There were numerous excellent shows I simply did not have time to cover over the last 6 months and The Score as an ongoing series of reviews is a way to catch up and take note. What's more, three very good shows; Museion,
David Eckard's survey (feature article coming soon) and The Bonnie Bronson Fellows
show all end this week.
Museion at Reed College (photo Jeff Jahn)
Museion at the Cooley
ends today so it is your last chance to see what Reed has in the
vaults. For example, they have a more varied and numerous collection of Milton
Avery's than PAM has. Also, their Rothko is strangely fleshy like the Cezannes
they are indebted to but way less arid. With numerous works by CS Price
and Morris Graves Reed definitely hits the high points in good old Northwest
art and the overall humanistic focus of the collection becomes crystal clear.
A contemporary video piece Corundum by Allison Hrabluik further demonstrates
the cohesiveness of the collection with its intense awareness of the human body
and our proclivity for skin augmentation is presented as a contemporary grotesque.
Allison Hrabluik, Corundum, video (2010)
Overall, the most notable thing about Museion besides the quality works themselves is how
well they are installed and it reminds me how much I love university museums.
They give students a way to wander and continually reconsider a familiar set
of objects in a permanent collection and Reed should have one. With alumni like
super collector Peter Norton, curator Larry Rinder and artist David Reed you
wonder why they dont already have one? Could the faculty see a University
Museum as a threat or distraction to their own funding and research? I can't
imagine otherwise learned folk feeling that way... perhaps it takes a dedicated
patron to push the idea? An updated and larger lecture hall than the current
Vollum Hall is needed as well.
Kyle Thompson, I Hate The Sound of Guitars A: No Survivors (photo Jeff Jahn)
Perhaps the hottest new space in Portland is Recess
, which reminds me of a small scale scale P.S.1 with all of its exposed
brick, stairwells and a warren of project space sized rooms. In September they
put on a Space-Based Art festival and I was impressed that they even created
a small publication for the event. There are some ringleaders from Reed, PSU and PNCA at work
here and a lot of the work looked like the kind of Unmonumental style art that
is the calling card of recent grads these days but Kyle Thompson's I Hate The
Sound of Guitars A:No Survivors was a particular standout with its hypnotic,
multireflection array fragmenting a video of a boat's wake. A suitable metaphor
for the transporting power of experiential art and a healthy dose of existential
Adam Sorensen at PAM, Tabernacle (2011) on the left (photo Jeff Jahn)
Sorensen's show at the Portland Art Museum's Apex space
is one of the very
best they have ever presented, partially because the canvases on display represent
a new level for the artist. The paint handling is better, with a penchant for serialized forms
that appear to luminesce with an eerie graduated glow. The compositions although
landscapes also manage to have a more all over, non-hierarchical structure that
along with the luminescence recall Robert Irwin and other light and space artists.
Then there is the color, which is starker with cleaner blues, blacks, greens
oranges and pink. The result is alien, like art rock album covers for the band
YES from the 70's but instead of being merely trippy they highlight the way
we project ourselves into nature... but with a twist, there is no room for humans
and it is difficult to tell what is mineral or vegetable. Even the brooding
spatial compression of the work seems to keep the sky in check. These paintings
are initially seductive like a psychedelic postcard image but ultimately remain
beyond reach. In fact, it is difficult to tell if Sorensen's vision is idealized
or horrific as a kind of meeting between Eva Hesse and Caspar David Friedrich?
In particular the largest work, Tabernacle is a landmark piece and it would
be nice if PAM could acquire it... since like most Northwest art collections
it rarely possesses the best or key works from important artists (in a commercial
gallery it would sell very quickly giving PAM little chance).
Thus, it is extremely refreshing to see a very relevant breakthrough moment
happen within PAM's walls, so often they are late to the party. In this case
they have chosen well with one of the key painters who moved here within the
last decade or so. Question is can PAM build some momentum by featuring relevant
truly contemporary artists as they make major statements? Can they
get beyond traditional wall painting and floor sculpture to address the shift
towards new media and less commercial work? What about edgier, less academic
or less so-called commercially viable work? Lastly, how is the Apex Program
to be defined in contrast to the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards? For a partial answer Sorensen's
show is a tantalizingly relevant programmatic move but unless there is follow
through it will feel like an anomaly . One of the best shows of the year, congrats!
Dustin Zemel at Worksound
At Worksound's current Shred
of Lights show
, Dustin Zemel's interactive installation Scoop 6am, consisting
of fake TV news reporters (played by local artists) hits all of the right notes
even though the tangle of wires could use either a little cleaner or even more
cacophonous presentation (ala Jason Rhoades). There will be updated presentations
in 2012 giving Zemel a chance to evolve the piece. So often the network news
presents new stories in the same old formalized way, churning out boilerplate
and anchorman hair in lieu of analysis that it has lost credibility... just
wait for the next potential Snowpocalypse to hit Portland, with its relentlessly
repeated footage of cars and people sliding where they shouldn't. Here Zemel
gives us artists presenting the news and in these cacophonous times who is more
Bronson Fellows at Hoffman Gallery (photo Jeff Jahn)
At Lewis and Clark's Hoffman Gallery you have through Sunday to catch Bonnie
Bronson Fellows: 20 Years
. The show is necessarily an uneven grab bag of
sometimes too academic or soft, sometimes refreshingly direct work (David Eckard,
Nan Curtis, Christine Bourdette, Bill Will, MK Guth and Paul Sutinen for example). Historically the award
has sometimes been an early predictor of a major international level mid career
flowering so it is worth paying attention to. To look deeper, Nan Curtis is the
most recent Bronson Fellow (who first showed in Portland in 1995) so one strength
of this 20 year exhibition acts as a kind of catalog of Portland at the end
of the 20th century. It also highlights how the the award has not yet addressed
the immense wave of artists who have greatly re-imagined Portland since 2000.
Perhaps the reason Nan Curtis' commissioned pieces for the recently passed Bronson
Fellowship patron and advocate Joan Shipley are my favorites in the show is
the way they literally crystallize the interaction between artist and patron.
Thus, cementing the support for often non commercial work that the Bronson Fellowship
has often supported... all while highlighting the fact that a new era is necessarily
on the horizon. One thing is sure, the Bonnie Bronson Fellowship has been key
to supporting mid-career artists who have changed shape of the Portland art
scene and though Bronson and Shipley might be gone, the award's persistence
links and clarifies the present and past in a crucial way.
Harmless Environments at Half/Dozen
For years Half/Dozen was the anchor of activities at the Everett Station Lofts
but it's new and somewhat quirkier dual project spaces have actually made it
even an even better if not harder to find venue. True I still miss NAAU as the East
Eide's ultimate cutting edge art destination but Half/Dozen has become its
most consistent heir to what was the most crucial gallery of the past decade. Not certain if h/d can or even needs to aim that high without lots of funding.
Time trudges on though and my favorite show at h/d so far was Harmless
Environments with Ellen Jane Michael and Megan Scheminske
in August. Michael's
bailed printed materials and Sheminske's photos of artist's studios worked incredibly
well together... like a journal of human industriousness, the show was a poetic
elegy to the way the production of culture greases the gears of civilization.
Michael's objects had a very mortal quality, existing like the paper pulp's
phantom memory for it's former tree form and Schiminske's off hand and almost
incidental photos were very well done. Both are talents to be watched.