Radiant Dream Face, installation view
It may be the last month of 2009 but make no mistake Oregon
's latest show Radiant Dream Face
at PSU's Autzen
is one of the year's best.
year ago OPS burst onto the scene
with a hodge-podge trippy aesthetic that
was more Victorian natural history museum full of heraldry (ala group member
Jason Traeger) and an exciting amalgam of the various members who each kinda
did their own thing. It was an exciting opener but after a year of wood shedding
they have come out with a strong unified group aesthetic, something they call,
"a starship fashioned from the dreams and detritus of late-20th century
West Coast America." And yes, despite their name they are more of an installation
art/performance group than painters.
What results approximates a single retro-futuristic civilization, not a series
of inferences to several related aesthetic memes
In other words they have
successfully gelled into a cohesive and experimental group and the more sci-fi direction allows them to look at both the past and aspirations for the future.
Think of an Ikea home and garden show as envisioned by the people who made sets for
the original Dr. Who series and maybe a few Shaker furniture makers (quixotically
from the future). Overall, the whole thing has the nostalgic vibe of watching
a world's fair movie footage or an HG Welles story adapted to the screen
it's the future as envisioned through a pre-microchip era
Herbert envisaged in his Dune Books (a sci-fi universe where computers were
outlawed). Here things are decidedly domestic where Herbert's Dune was about
authority and war.
This is a peaceful affair and many of the sculptural pavilions are interactive
and kinesthetic sound devices that fizz, glissando and warble like the mating
calls of space whales or maybe it is just the sounds of Bob Moog hangover from
the 60-70's? I certainly like this kind of occult activity better than Madame
style spiritualism. Instead, this show conjures interaction not spirits, though
it has a similarly arcane bent.
If it sounds like a hell of a lot of fun, you'd be right. Producing theremin
tones that interact with your body's own electromagnetic field is rewarding
especially if you aren't a dancer or musician who is used to understanding the
body as an instrument. There is no correct technique as the sounds are atonal
and the controls respond to how one moves. The kinesthetic vibe produced by
this well planned out series of pavilions is a kind of Atomic Ranch art-petting zoo but there
is more going on here than just some science expo.
What's clear is the newly refined visual language of the group all works together,
one where 70's style wood paneling, generic office plants, shelving units teeming
with tiny balsa wood maquettes and shadows cast from furniture, lamps and Japanese
screens. What is gained is a sense of sustained interpolation of design as art
and platform for performance.
In particular the tiny balsa wood maquettes evoke futuristic painters easels/stretchers,
mandalas and screens through which to frame our gaze. The plethora of Smithsonesque
mirrors, David Thorpian constructions and cheeky duck sculptures along with
a penchant for using furniture support legs for everything... all initiate the
viewer into this purposefully arcane world; one where supports are questioned and
repurposed. It would all seem utopian if it weren't all so familiar.
Unlike a furniture expo the viewer is continually invited to interact and experience
how their own presence effects the electromagnetic fields of the room, giving
everything a sense of revealing the unseen. Thus, this is a show full of mystery
machines and like other furniture-intensive artists in Portland (Laura
, Dandridge Geiger, Vanessa
, Jordan Tul
l and Jesse
) there is a sense of theatrical staging that plays with understanding
and ergonomics here. Other artists like Franz West and Andrea Zittel are also
relevant to the discussion.
In the mid 20th century BF Skinner studied how environment shaped behavior,
conversely for Radiant Dream Face
OPS created an arena for creatively
repurposed design and gave it a sense of responsiveness that allows visitors
to experience their own effect on the environment. The 21st century is a two
way street of constant cause and effect between individual and environment. For Radiant Dream Face
OPS has employed a vernacular of sci-fi nostalgia and presented a compelling,
inviting and empowering laboratory for this new era of interactivity.
Through Jan 1 2010
Autzen Gallery, Portland State University (Neuberger Hall room 205)
gallery is closed from the 18-28th so email OPS about other hours: email@example.com