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

recent entries

Brenna Murphy at Upfor
Mike Rathbun opening and talk
Monday Link
PAM hosts Wiki edit-a-thon
Mark Morrisroe one night show and book release
Kartz Ucci, a force for new media art RIP
Monday Links
First Weekend October
Friday Links
First Thursday Picks October 2013
Tuesday Links
Jorge Pardo talk and dedication today

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
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman

archives

 

Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
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

Sunday 10.09.11

« Body Building at bSide6 | Main | Bovee in Dwell »

Philip Iosca at PNCA's Manuel Izquierdo Gallery

Iosca_IZ_Full1_sm.jpg
TROUBLE IN MIND (walls), M.M. (floor) (all photos Jeff Jahn)

With all the attention on mass movements, the toppling of tyrants and an ultra polarized political climate in Congress it reminds me why I ultimately trust art more than people. Somehow art shrinks the world, giving greater freedom and agency to the individual's existential plight and perceptions (though it ultimately takes freedom to make art possible). Perhaps no exhibition in Portland illustrates that dynamic better than Philip Iosca's lastest show, "Hopefully I Become the Universe," at PNCA's often influential Manuel Izquierdo Gallery.

The show is powerful, restrained and ultimately heartbreaking through how it respectfully poses tough but poetic questions about bullying and suicide (perhaps the most loaded of existential decisions) by creating a series of open ended memorials for a handful of young men under extreme pressure. Individually, these young gay men decided to end it all in a string of deaths last year that shocked the nation. One year later, Philip Iosca noticed how these victims had begun to fade from the 15 minute news cycle and the national consciousness and just couldn't stop thinking about them.

The resulting effort is probably the most emotionally moving visual art exhibition I've encountered since moving to Portland 11+ years ago. I've never seen anyone tear up at an art show, like I observed at the opening on First Thursday, but that is an indication of the strength of this show. It is truly beautiful, very well considered and deeply sad memento mori.

Iosca_Universe2_sm.jpg
HOPEFULLY I BECOME THE UNIVERSE

The show's title piece greets us with some of the last words of one of these young men, HOPEFULLY I BECOME THE UNIVERSE, in appropriate white neon on a black background. Considering the fact that Americans hardly ever discuss death (contemporary art being no exception) this piece sets the correct poetic but melancholy mood.

True, neon is a contemporary art staple for famous artists like Joseph Kosuth and the more diaristic Tracey Emin but Iosca adds something to Emin's existential expletives by turning this into a memorial where flowers are left for the departed. It isn't just art or a memorial... it exists as both and therefore it's success depends a great deal on the rest of the show. Iosca is considered one of the most talented designers in Portland (former cultural engineer for the Ace Hotel, etc.) and the complete installation of his art here shows just how he's grown to be just as good, or perhaps even better fine artist.

Iosca_video_sm.jpg
Youtube videos by Jamey Rodemeyer

Next viewers encounter a video monitor playing 3 videos of 14 year old Jamey Rodemayer who passed away just last month. In the videos he discusses his faith in things getting better, how anti gay bullying wont define him and how he is inspired by Lady Gaga's lyrics as a kind of mantra of strength. Ultimately he cracked under the additional pressure of becoming an internet spokesperson at such a young age. Once again these 3 videos wouldn't work if every other aspect of the show werent incredibly poetic and respectful. They bring an air of sad personal urgency here and in the case of the videos, they bring the desperate plight of being different and isolated home.

Which brings us to the main room of the exhibition. It features 8 prints titled after the Billie Holiday song, "Trouble in Mind." Each fleshtoned print denotes a different young man whose color is determined through the date of their death being translated into CMYK code (Month Day Century Year). Each print is framed in simple raw pine, subtly referencing coffins (making this a wake). Each piece is impeccably installed and this reverence pulls the project through. It both evokes the person but abstracts them as they "become the universe." Every so often someone gets on a soapbox and states how impersonal abstraction is, but this show provides an unbeatable riposte. Sometimes abstraction becomes the only bridge between the personal and the sublime, beauty and sadness.

Iosca_stack_sm.jpg
M.M. (FG) TROUBLE IN MIND (BG)

The last piece, a stack of Norman Mailers's Marylin Monroe books is where Iosca pulls it all together. Titled, M.M. The stack is the height of the famed actress, who also supposedly committed suicide. Was it the public pressure, or was she killed by outside forces? These are pregnant questions when applied ton these young men. The question doesn't diminish the fact that she was fabulous and her influence has only increased with time. It's sad the same hasn't held true for the other subjects of this show as much as they should be. Nobody should be pressured into killing themselves simlpy because they are gay or different in any other way.

Overall, it is the way all of the elements of the the show constantly shift the discussion from tragedy to respect that makes it so uniquely successful.

I particularly like how the objecthood of the books imply physical stature and the way the name and image of Monroe's face on the cover is simply bigger than life. Perhaps that is what Iosca is trying to achieve here, an attempt to redirect the facts of these similarly tragic deaths into something other than a series of forgotten stories and thereby achieve that somewhat higher goal, of "becoming the universe" or a sublime memento mori?

It is an extremely powerful show, both sad and beautiful, completely unlike anything I have experienced in Portland before. It's a heartbreaker but this show gives the young men some of the dignity the bullies denied them in life.


PNCA, Manuel Izquierdo Gallery
Oct 6, 2011 – Oct 27, 2011
1302 NW Kearney St (ring the buzzer for entry)
Portland, OR, 97209
503-226-4391

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 09, 2011 at 15:12 | 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