Graham W. Bell

 

Emerging from the Grid

Calvin Ross Carl's New Paintings at HQHQ

I’m not sure if it’s the infallibility of Cool-Whip that has pervaded my household post-Thanksgiving or something more Renfieldesque, but I want to ingest Calvin Ross Carl’s new paintings at HQHQ. The sheer viscosity of his paint application shares startling kinship with pie topping and would surely make Clement Greenberg titter with ineluctable delight, but the deeper, more psychological, associations behind the works leave my mind hemming and hawing about unseen layers.

Calvin Ross Carl, Stop Believing (Things You Can't See), 2014

Calvin Ross Carl, Stop Believing (Things You Can’t See), 2014, acrylic on canvas. Image Courtesy the artist and HQHQ. Photo: Jessica Pierson

Painterly application is one thing, but Carl’s brushwork is methodical, exacting, and speaks to the digital age. Where past generations might have seen the hand of the artist, here we encounter a (hand-painted) homage to the machine. Each stroke is a stand-in for the pixel/voxel that makes up the Grid/Cube (Hypercube?) of graphic design and virtual play. The works are flat in their graphic sensibility, and read in photographs as near-print/digital. But up close, the systematic lumpiness is evident, and the artist’s inner dialogue is glimpsed. The delicate mar of a few stray paint strokes in 6:30PM Session on Empathy offers a helpful key to this very human element of Carl’s seemingly cold and calculated compositions.

Straying from his grid-based inquiries into color matching and association (as in his recent work at Ditch Projects), the HQHQ paintings take the first step toward unlocking the almost autobiographical musings of Carl’s practice. These are transitional paintings. What was only hinted at inside the geometry of past canvases is given an added level of clarity through the addition of text. Provocative phrases and unseeing masks of clip-art sensibility prompt new conversations about these works and their predecessors. Carl has opened up (but not too much) about his underlying motivations for creation.

Calvin Ross Carl, The Richest Man in the Graveyard (401K), 2014

Calvin Ross Carl, The Richest Man in the Graveyard (401K), 2014, acrylic on canvas. Image Courtesy the artist and HQHQ. Photo: Anna Reed

“Color is my crutch,” quips Carl, and certainly one might whiff a more melancholy air in the monochrome outlier The Richest Man in the Graveyard (401K). As this all-black painting hangs in the bright fluorescence, it darkly eyes the candy-colored goings-on of its brethren while secretly harboring the alphanumeric phrase ‘401K’. It’s not too much of a stretch to take this as an abstracted portrait of the the artist, dressed all in black and stressed from his day job. With this in mind, the smiley faces become masks for social interaction and the phrases become daily mantras. Give up. Kiss her goodbye. The things you can’t see.

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ALL PLAY AND NO WORK is on view at HQHQ Project Space, 232 SE Oak #108, until January 4. It includes new work by Calvin Ross Carl and Matt Jacobs. The gallery is open Thursday – Sunday from 1-4 pm.

Centuries of art of a French garden

"The Art of the Louvre's Tuileries Garden" at the Portland Art Museum is a stroll through history

Someone in Paris is wondering where all the statues went.

“It is unusual to have to rent a ship and send over a cargo load of marble,” quipped Portland Art Museum’s Chief Curator Bruce Guenther as he guided the press and donors through “The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden” on a balmy morning in June.

The traveling show, organized by the High Museum, the Toledo Art Museum and the Portland Art Museum, is truly a multimedia exhibition; it showcases sculptures from the gardens, and prints, photographs and models of the gardens, plus a specially-commissioned short video on a day-in-the-life of Paris’s  most art-historical garden. It is one part stroll in the park and one part history lesson, a fact that Guenther stressed repeatedly as he segued from explaining the rich history of the Tuileries to the legacy (and future) of Portland’s own Park Blocks.

François Joseph Bosio (French, 1768–1845), Hercules Battling Achelus,1824, Bronze. Musée du Louvre, Paris

François Joseph Bosio (French, 1768–1845), Hercules Battling Achelus,1824, Bronze. Musée du Louvre, Paris

Most impressive at initial glance are certainly the huge statues culled from Paris and installed in the first gallery of the exhibition. Seeing them inside lends a certain monumentality that the open air might not (strangely enough). They are offset by the array of small photographs that are equally as poignant. And of course a show about the Tuileries would not be complete without some excellent examples of Impressionism. The deft brushwork of Pissarro and the sun-soaked compositions of Hassam are a fitting complement to the spirit of both the garden and the exhibit.

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At the fore of “Tuileries” is a sense of rich, dramatic history. Transitioning from a royal garden commissioned by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century to a public space flocked with painters, tourists and vendors, the Tuileries has gone through several iterations and seen its share of strife, intrigue and reinvention. Guenther spoke about the garden being “built on the bones” of history, and it is obvious from the works in the exhibition that the current garden is an amalgamation of all those gardens past.

The Tuileries, as we know them today (more or less), came from the mind of Louis XIV’s head gardener: André Le Nôtre. His landscape architecture prefigured the French garden style and re-envisioned the park as a more public space. It is fitting (although a little textbook) that there is a portrait of Le Nôtre within the exhibition, along with his models and plans.

Childe Hassam, Tuileries Gardens, c. 1897, oil on canvas, courtesy High Museum of Art

Childe Hassam, Tuileries Gardens, c. 1897, oil on canvas, courtesy High Museum of Art

Especially pertinent to a discussion of the Tuileries’ past is a mention of the five upheavals they have endured. The French Revolution, Paris Commune, Franco-Prussian War, and two World Wars all left their scars on this idyllic setting. The Tuileries Palace, home to the royal family before the move to Versailles, was set on fire and burned for two days during the ousting of Napoleon III. It was demolished soon after in 1871. The outline of its foundation is now home to sculptures and the east side of the garden.

In this same vein, during the occupation of Paris by the Nazis, the sculptures and architectural embellishments of the Tuileries were placed in trenches and covered over. This preservation of cultural artifacts can be seen in a photograph by Robert Doisneau in his photo Statues from the Tuileries Placed in Trenches (c. 1939-40). This, of course, brings the discussion back around to the idea of literally walking on history. The events that took place in this garden were varied and numerous, and the exhibition does well to string together a loose narrative. Guenther notes: “Photography fills in the story.”

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In fact, the sleeper hit of “Tuileries” is this historical timeline via photographs. Photography was invented in Paris in 1837, so it is fitting that some of the earliest images ever created document the splendor of the royal gardens. As a city of multi-layered aesthetic history, Paris built upon its artistic past; the new camera technology justified itself by capturing the city’s past glories.

Especially worth noting are the works by Doisneau and Lucien Solignac’s Protection of Paris Monuments during WWI, Tuileries Garden, View from the Place de la Concorde (1918), as well as the illuminating works of Eugène Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson, both pioneers in making photographs and taking photographs. Atget exemplified the documentary mode at its most earnest, while Cartier-Bresson broke new ground by coining the term ‘the decisive moment’ and paving the way for later street photography. Besides being just a record of the photographic timeline, these documents give life to the history of the Tuileries in a way that statues, paintings and models cannot. Atget’s document of Pierre Lapautre’s Atalanta is a telling example (and it is especially strong given that you can see the actual sculpture in the exhibit). They give us a glimpse into the past unfiltered by a painter’s brush or a ruler’s decree. From the wartime records of Solignac to the street scenes of Brassaï, these works give us an unparalleled, and sometimes uncanny, glimpse into an era known primarily through text and artistic representation.

This is not to say that the brilliant Impressionist works by Camille Pissarro and Childe Hassam, and the grandiose statues of Antoine Coysevox are humdrum. They are well worth a visit alone. It is just that this addition of early albumen prints and real Atgets are what bumps this summer blockbuster into the must-see category.

Camille Pissarro, Place du Carrousel, Paris, 1900, Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Camille Pissarro, Place du Carrousel, Paris, 1900, Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Like the aforementioned photographs, some of the stand-outs in ‘Tuileries’ take a careful perusal of the space. And it’s not just the old, history-laden pieces that grab you. More contemporary works like Jaroslav Poncar’s The Tuileries Garden (1985) straddle the divide between historical panorama and a more modern sensibility. The misty black-and-white photo accentuates the landscape design and the way weather affects the garden atmosphere. Other pieces, like British photographer Michael Kenna’s Windy Trees, Les Tuileries, Paris, France (1984), take an almost abstract view of intimate elements of the space; by focusing on a specific piece of the garden our view of the whole is enriched. The movement in Kenna’s photo hints at an interest in natural events within the man-made green space, much like Hassam and Pissarro depict in their paintings a century prior.

Jaroslav Poncar (Czech, born 1945), The Tuileries Garden, 1985. Musée Carnavalet-Histoire de Paris, Ph 1916 © Jaroslav Poncar

Jaroslav Poncar (Czech, born 1945), The Tuileries Garden, 1985. Musée Carnavalet-Histoire de Paris, Ph 1916 © Jaroslav Poncar

On top of the documentary, there is also an air of mystery, myth and intrigue within the exhibition that was hinted at by Guenther when he mentioned the clandestine meetings of both royals and revolutionaries amidst the hedges as they participated in “a bit of trickery [and] a bit of seduction.” This private, romantic nature of the Tuileries is pictured in Pierre Tetar van Elvan’s 1867 Nighttime Party in the Tuileries, 10 June 1867, on the Occasion of Foreign Sovereigns to the World’s Fair. The glow of the now-destroyed Tuileries Palace bathes the figures in a warm light that recalls the dalliances of the Rococo. And on the mythical side, Coysevox marble Hamadryade (1710) is a clear reference to the Classical past. Its Neoclassical style and subject matter hint at the artistic lineage of Paris as an art center, while also making connections to other works in the exhibition like the early 20th century bronze Mediterranean or Latin Thought by Aristide Maillol.

Antoine Coysevox, Hamadryade, 1710, marble. Photo courtesy RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY

Antoine Coysevox, Hamadryade, 1710, marble. Photo courtesy RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY

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But what about the Portland connection? Why here and why this? First, PAM has a history of bringing in large European exhibitions (see ‘Body Beautiful’), and works well with visiting curators to create large shows that will bring in locals and out-of-towners alike. But it isn’t just the ticket sales they’re after. The museum has jumped on the community outreach bandwagon to connect with people outside their walls. We’ve already seen this with events like Shine a Light, but this seems to be a way of getting people involved while also extolling the virtues of Portland’s history in tandem with those of the artistic center that is Paris.

Making connections between the history of the Tuileries and the South Park Blocks upon which the Portland Art Museum sits, the curators draw definite parallels between our museum and the similarly-situated Louvre (which sits at one end of the titular gardens). By bringing attention to the Park Blocks via history and European art, PAM starts a local conversation about greenspace, urban development and public art. Hashtagging “captureParklandia” all over their press and partnering with the Portland Parks Foundation seeks to engage a population that doesn’t take the time for a stroll in the park. Maybe this exhibition will help to inspire a new appreciation of landscape architecture, unseen history, and the importance of documentation (although I expect to see more Instagram than albumen).

 

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“The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden”

June 14 – September 21, 2014

Portland Art Museum

1219 SW Park Ave

 

TBA:13: Intentional Communities Made Visual

This year's Visual Art at TBA:13 is more of an ongoing investigation than an end-all exhibition.

Forgetting for a moment that this is a festival about time-based art, one might become confused about this year’s Visual Art at TBA:13, aptly (and elusively) titled: “…community declared itself a medium…”. There is more space and place than there is sculpture and paint; the media is conceptual and ungraspable. It is a show about projects and activities and relationships, not the newest foray into traditional media and expert craftsmanship (not to say that there isn’t some of this).

Kristan Kennedy notes in her curatorial statement: “The artists included in this year’s program will certainly be using our energy.” We are asked as viewers to participate, to connect the points, to bring context to these experiments in community. Don’t expect to get it all (immediately or otherwise). The works presented are pulled from their habitat, shown as one-shots when they are actually ongoing investigations into participation, new media, the role of the artist, and the definition of community.

Community is a gathering of folk.
Community is an idea of togetherness.
Community is an idea of like-mindedness.
Community is a show on NBC.
Community is a cultural force.
Community is a sense of belonging.
Community is a space for interaction and artistic practice.
Community is a subject.
Community is a medium.

On one hand we have the definition of community as a group of people with common interests, traits or in a common location. On the other we have the definition as a worker or resource designed to help the people of a particular area. But perhaps the best way to look at this is from an ecological standpoint: a community in the wild is the idea of disparate species (ideas, artists, scholars, the audience) as they interact, grow, and live together in a specified habitat (the art world, Portland). It is overarching but personal; everyone is affected but always in a slightly different way.

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The exhibition* splits itself into parts, each adding to our understanding of the whole. As Kennedy sets forth in her statement, this year’s work requires the audience and an active interaction more than ever. If last year’s Alex Cecchetti relay performance was the beginning, this is the logical conclusion. In order to infiltrate and understand this work you must enter into a different mode of existence from your usual.

Some works are more readily accessible (literally) than others, and this makes sure that each experience is different from that previous. In Lucy Raven and Rebecca Gates’ “Room Tone: Variation,” one only needs to sit or stand in the room to become part of the work. As the performer reads off the piece’s explanation into a microphone hooked to a pair of reel-to-reel recorders, it is not even readily apparent that the performance has begun. There is no call for silence, no preface, no warning. This recording, re-recording and eventual degradation of sound purports to find the tone of the room in which it is happening. This is influenced by the bodies within the space and shape of the walls; the sound bounces off of you and is changed.** You belong to this community.

One of the leftovers from “C’mon Language.”

One of the leftovers from “C’mon Language.”

Requiring a more active participation, Anna Craycroft’s “C’mon Language” has been going on for the past few months, and it is through a series of workshops that she has probed the question: “How do we make ourselves understood?”. The activity area at PICA headquarters is littered with detritus from past conversations; drawings and diagrams and brainstorms are hung floor to ceiling. Without attending one of the workshops, the audience is only scratching the surface. But the place is pregnant with questions and hints. What has gone on here? What have people learned? It’s like a classroom with the essence of learning lingering in the air. You want to belong to this community but maybe you already do.

Differing views on what newsprint should be used for at "C'mon Language".

Differing views on what newsprint should be used for at “C’mon Language”.

Treading a line between physical and virtual while making a case for, perhaps, a dissolution of that distinction, Krystal South’s internet-based “Identify Yourself” (http://www.idyrslf.com) is essentially the artist’s thoughts on identity in the internet age presented in essay format. Rife with links, embeds, image macros and .gifs, South’s personal exploration of her coming-of-age alongside the internet is one that resonates with many. Anyone who was born before the 1990s is aware of a time when the internet was not something. It makes so much sense to talk about the internet on the web. We can no longer treat it as something we must “get on”. As South says, “I don’t go on the internet; I am in the internet and I am always online.”

This pervasive community (that of people using the internet in one way or another) is only trumped in size by that all-inclusive grouping of being-a-human-on-Earth. It is varied and ever-changing and totally reliant on technology to function, yet it brings together people, their knowledge and their experiences in constantly evolving and surprising ways. You belong to this community (you’re reading this online, aren’t you?) and it is still forming.

A.L. Steiner’s “Feelings and How to Destroy Them” is a showcase of video work from the past few years. In “COLOR LOCATION ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE; PART 1 (C.L.U.E.)”, two performers in constantly changing monochromatic outfits dance to a series of instrumental rock songs. As they roll off mattresses in unison, kick up their feet, fall down hills, and shimmy in fuchsia underpants in the desert, the two women create a surprisingly concrete ode to the music video genre. Quick edits and playful video effects keep the viewer interested and watching for the entirety. Other videos tread old ground as nude figures pile up in front of Yves Klein monochromes (referencing his “Anthropometries of the Blue Period” [1960] and its tenuous position in between satire, action painting and perceived misogyny).

In the back room, complete with curtain and theater seats, the presentation of “COMMUNITY ACTION CENTER” further teases the viewer with uncertainty. Various narratives are shown in sequence; most are about or related to sex and sexuality. Nothing is too shocking, but one gets the feeling that these graphic tableaus are meant to make you do a doubletake, or at least to question how you react. The fact that simply writing out a description caused me to question the gender of the actors on the screen (as I searched for a single definition) means that something is working. Depending on how one defines themselves in a gender context, this film will have wildly different associations.

As far as gallerizing a participatory experience, Alex Mackin Dolan’s “Cycle, Sun, Limit” at Con-Way does just fine. Although the imagery and objects are a bit cryptic, the call to (inter)action is clear. Sit down and play a game with some people or play solitaire by yourself in the corner. This dichotomy, encompassed by the brightly-lit white-cube space, brings focus to mundane actions that are designed to entertain. By presenting everyday objects and simple games, the artist recontextualizes constants from every community.

A seemingly minimal showing at the Portland Museum of Modern Art is in reality a far-reaching inquiry into language and its everyday use. Sue Tompkins’ work in this instance exists as audio, rainbow fabric and concrete poetry. The latter is most telling, and hints at how personal bits of language can become. Approaching these works with different experiences, each viewer will undoubtedly pull their own meaning from the structural assemblies of words, characters and white space. Patrick Collier has more to say here.

Sue Tompkins’ flags at PMoMA.

Sue Tompkins’ flags at PMoMA.

Jamie Isenstein’s “Will Return” is easily the most accessible pocket of Visual Arts at TBA this year. It is a seriously cohesive exhibition that brings its many layers together into a series of sly smiles and slow-burning gags. The soundtrack to “Acéphal Magical” (2007) plays sleepily behind the wall where this two-channel video is projected. Its melancholic drone fits in perfectly with the rest of the work, enhancing the atmosphere of mystery and impish mischief. The sound itself could hold its own, but the video is equally mesmerizing and adds a needed reference back to the body of the performer.

The viewer gets as much out of “Will Return” as they put in. Do you walk through quickly and catch the references to vaudeville, to the people in the wings, to the entertainers? Or do you wait and witness Isenstein inhabit her pieces in a series of minute performances? This is a show to be explored. And, as you do, the body of the artist is revealed to be an inextricable part of the work. How is the audience implicated in a gallery exhibition? We are explorers and Isenstein is the guide. Patrick Collier has more insight on this topic.

Jamie Isenstein, "Delicious After Dinner Mints," 2010, C-print. Installation view.

Jamie Isenstein, “Delicious After Dinner Mints,” 2010, C-print. Installation view.

The exhibition* “…community declared itself a medium…” is both about helping to elucidate the forces behind the notion of community (not really so much defining it) as well as looking at exactly what PICA does as a group/company/organization. Kennedy’s use of PICA’s mission statement in her curatorial statement sets the stage for a decidedly more nebulous offering in the visual arts section of TBA this year. Equal importance is shared between what is there (the objects), what/who is addressed (the subjects) and what is missing (the absent).

So is it the subjects that interact with the objects to make form of the absent? Or does the absent shape the way in which the subjects read the objects? Or are the objects and subjects the same in the eye of the absent? Kennedy has it right: “community” should stay in quotes, because as a medium it is still in flux and yet to be defined.

*We’ll use this as a way to talk about “…community declared itself a medium…” in a way that is relatable within this text, although Kennedy starts her statement by clearly saying, “This is not an exhibition.”

**I can’t help but think that this performance (although an experiment) would have been more meaningful if it had lasted for much longer. As soon as I was aware of what was going on, I was ready for it to last hours as I listened to the spoken word give way to reverberation. As it was, at 10:30pm on opening night, it all ended a little too quickly.

“…community declared itself a medium…”
Visual Art at TBA:13
Curated by Kristan Kennedy
June 3 – October 26, 2013
Various Locations
More information can be found at:
http://pica.org/event/tba13-visual/

Spare. Sparse. Space.: Deft hands and dense details

Three artists showing at local galleries ask for your attention, please

Quiet, minimal and softly alluring, the unassuming compositions at three neighboring Portland art spots can flit by you with a second notice. A cursory look around these art exhibitions reveals a couple simple shapes here, a few recognizable objects here; perhaps there’s nothing to hold your attention. It’s the second look, the closer inspection, that really opens your eyes. Amorphous shapes in frames become fervent beadwork. A photo of a sink involves more detail than your eye has ever seen. And through a hole in some rather innocuous fabric, a personal universe expands.

This month, three artists at PDX Contemporary Art, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, and PDX Window Project all create a shroud of simplicity under which some serious substance lies.

Kristen Miller: “Passing Through,” PDX Contemporary Art

A mainstay of PDX’s quietly conceptual roster of artists, Miller’s small-scale work is a testament to subtle visualization of hours spent working. Her meticulously sewn compositions (often white or off-white) waver in the ether at first, relying on the viewer to investigate further in order to fully appreciate them. Once you get up close, though, the realization that each miniscule bead is hand applied and stitched in exacting detail transforms a piece such as “Without Gravity” from a two-tone composition to a multi-faceted visual arrangement. And, while this has been Miller’s trademark, new pieces like “Rising/Settling” move her practice into new territory.

Introducing more visual complexity, “Rising/Settling” and “Untitled” look like before and afters of Buddhist sand paintings: intricate handling that has been scattered to the wind. The added layers of pattern and fabric help to drive home what “Without Gravity” and the other, softer works are getting at; the seeming chaos of “Untitled” is a happy departure from the safe shapes of previous outings.

Kristen Miller, 'Rising/Settling', 2013, silk fabric, glass beads, glassine, organdy and nylon thread. Photo courtesy of the artist and PDX Contemporary Art

Kristen Miller, ‘Rising/Settling’, 2013, silk fabric, glass beads, glassine, organdy and nylon thread. Photo courtesy of the artist and PDX Contemporary Art

Isaac Layman: “Funeral,” Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Known for his large, incredibly detailed digital photo compositions, Layman has ditched the images of cabinets full of glass and the giant Otter Pops this month for a meditative look at emptied shelves, bare cupboards and the remains of the kitchen.

“Funeral” is a fitting title for this show; there’s a certain sense of loss heavy in the air. That-which-once-was-but-is-no-more leaves behind a hole, a stain and a space. A simple single-focus photo of a cupboard might seem trite in this context, but the way Layman creates a plane of infinite clarity brings the viewer into these oversized renditions of everyday objects. Particularly striking is “Sink,” in the back gallery. Slight reflections on its porcelain surface read as imperfections, while the closed drain dares you to turn on the non-existent tap.

“Cutting Board” is equally uncanny, fooling your eye into seeing a frame where there’s a divot in the polyethylene, a hazy umber cloud where in actuality there are slices and stains (of the fish in “Untitled,” perhaps, although that piece doesn’t follow the same aesthetic as the rest of the show).

Although in line with the subject matter of “Funeral” (the photograph), the works Layman has constructed from framed archival foamcore, MDF, and rubber midsole (and all titled as such) seem like one-liners or sketches that detract from the quiet complexity of the rest of the show. Perhaps it’s the disconnect of the camera that imbues something more to humble packing materials (although Joe Thurston proved in 2012 that crates can embody so much more than just containment), but a photograph of foam like “Funeral” brings more humor and layers in this context than a piece of foam on its own.

Isaac Layman, Cutting Board, 2013, photographic construction, archival inkjet print, edition of 3, 2AP. Photo courtesy of the artist and Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Isaac Layman, Cutting Board, 2013, photographic construction, archival inkjet print, edition of 3, 2AP.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Jessica Hickey: “Resemblance Between Carl Sagan’s Statement and Lord Krishna’s Miracle (Performed 5000 Years Ago),” PDX Window Project

Where Miller’s work rewards close observance and Layman’s photos enhance our appreciation of the everyday, Jessica Hickey’s obscurely-titled installation in the PDX Window Project is like looking through a peephole or peering behind the magician’s curtain.

A 24/7 streetside exhibition space, PDX Contemporary Art’s Window Project has played host to a wide variety of artists. Attached to, but existing separately from the main gallery, the window is a testbed for experimental works and unrepresented artists. Pregnant with pseudo-mystic ritualism and personal associations, Hickey’s work is one of the better uses of this space since Von Tundra’s “Tint” and Karl Burkheimer’s “In Set.”

Because the Window Project is only viewable from the street, the artist has the ability to manipulate the audience’s sight-line, something “Resemblance Between…” does quite well. Using the box not just as a place to put things but rather as a container for her “miraculous objects,” Hickey pulls the the viewer in and makes them want to peer inside (and bonk their head on the glass in the process, of course). The white lipstick print on the inside of the window teases the viewer (looking a lot like the kisses on the now glass-encased tomb of Oscar Wilde), while the banner proclaims like a circus sideshow what mysteries may be found inside.

The printed images of the cosmos, tacked to the wall in a stack, are at once small and flimsy as well as vast, infinite and hard to see. Perhaps our understanding of the universe is the former and the truth of existence is the latter. But, although imperative to the installation, the white walls and the bright lights that surround the objects and universe(s) kill some of the mystery and mood, making one wonder if a darker enclosure might benefit the endeavour. Explaining the science of the universe through observation and rationalism rather than overt mysticism might kill the mood too, although I’m sure Carl Sagan (and Hickey) would have to disagree.

jessicahickey 2

Jessica Hickey, Resemblance Between Carl Sagan’s Statement and Lord Krishna’s Miracle (Performed 5000 Years Ago) [detail], 2013, 9 miraculous objects, sugar, water, car battery, universe, universe, Sagan’s mouth, Krishna’s mouth, hand dyed silk velvet curtain and light

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Kristen Miller: Passing Through
July 30 – August 31, 2013
PDX Contemporary Art
925 NW Flanders St.
Portland, OR 97209
Tue. – Sat. 11-6

Isaac Layman: Funeral
August 1 – September 21, 2013
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
417 NW 9th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
Tue. – Sat. 10:30-5:30

Jessica Hickey: Resemblance Between Carl Sagan’s Statement and Lord Krishna’s Miracle (Performed 5000 Years Ago)
July 30 – August 31, 2013
PDX Window Project
925 NW Flanders St.
Portland, OR 97209
On view 24/7 from NW 9th Ave.

Evan La Londe: Conceptual seduction

An Interview with the artist

By GRAHAM W. BELL

Back in the gray days of late February, I got to sit down with Portland photographer Evan La Londe to talk about his work, his then upcoming show at PDX Contemporary Art (“New Work”, 2012), and his past exhibitions at both the Lumber Room (“Terrain Shift,” 2012) as well as Autzen Gallery as part of his MFA thesis at Portland State University (“A Camera is a Room,” 2012).

Since our chat, La Londe has continued to explore new methods of making photographs. His investigation into the use (or emulation) of light continues to result in conceptually challenging but straightforward work that often belies his intense studio practice and experimentation. He recently participated in “The City and the City” at LxWxH Gallery (Seattle, WA), a group exhibition curated by Portland artist Daniel Glendening. He will be working this summer in collaboration with Paintallica in a show opening August 10 at Rocksbox Fine Art.

Primarily a studio artist, La Londe works with the idea of photography as not limited simply to camera, emulsified paper, and light. Our conversation centered around some of his earlier MFA works and the exploration of the core principles behind the camera obscura and the personal relationship he feels toward the space of the camera and that of the studio. From there we dove into his feelings on teaching, Polaroids and the ever-growing sense of distance between the object, the image and the artist. La Londe’s practice is one heavily influenced by the history of photography both as an artistic medium and a scientific procedure. The viewer, lured in by aesthetic beauty, finds themselves enthralled by the ever-growing complexity of his seemingly simple compositions.

Continues…

TBA short take: Kota Yamazaki/Fluid Hug-Hug, gently

The pleasures of reticence and atmosphere

Kota Yamazaki/Fluid Hug-Hug perform “(glowing)” at TBA/Tomas Valladares

By Graham W. Bell

The wooden pieces, sticking upright like grave markers in the almost imperceptible mist caused by shadows, suddenly become trees and stumps around which the performers sit while the sound of birds echoes. The performance ends.

Kota Yamazaki’s new piece, “(glowing),” as performed by Kota Yamazaki/Fluid Hug-Hug at TBA on Sunday night, is part butoh, part ballet, part performance art. This comes as no surprise given the choreographer’s initial training in the Japanese dance form and then his subsequent training in ballet. Where things get interesting is when a more international dance sensibility is introduced, mixing the slow, calculated movements of butoh with rhythmic and repetitive body vibrations, contemporary dress, ever-drifting lights and a soundtrack that fades in and out of hearing.

Inspired by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s essay “In Praise of Shadows,”  written in 1933, Yamazaki endeavors to meld Japanese taste and tradition with the avant-garde. Often he takes heed of the author’s words, “For so accustomed are we to electric lights that the sight of a naked bulb beneath an ordinary mild glass shade seems simpler and more natural than any gratuitous attempt to hide it.” Simply showing the movement and the performers without trying to hide them amidst sets and costumes has the most impact, resonating with the audience in a way that is an even mix of reality and the theatrical.

The idea of the body being moved (as opposed to the body moving) is certainly prevalent in “(glowing),” drawing directly on the butoh aesthetics that Yamazaki first studied. The six dancers (from Japan, America, Ethiopia, and Senegal) seem to be at once controlled by strings or by internal gears. They twist and slump like broken toys or people possessed. Each performer seems to be acting upon the others, spreading a movement through the group via proximity and then disappearing altogether into the wings or the shadow of the background.

Noticeably, each dancer is almost always moving. Even standing at the front of the stage, looking into the audience while the other dancers continue, one performer barely twitches her finger, her neck, her toe, her eyes. The small movements intrigue us the most in “(glowing).” You barely realize that for the last two minutes one of the dancers has been standing with a foot two inches off the ground, but when you do the feeling of constant movement, of imbalance, takes hold.

An ebb and flow of activity courses through this work, often without either a crescendo in the music or a build-up of movement. Instead, the slowness or stillness of one is counteracted by the manic gestures of the others.

Tanizaki writes: “Japanese music is above all a music of reticence, of atmosphere. When recorded, or amplified by a loudspeaker, the greater part of its charm is lost. In conversation, too, we prefer the soft voice, the understatement. Most important of all are the pauses.”

The silence of the initial sections of the dance allows the audience to focus on the slight sounds of the performers creeping across the stage. This priming of the senses helps to move one slowly into the piece, taking for granted no action and being made aware of even the slightest shadow.

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Sources:

Tanizaki, Jun’ichiro. “In Praise of Shadows”. New York, NY: Leete’s Island Books, 1977.

Video preview of “(glowing)” by the Japan Society.

The quiet art of description and house music

On TBA's opening night, a time for weirdness and coincidence

By GRAHAM W. BELL

Well, if you didn’t make it to the extravaganza that was the grand opening of TBA:2012 at Washington High School last night, I’ll let you watch this video to see and hear the best part of going when there is a lot/too much happening:

https://vimeo.com/49004794
Morgan Ritter’s installation to the tune of Venus X.

Opening night is for weird experiences and coincidences like this. It is not a night to go and see the art with your full attention. Many I came across had not and were not even going into the school, and were instead waiting for a quieter, more opportune time to peruse the visual arts component, “End Things.”

The visual arts portion feels smaller and more subdued this year (at least the Washington High portion). With only four classrooms occupied, I was left wondering what to see next. However, this year is also a no-nonsense, minimal exhibition. Here are things. Look at them. Think about them. Act on them and that.

Continues…