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 10.22.10

« lectures | Main | harun farocki »

Lee Kelly Retrospective at Portland Art Museum

Lee_Kelly_atrium_sm.jpg
Installation view with Memory 99, Cor-Ten 1999 (background), Maquette for Gate F, Candlestick Park 1973 (far right)

The Lee Kelly exhibition currently on view at the Portland Art Museum contains a balanced mix of early, mid, and later works while featuring a broad spectrum of Kelly's language. From his first oil paintings at the Museum Art School, to his more recent colored steel sculpture, Kelly retains a playful yet inspiring approach to art making.

The inclusion of Kelly's larger scale sculpture Memory 99, as well as a video interview with Kelly on his life and process, strengthen the retrospective. They provide the viewer greater intimacy with the work of Kelly and a better understanding of its origins, in particular, pointing out the influences of his formative years in rural farmland. If one is familiar with Kelly they are likely to have seen one or more his public works, as they are scattered quite numerously across the greater Portland area. For those who haven't, however, Memory 99 is a wonderful example of Kelly's larger scale sculpture. Kelly's monumental sculpture would not be presentable inside the museum but through scale models and Memory 99 one gains a sense of the artists use of balance in gravity and movement through rhythm in his larger works.



Lee_Kelly_Arlie_sm.jpg
Arlie, Steel (1978) located on the museum grounds, the exhibtion includes a map and I-Phone app for monumental off site sculpture



Monument, in fact, seems to be a motif throughout much of Kelly's work. His sculptures often reference architectural wonders from various foreign cultures such as Inca ball courts or temples in India. Kelly discusses the influence of travel on his work in the video interview, citing the importance of both natural and manmade structures. His sculptures serve as artifacts of a mythical type, simultaneously existing in the valleys of Peru, and Kelly's fictional universe.

One could argue that Kelly is simply preserving the ignorance of western homogenization with sculptures like Leaving Kathmandu. Though there is merit in that argument, I saw these works as more of a personal response to a specific experience. It isn't as though Kelly claims the culture as his own with the piece, more that he lets the experience imprint his interpretations. He provides a space for thoughts to foster on the impact of history and architecture without assumptions of their significance within the culture of origin.


Lee_Kelly_Paintings_sm.jpg

Truly surprising is the prowess of Kelly's two dimensional work. In his oil paintings dark patches unfold upon sunlit canyons while spontaneously bursting into raw forms of line and color. I found myself quite drawn to these works as I saw bits of De Kooning and Egon Schiele in his gestural markings. They also distinctly resembled his earliest sculptures with their cactus like hedrons and boney stems.

Kelly's explorations and influences as an painter clearly reverberate in his sculpture. His painterly mindset is evident in the recurrence of gesture in all periods of his career, as well as the rise in use of painted steel in its later stages. Even Kelly's more minimal notch and beam structures from the 70's and 80's have a sweeping movement about them referencing the torque of human touch.

It is evident that Kelly's process has changed over his career. He began by welding reused material unaware of what the final result would be. Eventually preconceived shapes arose from sketches and notebooks dictating the direction of the work and ultimately resulting in Kelly's use of laser cut prefabrications. Still, the later sculptures abstain from rigidity through Kelly's process of placing, removing and replacing his prefabricated components. We find a return to his earlier expressionist attitudes in some of the most recent works such as The Professor and the Archbishop. Though these new colored sculptures of Kelly's don't quite carry the composure of earlier pieces, it is very exciting to see the 78 year old still experimenting and tackling problems in a new manner.

Possibly Kelly's greatest quality is his sheer productivity. Since the 60's he has been one of the most hard working sculptors in the northwest taking on public projects across the country. Even after Kelly made a name for himself with monumental sculpture he continued to work diligently in the studio, resulting in an ever evolving practice.

Kelly definitely hit a note with Cor-Ten steel sculpture making strong and balanced work for several decades. Like any great artist, however, Kelly has challenged himself by reviving ideas left behind and imbuing his newer pieces with them. Some works are more successful than others; I found his usage of written poetry far too gimmicky and distracting. The smaller colored steel wall sculptures do strike a nice balance between accident and execution while referencing his beginnings as an abstract expressionist.

mid_kelly_sm.jpg

One might easily come away from the show unimpressed, as at first I did myself. Kelly's work certainly isn't quick to catch one's attention with daring moves or flashy combinations, and there is undoubtedly a bit of a lull in the show with some of the more recent sculptures. Overall the work grew on me, however, especially those architectural/figurative forms from his mid career and several of the newer colored wall sculptures. I enjoy the interplay these have with his older expressionist forms of his paintings while retaining the brute balance of his architectural monuments.

What makes Kelly successful is his resolve to discover something that is his own. He has stayed his course and developed a vocabulary that serves his purposes, which is no easy feat. His honesty and integrity bolster his choices of medium and subject matter nicely without hindering his unique approach to problem solving. There is a straight forward attitude in Kelly's work that shows us he isn't afraid to do what he loves no matter what people make of it.


Posted by Jascha Owens on October 22, 2010 at 9:50 | 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