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Tuesday 02.14.12

« Monday Links | Main | Slifkin on Bruce Nauman »

Travis Fitzgerald and Gary Robbins at 12128

if it is a crown it means it belongs to a king at 12128

New births are the most portentous of all events in humanity. Socially the child is considered completely innocent, for both the first and last time in their life. The child's potential is impossible to gauge and the pride of the parents along with the effusive adoration from others is unassailably justified.

It lends itself to apocrypha and in ages past a King's birth was often accompanied by some sort of mystical sign; King Arthur had Merlin, Jesus had a star and three wise men and Hercules contended with Hera, etc. These are all things that Joseph Campbell described as a miraculous birth in what he called the Hero's Journey. The point being, the birth is set apart as an even more extraordinary event, somehow foreshadowing a greater destiny.

Which brings us to if it is a crown it means it belongs to a king by Travis Fitzgerald and Gary Robbins at 12128, an alternative space on a converted crab fishing ship moored just north of Linton in the Willamette River.

The exhibit consists of a a realistic baby reminiscent of Ron Mueck and presented similarly to many manger displays, a giant tip jar filled with counterfeit bills, a giant photo of the baby's penis (definitely declaring "it's a boy"), neon and plaid triangles, a pack of poodle paintings and a couple of handkerchiefs encased in acrylic. Though little in this show is terribly original it does have that mad scientist Keith Tyson kind of feel to it. Tyson is one of my favorite artists because he engages a polyphony of seemingly chaotic semiotic and artistic strategies and I rarely see similarl work executed so meticulously in Portland... except this show.

Prism (neon piece) by Gary Robbins

What does it all of this work mean mean? Well, the neon pink triangle Prism, obviously riffs on the pink triangle, a now common gay pride symbol rehabilitated from its original use by the Nazis for persecution purposes. To me it signifies a gay parent (or perhaps co-artist of this exhibition) and during this major election year the issue of gay rights as parents (legally married or not, depending on the state) are a constant hot button issue. Inside the sealed plastic pink triangle is a smoke making device. The pressurized smoke escapes from a small hole on the front of the triangle. (Ok, where there is smoke there is fire.) It looks cool and perhaps it evokes the old tradition of a new father smoking a cigar? It certainly makes you look closer.

Fitzgerald Blue (tartan) by Travis Fitzgerald

The other triangle (quite plaid) is set up like a tent is titled Fitzgerald Blue is an obvious reference to co-artist Travis Fitzgerald's Irish heritage (Fitzgeralds came from Ireland although some transplanted to Scotland). The color blue is sometimes a symbol of artistic temperament. Tartan's are items of intense pride and the Fitzgeralds are one of the most famous Irish clans. Obviously, this is a family affair and the baby (or show) is a Fitzgerald. Blue triangles are also roaming symbols on android phones and under Nazi oppression they denoted foreign forced laborers (not certain if those matter but the roaming is interesting). Perhaps Robbins forced Fitzgerald to work on the boat? See how semiotics sometimes lead to ridiculous interpretations? Either way, the Fitzgerald tartan is worn and configured like lean-to on the floor, making it very different from a Kenneth Noland stripe painting, while evoking it historically.

My Brother, My Son #2 (reborn vinyl doll) by Gary Robbins

The most interesting aspect of the show is the pedestal (all works by Robbins) with the baby My Brother, My Son #2 (reborn vinyl doll), My Brother, My Son #1 (B&W print) and Tips (jar of counterfeit bills). All of these are presented as objects of veneration. The three wise men may have brought gold, frankincense and myrrh but this baby gets faux cash and a shot of his lil dude enlarged to epic proportions. During the opening, when viewers would approach the pedestal it looked as if the giant baby penis was hovering dangerously above them... which was hilarious. I will forever remember this as the show of the giant hovering baby penis. If Robbins and Fitzgerald follow this up with a huge baby penis blimp or a swarm of remote controlled hovering baby peni It would make me laugh even harder. As it stands this display resembles a church altar and functions like a funny off color joke.

Special Times Just Right by Travis Fitzgerald

The other works here like the poodle paintings, Special Times Just Right add to the air of over the top event fanciness and veneration. Last but not least the pink Left Pocket/Right Pocket (handkerchief prisms) by Fitzgerald seem to enshrine the event for posterity.

Though none of this is terribly original, I do think if it wears a crown it means it is a king is a successful show. Sure, it is full of posturing and false bravura but that's not the point... it is the ability to create an event, which judging from the crowd of land lubbers on a boat it certainly accomplished. Yes, it lacks Keith Tyson's epic levels of random art exegesis or the truly awe inspiring irreverence of the late Jason Rhoades Black Pussy extravaganzas but this was definitely the king of the boat people so far. Perhaps a king at sea is merely a pirate or a passenger... so let's see what comes next from the swaggering Fitzgerald and Robbins? The level of execution and surprise here IS much better than what you find in your typical Lower East Side Gallery show. Give credit where credit is due, this was the best alt space show in Portland for months.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on February 14, 2012 at 22:26 | Comments (0)


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