Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

Giving Thanks Readings
Meet RACC's new leader Madison Cario
November Reviews
Early November Links
Spooky reviews
Countdown to Portlandageddon?
Mid October Links including PNCA/OCAC merger talks
Paul Allen, philanthropist and arts champion dead at 65
Midwest Art Initiative Tour
Haunting October Picks
End of September News
September review cluster

recent comments



Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Openings & Events
About PORT

regular contributors


Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman



Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us


Contact us






powered by


Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a


Creative Commons License

Friday 10.23.09

« the masters | Main | artists needed »

Processions: an Elaborative Cartography at PSU

Processions: an Elaborative Cartography (detail)

For the past few months a group of artists consisting of; Maggie Casey, Zachary Davis, Joshua Pavlacky and Benjamin Young has demanded increasing attention in the Portland art scene by opening an unlikely space in a garage. It is called Appendix and it's just off Alberta Street. Though always experimental, their earlier site specific exhibitions at Appendix Gallery and Tractor have ranged from promising to some of the best of the year. But the thing that really got my attention was the fact that these four artists were engaged in deep wide ranging conversations about various vectors of art; topographies, neurology, textiles, urban planning, Greek philosophy and design. If the work wasn't entirely actualized already I sensed these four very bright, energetic and curious artists were on a journey that would lead them there. These close knit groups of artists are what I studied in grad school (der Blue Reiter, die Brucke and the Bauhaus), so I'm always on the lookout for the telltale signs of relentless intellect, energy, a challenging group dynamic, rigor and inventive problem solving. These artists have those markers.

(Standing L to R) Maggie Casey, Ben Young, Zach Davis and Josh Pavlacky as they discuss the work to a packed house

Now this unnamed "working group" of artist's first collaborative effort Processions: an Elaborative Cartography at PSU may be the moment when as a group and individually each artist grew exponentially.

At the schools' invitation for 9 weeks at PSU's Recess Gallery (dept. of architecture) the four artists underwent an elaborate process of setting up procedures for sharing of ideas. Then via that self directing process distilled and actualized that methodology into a finished piece that is both elegant and ephemeral while possessing elements from each artist. As the artists described in their excellent hour long lecture the entire process put a premium on not pre-determining the project's details, instead they took a page from the Robert Irwin playbook and spent time in the space, letting its fundamental elements suggest a final form. Once a few basic ideas and rules were agreed upon after a lot of intense experiments and negotiations then did the procession take form. Davis describes it as "a topography" of the experience and decision making process.



The result is a gossamer series of catenary lines (like the cables of a suspension bridge) that were chosen for the way they responded to the site's "cupping" aspect. On top of Shattuck hall the often underutilized rooftop courtyard provides constant glimpses of the tops of trees, the toney homes in the west hills and skyscrapers making the space one large rectangular bowl open to the sky. The lines compellingly respond by vectoring our attention simultaneously within the bowl and the borrowed views outside it. It isn't so much an object as a map of trajectories to gaze at, including the fugally composed lines which are accented by thicker white rope.


The overall effect is like; a net for wind, topography of architectural features and an engineer's exercise in gravity all harmonized. It's quite nice, and art historically refers to the string works of Fred Sandbeck and Robert Irwin while the use of the sky's perimeter suggests James Turrell. To go further Jasper Johns has been doing catenary's lines for decades now while this piece evokes recent topographical work by Richard Serra's Te Tuhirangi Contour, Andrew Goldsworthy and Duchamp's classic Mile of String installation. Yet unlike Duchamp and Serra this is no barrier, more like a suggested view corridor or a dance in the courtyard. It even resembles musical notation.

What is most interesting though is how the backgrounds of each artist are so apparent in the work but are nothing like any of them do individually.

In Processions you can see; Ben Young's kinesthetic sensibilities and grasp of platonic logic, Zach Davis' interest in topographies, material and neurology… Josh Pavlacky's interest in urban design, site and drawing vectors… and Maggie Casey's background in textiles and installation that use string to suggest form are all readily apparent. Though it's more refined than I've seen any of them do individually.


I suspect the group gave them each a kind of new way to discover how a piece can be made because it was an experiential process that created an experiential piece. It's remarkable because group dynamic usually create something either lifeless or cacophonous. In this case it's very clear and of our time, literally blowing in the changing winds.


Inside the building I liked Pavlacky's Known Space sculpture but it wasn't displayed very effectively and Pavlacky and Casey's collaborative Constellation (silt from peak to protein) just isn't all that original reminding me simultaneously of Julie Mehretu and Sarah Sze. I think Processions: an Elaborative Cartography is strong enough by itself and hardly needs work indoors to complete it.

Overall, I'm very excited to see how these four proceed from here both individually and as a group.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 23, 2009 at 23:59 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee