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

recent entries

Newspace Closure?
Clay Mahn's Bad Habits at FalseFront
Revisiting the North Coast Seed Building Open House
North Coast Seed Building Open House
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education reemerges
PSU's new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art bucks sad campus trend
Women To The Front
Weekend Picks: In House Edition
Mikalene tells it like it is
Weekend Picks
Tuesday links
Weekend Picks

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
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

Thursday 10.16.14

« Tuesday's complicated links | Main | Weekend Wanderer »

Abigail Anne Newbold at PNCA's Feldman Gallery

Portland's art scene is having a very strong month this October (mostly in painting and photography... much of the installation has been undercooked), but of all the shows the one that I keep returning to is Abigail Anne Newbold's installation, Borderlander's Outfitter at PNCA's Feldman Gallery.

Boderlands1_sm.jpg
Borderlander's Outfitter

The exhibition presents itself as a hipsterish quartermaster's gear dispensary or a tool library with an anthropological array of artifacts from a summer survival weekend in the project room. Everything is clothed in fairly recognizable purpose except that everything is a hair off. For example the dome tent on a cot is too narrow for anyone weighing over 90 lbs, there's a whimsical deer hoof tent stake hanger, a sheepskin glove has only 3 finger lobes... perhaps an oven mitt for Trekkies doing the "Live Long and Prosper" sign? ...and the bow and arrow seem less dangerous than a table knife. This gear doesn't seem actually available for use as much as it is suggestive of some extensive outdoor enterprise, which could happen. It's a show inherently about the potential of humans when mobilized. Good idea, but the problem is it is just too cute and adorable for its own good. Though it does make great programmatic sense for an art school beginning its school year. At least the exhibition is installed rather well (a complaint often levied on Museum of Contemporary Craft exhibitions).

Hoof_stakes_sm.jpg

Many other artists like Andrea Zittel, Fritz Haeg, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle and even Ai Wei Wei use familiar design vernaculars to ingratiate themselves with viewers (often in novel environments) but there is something different at work here. Instead of Andrea Zittel's fetish and commentary on modernist design and human efficiency/self reliance... this show exercises itself like some massive millennial Civilian Conservation Corps, recalling the Boy Scouts and numerous other quasi utopian paramilitary wilderness expedition organizations but with a dash of an REI shopping experience thrown in. Thus, its net effect is closer to Jeff Koon's assiduously crafted Pop than Zittell's brutal jet age survivalism (which has cold war era nuclear armageddon lurking somewhere deep underneath its orderly desert dwelling self sufficiency). Instead, this exhibition is delightful and charming by comarison. Newbold's penchant for "delight" isn't a bad thing, but like Koons it means it relies on craft's wow factor and ultimately it seems like an amusing distraction from something deeper and potentially more consequential.

Pegboard_tools_sm.jpg

For example, there's pegboard galore festooned with curiously tweaked tools with functions like grabbing, cutting, pounding or cutting... a bit like what the Occupy Movement might require if they were in a logging camp rather than on Wall Steet. Perhaps some could be used as interesting existential money extraction tools? At least the pegboard tools aren't trying as hard to be charming as the rest of the exhibition and I can forgive the nifty holster for a pair of shears where the stitching mimics the device it encloses because that particular tool seems to understand its own potential threat and ability to do work.

hunger-games_JLaw.jpg
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games

I bring all this up because Americans have been recently beset with numerous young adult fictions like the Hunger Games series.... even the resurrection of the X-men mutants as a school scenario in mainstream pop culture. Sure, Borderlander's Outfitter is different of course but somehow Katniss' bow as wielded by Jennifer Lawrence in the movies with a soundtrack by Taylor Swift seems infinitely more potent than Abigail Newbold's archery set.

Bow_outfitter-sm.jpg

Other art camp scenarios like Fritz Haeg's various projects or even the local Signal Fire residencies (who contributed to Newbold's survival weekend part of the project) are more experience oriented and less diffused by a charm offensive that this exhibition engages in. Still, I did enjoy the nostalgia it all induced, reminding me of my youth as a scout camp staff councilor but somehow this felt too twee, especially compared to Andrea Zittell, whose work seems to be similarly fashionable but oh so tough in the end. Maybe I'm just being a cynical Gen X-er or it is the fact that Im very experienced outdoors but I think the problem isn't truly generational... it's the way the art world at the middle levels rewards quirky and cute over seriousness. I think Abigail Anne Newbold can do better, though I'm certain the students who took part in the survival weekend got something worthwhile out of it... the exhibition itself feels parochial and light.

acadamy_for_survival_sm.jpg
Academy for survival

Still, in the end I wonder, was there truly a "survival" weekend or just weekend warriors without the nasty lord of the flies type survival situation? Mostly this exhibition left me with a feeling of a "My Summer Vacation" report given to parents... which perhaps is too similar to many art school's prolonged adolescence? Still, I don't want to dismiss it completely, Newbold has a deft way with altering the meaning of objects, especially tools. Perhaps if there were a more consequential target for her activity to underpin this whole enterprise it wouldn't come off as darling escapism. These are serious times and exhibiting hipster survivalism just doesn't quite step up to the task at hand.


Through October 24th at PNCA's Feldman Gallery

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 16, 2014 at 15:18 | 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