Tabor Robak's Quarterback
After navigating the intense Last Thursday Alberta Street crowds of revelers I
was grateful to reach Appendix
, 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 Im 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.