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

recent entries

Resist: Inauguration at Una Gallery
Early February links
First Thursday Picks February 2017
Dead tree media & dead horse flogging news
Post Snowpocalypse Weekend Picks
More Disjecta'd
New Year opportunities
Monday Integrity Links
First Thursday Picks January 2017
Jason Berlin + Alanna Risse at Rainmaker
Saying goodby to 2016
Mid December Links

recent comments

categories

 

Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Essays
Interviews
News
Openings & Events
Photoblogs
Reviews
Video
Links
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

archives

 

Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
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

search

 


syndicate

 

Atom
RSS

powered by

 

Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a

 

Creative Commons License

Friday 03.12.10

« Between Science and Garbage | Main | opportunities »

The darkness will hold, for now

I have been thinking about motivations for criticism lately. Art criticism is more than a simple popularity contest aimed at amusing or endearing oneself (or your employer) to the art scene or an exercise in lazy caricatures that ignore the details and context at hand for snark's sake (that has a place as social theater but isn't criticism). Instead, it's about context and sharing a process of perceptual evaluation. What's more it seemed like it was time to explore a group of current shows with a mutual thread around the darkness of Winter and Portland's predilection for niorish arcana:

Nilbog1.jpg
Matthew Green's Nibog at Fourteen30 (photo Jeff Jahn)

Dark: A Show to Winter at Fourteen30 appropriately ends tomorrow (a week before the Spring Equinox). Typical of the Blood Family Rainbow's curatorial collaborations it has a dark, gothic, even occult focus. It's a good show with the first room being significantly stronger than the others. This is partially because 3 of the 4 best pieces (By Matthew Green, Sven Stuckenschmidt and Molly Vidor) are in the first room. The strongest by far is Matthew Green's Nilbog (goblin spelled backwards), which has become the show's mascot. If it were a person it would be the cult leader of this group of dark souls. What makes Nilbog important is it is quite genuinely the product of a ritualized burning. By fetishing a simple chainsaw sculpture and burning the piece becomes a totemic anthropological place marker, an analog of a bog man that preserves its ritual killing, freezing it in a silent yet horific/humorous state. Nilbog mutely stands as a proxy sentinel of some mute set of laws and social codes we the non Blood Family members as visitors must confront.

Its mute provocation stands for "the other"… we have clues to its condition but nothing further. Frankly, Nilbog is the only thing in the show that is significantly better or at least more genuine than anything Banks Violette has ever done. Let's just say Violette is the show's neo-goth, dark metal lov'n patron saint and a lot of the other work in the show has the same semi-crafty, semi-subculture riffing we've all been seeing en masse for over half a decade because of Violette's success.

Picture-5.jpg
Alex Hubbard, The Paranoid Phase of Nautical Twilight I-III, Video Still

Nilbog is better because it isn't fetishing some obvious subculture lifestyle as much as a manifesting a legitimate primal urge, transformed and given form through ritual. Till now Green has been a merely promising recent art school grad making still very "art school" work (i.e. it riffed on subcultures in clubby, "ha I get it so we are both cool" ways). Nilbog is something else and goes much deeper, nobody gets it, nobody can... it's not just a dark piece, it's a silent apophenia producing sentinel; simple, hilarious, serious and terribly effective. The fourth strong piece in the show is Alex Hubbard's excellent video, The Paranoid Phase of Nautical Twilight I-III… a dark channeling of Gordon Matta Clark style structural cutting in video. His other video in the show though is an unimaginative and twee rip-off of Fischli and Weiss' classic the Way Thing's Go, we expect better of the former Portlander.

Caleb_bluesky.jpg
Caleb Charland's Demonstrations series at Bluesky

Another excellently dark show is Caleb Charland's Demonstrations at Bluesky. His haunting black and white time lapse photographs of moving light sources recall Nicolai Tesla's fantastic coils (which are most easily visualized as the devices used to bring Frankenstein's monster to life in the 1931 film version). There is something haunting about Charland's photographic mad scientist antics… like a really talented poltergeist at work. Bean Gilsdorf wrote this excellent review of a related photographic show The Eye of Science.

living_room_on_the_trackslithiavirginia.jpg
O. Winston Link's Living Room on the Tracks, Lithia, Virginia, 1955

Right next door another at Charles Hartman Fine Art is O. Winston Link's show of uneasy railroad photographs The Last Steam Railroad in America. This show also ends on Saturday. Normally one doesn't associate choo choo's with a gothic sensibility but some of these like Living Room on the Tracks could be right out of a David Lynch's Twin Peaks. There's just something alchemical about transforming hard dark coal into steam to propel giant cast iron and steel machines. Don't miss this show… the iron horse as a niorish demonic force or at least a symbol of unstoppable fate is quite compelling and it says a lot about America's drive. Is that drive gone with the great steam locomotives?

Scriabin202.bmp
Jack Ryan at PCC Cascade Gallery (photo Jeff Jahn)

Another excellent but dark show is Jack Ryan's Scriabin's Moustache at PCC Cascade Gallery. Featuring somewhat arcane sound/sculpture, flickering light sources and a video called "Moon Rise" of the moon cycling from full to crescent with unnatural speed, the show feels like a séance for the haunting genius that was composer Alexander Scriabin. This is yet another excellent show from PCC cascade, which has become the most consistently adventurous university gallery in Portland this season. Sculptural/sound elements like the piece Black Parallelogram/after Tony Smith explore the arcaneness of Scriabin the composer and highlight a similar arcaneness in sculptor Tony Smith's black forms. Sometimes to be ahead of your time the things that artists create have to feel out of their time… or "weird" (weird is a word derived from the Old English (via Nordic) idea that one can know their fate or "wyrd"). Scriabin was a brilliant if completely eccentric composer and died of a carbuncle, which grew in his moustache then ruptured with tragic results. Perhaps Ryan is creating a metaphor for odd fate and its effects as the legacy of an artist, which others then inherit and similarly pass on? Very moving and reminiscent of shows at Small A gallery, except better because it substitutes odd arcaneness for that onetime Portland venues' Brooklyn-esque irony fetish (something I often find an easy audience finding crutch, others love it).

ICE_Voyage.JPG
Of Walking in Ice @ White Box Gallery, U of O Portland

Similarly, Jack Ryan has also curated a show called, Of Walking in Ice at the U of O's White Box Gallery in the White Stag Building. It shares a lot of similarities with his solo show, not the least of which being both are rather arcane. Of Walking in Ice comes from Ryan's interest in a text by the rather arcane filmmaker Werner Herzog where he chronicled a chilly walk from Munich to Paris by a young filmmaker. The interpretations, be they Melody Owen's intertwined infinity symbol snowshoes, Anna Fidlers' Daniel Richter-esque figures in a landscape or Anna Gray and Ryan Paulson' literary index, all display an elliptical sense… perhaps because when walking on ice there is this sense of endlessness. On an iced over lake or ice cap the surfaces is relatively uniform and white, giving little hint of scale, direction or shelter. Once again fate seems to be at play here but since Herzog is involved one senses there is an utter conflation of the absurd, artistic and legitimate documentation.

Overall, this theme of darkness isn't anything new for the area, In 2002 Stuart Hordoner curated the noirish "Northwest Narrative" at PICA's once glorious full time exhibition space. More recently Laura Fritz, Carl Diehl, OPS, Stephen Slappe, Paula Rebsom, Patrick Rock, Arnold Kemp, Michael Brophy, Dan Attoe have put on haunted sanity challenging efforts. In the tradition of David Lynch, this noirish suspension of reason for generating apophenia is a great strength of Portland's art scene because it deals in intangibles and the unknown (all very common themes for a settlement carved out of the deep dark woods rather recently).

Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 12, 2010 at 17:09 | Comments (0)


Comments

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