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Friday 07.30.10

« Vection essay unveiling | Main | Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing at PAM »

Tabor Robak's Quarterback at Appendix

Tabor Robak's Quarterback

After navigating the intense Last Thursday Alberta Street crowds of revelers I was grateful to reach Appendix Project Space, which along with Littlfield has become the experimental installation/performance art hot spot in Portland (though there seem to be new spaces popping up in unexpected places all of the time).

Upon arriving, a good sized crowd was taking in the self indulgent Foque Mopus gameshow, a performance art piece in front of the gallery/garage that is Appendix. The garage door was closed and I noted how everyone involved in the game show was doing their own thing; twiddling knobs to make funny noises, playing with joysticks to making funny sine wave noises, giving away prizes etc. Sean Patrick Carney (who I’m assuming was part of this) launched into a respectable finger style guitar version of, “Babe I'm Gonna Leave You” while singing Robert Plant's vocal lines a lil bit like Edith Bunker. It was the best part of the whole game show performance.


Soon everyone hushed up and Tabor Robak opened the garage door to reveal Quarterback, a move reminiscent of a magician unveiling a trick. In fact, his work resembled several classic escape artist stunts. Also, typical of magic acts and the art world, a mild S&M look was pervasive, which also made it look a little bit like a low budget version of Terence Koh's work and maybe a hint of Matthew Barney.

The show consisted of three kinetic sculptural events. In front a shiny stainless steel stand intercepted a constant stream of bubbles... not unlike a knife throwing act popping balloons. To the left a rectangular box resembling one of Hans Haacke's Condensation Cubes and Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Cell. To the right a black ball bound in chains dripping some sort of thick white substance hung from a hook. The bubble machine piece was the most successful, though it's pretty squeaky clean compared to Paul McCarthy's less tame kinetics. The moisture box seemed too small and was either too roughly made or not primitive enough to be wholly successful and I liked how the dripping ball referenced Lynda Benglis' poured pieces and some sort of ball/seeping semen combo.


The whole affair was supposed to elicit a sense of failure... which didn't really come across. What it did reveal was an artist with an impressive flair for initial impact but still looking for something more convincing. Why else hedge the work by being so purposefully shallow?

That kind of content isn't true failure, it's an honest acknowledgment of limitations and potential that this recent PNCA grad has got down pretty well. What he needs is a way to make these awkward realizations more universal and less hedged upon commonly used genres and gimmicks... which are still very art school. Still, there is something about Robak's showman's flair and self deprecating honesty that makes me think this artist is one to watch.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 30, 2010 at 23:14 | Comments (0)


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