Tull's Reflexion, aluminum (2009)
Jordan Tull's Reflexion marks another exciting introduction at Tractor
, which has lately become the place in Portland for new installation
artists to make a serious debut (pointed out by PORT
in the New York Times before other local sources). What's more the level of ambition
in the aluminum fabrication here puts most other Portland art spaces to shame (this isn't an indie aesthetic at all).
Thus, Tull's effort really stands out, even in comparison to other Tractor shows.
For example, instead of simply having the work fabricated for him Tull did
the work himself collaborating with a CAD design programmer to achieve today's
ridiculous (but industrially typical)levels of precision.
It's no surprise though, Tull
is a master metalsmith
who did a much of the lighting restoration/fabrication
in the Portland Art Museum's Mark Building. That said, his work is considerably
more contemporary at Tractor.
Back to the work at hand, Reflexion consists of interlocking and triangulated
aluminum beams, which reflexively mirror each other in pink and raw aluminum
versions. Like dopplegangers from alternate but intersecting universes they
act as structural supports for one another. In fact, the piece is bolted to
the floor in only one spot, another impressive bit of engineering.
Reflexion video animations
The videos (visible when the sun goes down) are animations derived from the
CAD designs used to produce the piece and though I don't think they are entirely
necessary they do add an additional element to the exhibition.
Philosophically this piece is about the production of and consumption of space
as a repetitive act both as a computer schematic and as a finished form in
relation to that schematic. Call it the tension between the plan and the final
product.... or a mirrored relationship between virtual intent and actual effect
(something that Wii games traffic in).
The resulting effect is the viewer's heightened awareness of both the space and the limitations of that finite resource (an existential condition if there ever
was). It reminds me somewhat of Sir Anthony Caro's Strip Stake
at the Portland
Art Museum, but differs in that Reflexion isn't terribly invested in being an
but as a project completed. In particular, the way Reflexion interacts
with the double and single height ceilings of the space is nuanced, with a feeling
that is both liberated and constrained at the same time
seems both too big and too small for the space
it's like a chatty neighbor;
sometimes interaction breaks monotony between fence lines, sometimes it enforces
it or makes you wish it were a more solid barrier.
Anthony Caro, Strip Stake, 1971-1974, steel, The Clement Greenberg Collection; Portland Art Museum Purchase: Funds Provided by Tom and Gretchen Holce, 2001.1.17 © Anthony Caro
Overall though, Reflexion doesn't break any new ground so much as update the
lexicon with nods to deconstructionist architecture
etc.) through use of precision fabrication software like Rhino. The
difference from Caro is that instead of form as a singular act of material/lyrical construction
Tull's effort is form as an act of premeditated design and refined fabrication.
Thus, there is little emphasis on the handmade aspects or precious patinas like
Caro and is more in the tradition of Donald Judd's small shop industrial fabrication.
Yet, Judd would avoid the nifty looking inset hex head screws as too attention
getting. Cool fasteners might be something Tull could explore at a later date
would further separate him from Judd.
I suspect those with a well developed appreciation for design will like this
exhibition and Reflexion is further evidence that this newest wave of Portland
artists are capable of being a lot more than self conscious. Tull might not
be the master sculptor Caro was
but his levels of ambition here cause
me to wonder where he might take this work in the near future.