Victor Madonado's Gate at Froelick Gallery
A near ever present stalwart in the Portland art scene Victor Maldonado's "Less" at Froelick Gallery
shows the artist moving beyond the general influence of his MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago and Sigmar Polke and more into his own voice (which springs from a personality that is persistent, curious and energetic). Moreover, it's a sly game of optics, funny formal elements and his trademark consumer commentary... only way more subtle and successful than before. As one of the brightest painters in Portland, it seems like it has taken him a while to integrate all that thinking into something, but now it has gelled. Ironically, "Less" is Maldonado's breakout show on all levels, conceptually, coherently and from all the chatter this show is generating, critically. All this is good as painters typically don't hit their full stride until their 30's or 40's, another of Portland's defining characteristics; artists here are actually allowed decades to develop (New York and LA not so much, although "develop" is a synonym for "struggle").
Green Screen Series
Technically, the green monochrome format of "Less" takes the onus off of painterly theatrics and comes of as a great leveler. Instead of showing us every trick he can pull off in each painting (lots of abstractionists make that mistake) Maldonado creates a field of green with unpredictable golden disruptions. Because each panel is just an element in that field, each work individually and collectively supports one another. In essence, it is a community effort and the verdant green, each with its own unique mist of gold highlights asks the viewers to pay attention to minutiae and their own position in relation to the work. Technically there is no standardization in this community of monochrome green works. The effect is not unlike Agnes Martin's lines, Alber's collective color harmonies or Brice Marden's earlier more surface oriented monochromes.
Green Screen (detail)
In Maldonado's Green Screen Series, we are treated to a rhythmic pyramid of green rectangles that remind me of those stacks of televisions you would see before flat screen technology. They also spatially invert the corner they occupy while suggesting space that recedes beyond the wall, not unlike Wile E. Coyote painting a tunnel in perspective on a boulder. The field of rectangles also remind me of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin or any stack of boxes for that matter. The point probably being that one can project anything you want onto these "green screens" not unlike what late night talk show hosts like Conan O Brian and Craig Ferguson often do for skits (it was actually Jon Stewart's short running talk show on MTV that first made extensive use of them). Of course one could also make a case for some sort of Jules Olitski reference with all of the golden reflective elements if you wanted as well. Overall a very well executed, open ended and intriguing presentation.
But it is "Gate" that is the showstopper. Here the large 4 panel painting trades the amorphous golden iridescence of the green screens for a fishnet webbing of cyclone fence-like patterns across its surface. To make it even more "gate like" the painting rests on the floor. It's both funny and effective, essentially asking the viewer to see it as a visual field and a metaphor for the gates of perception. Because the gold is only discernable at certain angles the piece asks viewers to do a kind of kinesthetic dance to experience the work form many angles. In many ways it behaves a bit like Rudolf Stingel's Brocade series... with its relentless pattern and interrupted sheen but this is much less cheeky. Frankly this is a painting I could live with... I like it that much.
Overall, "Less" is a breakout exhibition that demonstrates why group shows are often so unsatisfying by comparison to a good solo effort. Just stop in and contemplate these two magnificent arrays and you wont be sorry. "Less" may be a commentary on the misnomer and easy to ape "look" of minimalism but it comes off as satisfyingly complex by demonstrating how grounded it is in extremely good decision making. Thus, "Less" is not about the end product so much as the commitment to focused exploration with a dose of open ended poetry for good measure... ironically making the final result more porous and available for the viewer to complete and contemplate.