turbid like our very uncertain times. Hirose doesn't unify opposites; instead she makes them dance in complicated ways… not unlike like ionized particles of the aurora borealis when they hit our planet's magnetosphere.

Kermiet's Prism Chamber (right), Hirose (in the middle with white frames)

Kermiet's boulder-like and wall works pick up the same visual vocabularies but are more graphic in nature and related to painters like Philip Taafe.

Hirose's Yellow Green Polyhedron (left) Kermiet's Mystical Pyramid (right)

Kermiet's work like Mystic Pyramid compliments Hirose's very well and pieces like Mystic Pyramid make Yellow Green Polyhedron look even better, like a cool looking wrapped present next to an opened but completely awesome one.

Overall this show was like Christmas in July.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 10, 2009 at 8:12 | Comments (0)


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