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

recent entries

End of October links
All Hallows Picks
Mid October links and news
Weekend Picks: domestic edition
First Thursday October 2017 Picks
Weekend Picks
Vancouver Arts Summit Video
Artist Opportunities
September quandries
Interview with Jennifer Steinkamp
Bill Will at Lewis and Clark College
First Thursday Picks September 2017

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
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
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

Tuesday 01.17.12

« Monday Links | Main | Tina to Williams »

Memory and Anonymous

I've made no secret that I'm a little tired of the curatorial crutch of installing grayscale work (photography exempt of course) but two shows this month, titled Memory and Anonymous explore both the reasons for my antipathy and a secret appreciation for the underlying aesthetic. These conflicted feelings are interesting as less colorful shows always seem to be both an easily achieved form of elegance and a well worn road to generic art world accessibility.

Memory_sm.jpg
Memory

First off is Memory by Jerry Mayer and Ellen George at the Nine Gallery housed within Bluesky. Extremely simple and elegant the show consists of one large sheet of paper that has been folded and unfolded so much that it resembles a topographic map of the Himalayas. This is riffing on the trope of art as palimpsest as the paper records the wear and use of each move. The end result is lived-in, like a favorite article of clothing but the whiteness and light paper of the entire enterprise presents itself as a kind of relief after the existential burdens of the past signified by the paper folds. Here a past survived is a past with no sting. The folds also resemble the synaptic structures of the brain.

George and Mayer have created a piece that shows just how memories of difficult times (which they like most people have overcome) can become sweeter with time. Also, it was the right decision to show only this one piece in the gallery. Serializing the work would have diminished it.

Memory2_sm.jpg

As an existential road map the piece's shadows and texture are mesmerizing and takes the avowed ideas at play in the physical abstraction show Interior Margins (a few blocks away) up a notch and reminds us why Ellen George is one of the five most interesting/challenging/accomplished ladies of kinesthetic abstraction in Portland. (Eva Speer, Midori Hirose, Linda Hutchins and Jacqueline Ehlis are the other four if you must know,) .

Abstraction and memory have a long history and having recently seen the de Kooning retrospective last year at MoMA only reemphasized this relationship. His late period (dementia) works are particularly chilling and interesting but Mayer and George's work is different... closer to Agnes Martin and Dorothea Rockburne's more intimate practice. All that said Memory is one show you should not miss this month. Itis unforgettable because it so nonspecific, leaving room for the viewer's cognitive response.


Anonymous101_sm.jpg
Anonymous at the Art Gym

Anonymous, a group show at the Art Gym curated by Micah Malone operates along some parallel conceptual and aesthetic lines as Memory. Granted, Anonymous is a heavy handed curatorial construct where the artist have all signed a contract to never reveal that they took part in the show. By giving up their identities and exhibition histories they are then in turn given a certain carte blanche to do whatever they wanted. It is interesting how that freedom is used to explore some of the more hackneyed ideas that float around the art world. In fact, the option to pursue dead end ideas is the strength of the exhibition.

For example Artist D made the logically flawed but resonant with the times mural Untitled (terrorism). Another, artist F, grabbed the Occupy Portland theme and ran with the anonymous (aka leaderless) theme to poetic effect. Then there were the photos of light bulbs and a chair filled meeting room with a single spotlight... mocking and reaffirming the premise of the exhibition itself. These are works that are resonant with the times but somewhat too reliant on predictable agitprop to build a career on.

Capitalism_terrorism.jpg
Untitled (terrorism)

So what did the rest do with this so called freedom? Most of them decided to create works that are even more generic art school cliches. I've seen these works seemingly thousands of times; A guy huddled in a sleeping bag... check, the ever popular mock modernist string piece... check, action figures on a mirrored surface... check, graphic representation of a marijuana leaf and other pop culture spoofs... check, blocks cut from two by fours covered in white gesso... check, some art about the omnipresent influence of Duchamp, Judd and Beuys... check. It is particularity telling that most of the artists chose a black and white color palate as if to engage the generic qualities of such work and the mind races with questions as to who did what? Did Micah Malone simply make all of this work himself... no, but that would have been excellent.

Instead, little clues and the fact that Malone and I have similar social circles give me some possible clues as to who is who here but I'm not going to ruin anyone's fun (TJ Norris, Patrick Rock, Sean Healy collaborating with Joe Thurston and Todd Johnson are all good candidates, as is Bruce Conkle but I think he sat this out and others made work that looks like stuff Conkle made during his BFA years... which is hilarious). In fact artists like Bruce Conkle, David Eckard, Emily Ginsberg, Melody Owen, Pat Boas and Tad Savinar have shown at the Art Gym so much an anonymous show might be the only way to to do another Art Gym appearance? (all of them do good work and most have a somewhat approachable presentation style, ie nothing too in your face or hard nosed) See the show has me dissecting the Art Gym's programming not the show itself? It is important to note that grayscale work was not stipulated and no I have nothing to do with the work in this show... aaand no I'm not protesting too much, I'm simply yanking a chain.

Occupy_Portlander_sm.jpg
Artist F, Protester in January

Which raises an important question about Anonymous, how does a curator get an artist to participate in a show that does not further their careers yet has the typical opportunity costs of time and other scant resources? Hint, personal connections, cheap materials and a dry sense of humor help.

The story here is that most of the artists (some who undoubtedly have shown too much in Portland already) used the opportunity to explore things they rejected as outside their idiom or simply too generic. On paper that looks like a dull show but it is not. Instead, because all artists have a brand or career that they manage, Anonymous becomes a kind of monkey wrench in the cogs of our local art scene... go see it and please avoid repeating most of it (not because it is bad but because it is predictable). For art students this exhibition is mandatory.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 17, 2012 at 16:41 | 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