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

Saturday 10.17.15

« Weekly Links | Main | Stephanie Syjuco Lecture »

In a Rhythmic Fashion at Hap Gallery

Rythmic_fashion_fracture_sm.jpg
In a Rhthmic Fashion at Hap Gallery (all photos Jeff Jahn)

On the whole the quality and sophistication of art exhibitions in Portland has improved in the last few years, but in that same time the # of fully realized, surprising and meticulously executed ones has declined as of late. The current Alien She, Seeing Nature and recent Ai Weiwei shows can be excluded because those are Museum shows... what I'm talking about are exhibitions by lesser knowns. Perhaps it is because most of the energy worth paying attention to here has fractured into small experimental spaces and individual artist studios where they save their best work and most realized efforts for exhibitions around the globe rather than at home? Portland has a lot of very active globally active contemporary artists. In fact, I've heard it straight from the artists themselves that they save their best efforts for elsewhere. Thus, despite the sudden spate of rent hikes Portland is still a great place to create and workshop experimental work among peers and export it. We are still far cheaper than other west coast cities.

Still, venue-wise Portland can be weirdly conservative, half-baked or pedestrian/patronizing. Example: putting one or two humblebraggy objects in a white room. That's very weak sauce and curatorial studies 101. It means something has been missing and though I enjoy discussing the promising new artists who have just been discovered it is also nice to see a show that top to bottom owns and executes in a way that is clear, layered, challenging and resonant beyond the artist's statement and circle of friends. In other words, a truly world class show that you happen upon rather than expect has become rare when I used to happen every month or two.

Rythmic_fashion_show_sm.jpg That's why In a Rhythmic Fashion at Hap Gallery is so satisfyingly complicated. The Belgian based duo Carla Arocha and Stephane Schraenen were brought over by Worksound and I couldn't be happier.

The exhibition consists of several intersecting scrim-like curtains of mirrored Plexiglas in the center of the gallery with monochromatic abstract paintings around the perimeter walls. The effect is far more than the sum of its parts as the mirrored curtains each has a rectangular window cut out of it. The resulting fenestation literally slices up and shatters the viewer's field of vision, while serializing it (not unlike a bug's compound eye or a modern building's curtain wall). In some cases it frames what is directly in front of you creating a portal. Other times, depending on where you are gazing the mirrors disrupts the view by reflecting the viewer and what is on the wall behind you. The artists mention Broadway Boogie Woogie but the real reference here are modern building techniques and architectural styles which inspired Mondrian in the first place.

Instead the installation is not dissimilar to the non-sites of Robert Smithson, which also employed mirrors. In a Rhythmic Fashion therefore organizes the viewing experience by cutting it into pieces. I like the push and pull modality.

Rythmic_fashion_divide_sm.jpg

Overall, these rectangular segments and the inherent voyeurism remind me of the towering cliff faces that are condo buildings... something very much on Portlanders minds as gentrification and rents are steadily on the rise in many once quaint neighborhoods. But it also hyperfocuses you on the faces of others... as kind grounding visage in this house of mirrors. Some described this as pixelation, and it is when it reflects the colored paintings but in the case of human faces and forms the effect is a kind of human visual soup where depth of field becomes difficult to ascertain... a familiar or unfamiliar face in you field of vision could be someone behind you or on the opposite side of the room. Being a face in the crowd also means not standing out. This crystalline fragmentation also reminds me of another Smithson discovery... his describing of Donald Judd's "crystalline" structures and eventually the two went rock hunting together. This lead to Smithson's early Enantiomorphic Chamber works.

Smithson's description of two of his crystaline works could well describe the effect at Hap Gallery:

"Each framework supports the reflections of a concatenated interior. The interior structure of the room surrounding the work is instantaneously undermined. The surfaces seem thrown back into the wall. 'Space' is permuted into a multiplicity of directions. One becomes conscious of space attenuated in the form of elusive flat planes. The space is both crystalline and collapsible." -Robert Smithson, A Description of Two Crystalline Structures 1965

Rythmic_Fashion_opening.jpg

Though I think the intense delirium that Smithson supposes in his text was somewhat of a literary wish fulfillment, In a Rhythmic Fashion makes good and in many ways it may work better with more people in the room rather than less. Instead of Smithson's internal and quasi religious quest the artists at Hap Gallery have created a civic environment... a place that is just as distracting, constantly shifting and fragmented as our online personas. Humans are intensely social creatures and this exhibition points out the limitations of social practice... instead of a happening they present an environment and a kind of panopticon. The exhibition acknowledges the viewer by expressed discombobulation and I feel like it works better in the relatively small gallery space. This iteration is P11 and 10 previous versions have been staged all around the world, most recently P10 in Croatia. This stagecraft as experience has been a trend... begun arguably with Schwitters Merzbau but it was really Robert Irwin and James Turrell that turned experience into an instantly viable subject.

What does it say about humanity? That as a species we would rather look at one another congregating or ourselves turned into a crowd than paying close attention to details? I'm not sure. There is also a Juddian lack of detail here due to great craftsmanship that does not call attention to its professional skill (rather than good craftsmanship, which screams notice me).

Rythmic_fashion_sq_sm.jpg

Technically this isn't a vain show but it does appeal to human vanity. You can see it is Instagram friendly and vanity does organize us in both group and interpersonal situations, while selfless contemplation (which I find here when I'm the only visitor) allows the space for new thoughts to float into consciousness. A polarity of vanity and transcendentalism is no easy task for any show.

The fact that this exhibition with its commentary on architecture and its roots in abstract painting can be conversant on so many divergent levels is a sign of it's success. Best show of the year so far in Portland.

Though November 14th at Hap Gallery, 916 NW Flanders

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 17, 2015 at 12:38 | 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