fourteen30 contemporary

Visual Arts 2018: The big picture

2018 in Review, Part 7: From museums to studios to brave new spaces, a recap of some of ArtsWatch's views and reviews from a year in art

The visual arts stories at ArtsWatch this year ranged far and wide and – as usual – didn’t even come close to covering all that went on in the world of Oregon art. While some may see that as a failure, we choose to see it as a windfall. We are fortunate to live in such an active arts community. If we could cover everything, it would mean a much smaller everything, and that doesn’t benefit anyone. Here is a neat (and incomplete) encapsulation of visual vrts stories in 2018.

We took you behind the scenes with interviews with Oregon artists that explored origins, processes, interests, and other machinations of established and emerging artists. Paul Sutinen interviewed, among others, Judy Cooke on the occasion of her fall show at Elizabeth Leach and Tom Prochaska on the occasion of his spring show at Froelick. Hannah Krafcik interviewed kiki nicole, and ariella tai about their work with the first and the last, an experimental film/video and new media arts project in Portland. Krafcik was then able to follow up in another interview with Jaleesa Johnston about her screening and workshop at the first and the last.

Judy Cooke, “Pink”, 2018, oil, aluminum, 14” x 10” x 1.5”

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Collaboration and creativity under a looming sky

Kristan Kennedy and Arnold Kemp's The Big Dark at Fourteen30 Contemporary

By LUSI LUKOVA

“The Big Dark is a cloud … you appreciate it for reminding you that there is an above and a below. You could think of it like you think of a condition — something ominous or something pestering but also something you get used to, that you can’t do without.” In The Big Dark at FourteenThirty Contemporary, Arnold Kemp and Kristan Kennedy form their own collaborative cloud of artistic expression.

The excerpt above comes from a text written by the artists and released as part of the exhibition that opened on Saturday, November 17 and continues through December 29th. The text is the story of Kennedy’s first experience of the phenomenon of “The Big Dark”: she first encountered it while driving on a day in which the sky was unnaturally gray and the air felt leaden. She describes it as an overwhelming cultural weight, a looming and protective blanket.

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A safe space for deep criticism of art

manuel arturo abreu discusses home school, a free pop-up art school in Portland, and its upcoming "field day," June 23

In a recent discussion with manuel arturo abreu (they/them) the co-founder of a Portland-based pop-up art school called home school, a fundamental question surfaced—a question that directly relates to the relevance of this very platform: Why would someone hate art?

For abreu, a poet and artist from the Bronx, the answer is ready and waiting: “Because art sucks. It’s really violent. It’s a violent colonial enterprise. How do we reclaim it?”

In the following discourse, which centers the labor and thinking of home school and its organizers, nothing is sacred. Readers with a love for art, academia, and many of the institutions and frameworks designed to support these, might find themselves set off—but please take that response as definitive sign to keep reading.

Image courtesy of home school and MoMA PS1

The way home school came to be is “a classic story” within the home school-community, said abreu. Victoria Anne Reis (she/her), who now runs home school with abreu, previously lived in New York City and studied at New York University, an institution infamously known for being inaccessible to many students without the aid of punishing loads of student debt.

In search of a different option than “the very marketized education that she was paying for,” Reis began taking classes with the Bruce High Quality Foundation University, an alternative arts education structure that self-identified as “a learning experiment” and “New York’s freest art school.”

BHQFU—which is now defunct—was started by several Cooper Union graduates who, initially, remained anonymous and who derived inspiration from German artist Joseph Beuys’ concept of social sculpture. “Rather than an artist working with paint or cardboard or noise or language, an artist is constructing an aesthetic experience from the social interactions of others,” an unnamed source from Bruce High Quality Foundation said of social sculpture in an interview with Social Text Journal.

Social sculpture is “sculpture where society and community is the medium for the art,” abreu explained.

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He did the unabashed mash

Patrick Rock at Fourteen30 Contemporary in Portland

I’ve been away for a while, immersed in a visual endeavor, and therefore a little out of practice where arts writing is concerned. However, I did spend this past weekend visiting a number of exhibits, composing an essay as I went along, but one readers will have to wait for, as it’s going to require some research.

But some things can’t wait. Today I come to you with a sense of urgency because Patrick Rock has two videos at Fourteen30 Contemporary that will only be on display until October 9. They are the last installment in the gallery’s four-part, month-long, Coral Brush Node series. I saw them this last Saturday and, by golly, they made my day. A tonic for an otherwise more-cold-than-hot cruise around the Pearl.

Patrick Rock owns Rocksbox Contemporary Fine Art, and I mention this now only because I wrote a review about “The International Invitational Triennial of Contemporary Wind Chimes” he staged last April. And come to think of it, the last review I wrote —way back in June— was for Dan Attoe at Fourteen30. While certainly not wanting to be accused of favoritism for these two galleries, I do happen to like much of their programming, yet often for different reasons.

Jeanine Jablonski at Fourteen30 has an overall serious approach to her curation, and it is certainly “contemporary” in the manner I prefer to use the term, which is to be in the forefront and not merely work the artist happened to make in the last month. On the other hand, Rock’s curation and art may be thought by some to be bombastic with an aesthetic derived more out of hedonism than derived from either the canon or academy. And because both galleries stand out in Portland, I cannot promise I will not write about either in the next year.

But back to Rock’s videos.

Patrick Rock, "I know, I know, I know...,"/Fourteen30 Contemporary

Patrick Rock, “I know, I know, I know…,”/Fourteen30 Contemporary

The video in the front room of the gallery is visible from the street and does not lose any of its appeal or impact if the gallery door is locked. (After dark is best.) It is called “I know, I know, I know…” and was made this year. In short, it depicts the artist holding up photocopies of famous people in front of his face as if they were temporary masks. Film stars, renowned artists and great thinkers are represented, all which he defaces in a specific manner. I will not spoil the viewing by relaying any more information.

However, if one has an opportunity to visit the gallery when it is open (or by appointment), the front video is lent an extra dimension by the audio of the video in the back room. The second video is given a single “I know” for its title, and was also made this year. Again, so pleasingly surprised as I was upon entering the back room, I do not want to give anything away so the more inquisitive among my readers may have the opportunity for a similar experience. I will say that I, too, have a pair of black, capped-toe boots, and I am too fond of them to put them through what Rock does with his.

If I must give context for the exhibition, think Monty Python mixed with a little Paul McCarthy. Think: We might need to reboot… And for the moment, this will be the extent of my commentary about these works. After all, I need to warm up again to this art review thing. But I’m also getting ahead of myself, because I’m beginning to wander into the subject matter for my next review. Wait a couple weeks for further elucidation.

Forest for the trees

Dan Attoe's "Landscapes and Water" at Fourteen30 Contemporary in Portland

I want to smile because Dan Attoe’s drawings in the front room of Fourteen30 Contemporary are unexpectedly cute, as if they were taken from a children’s book. On the other hand, the words that accompany many of these drawings are darker, sometimes untoward, and therefore more along the lines of what I have come to expect from Attoe. These little disjointed stories would not make a good bedtime story for one’s three-year-old. Even adults might chuckle nervously when they’re alone. But unless the setting is therapy or a 12-step meeting, the subject matter is often something most folks wouldn’t care to discuss, let alone share. A Potteresque bunny rabbit appears to be saying, “Stop making games that you’ll never be able to solve”; in another, a kitty clings to its branch, and instead of “Hang in there,” we get, “Struggles with alcohol.”

Each drawing has five or six of these images floating around a central vignette that typically reflects the title of the piece. The central image in “Children” is a dark forest with a light from above that shines so bright, it illuminates the figures in a clearing to the point that they appear to be ghosts. Crowning this scene is a miniature mantel of flowers on either side of a gingerbread house. Below both the house and the woods we find “There are little silvery whispers all around you. They all know something you don’t.” The aforementioned rabbit is at the top of the paper, other little drawings scattered about. A wind-blown dog’s head has the side-caption “Charlize Theron.” A Playboy bunny with matching ears and old-school stripper pasties has the word “Children” written next to it in smeared graphite. A mouse trapped in a glass jar is at the bottom of the piece. But what gets my attention more than any of the above is a snowman-shaped gourd with the caption, “I talk to kids.”

Not in the least comforting.

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Anja Schwörer, Untitled, 2011, bleach on fabric. image courtesy Fourteen30 Contemporary

 The white cube has had its share of theoretical bashing, especially in the ’60s and ’70s when art was heading out of the gallery and into the world…and the world was being hauled into the gallery, dirty shoes (or just dirt) and all. But even as Tom Marioni and I were appreciating the delicious raw walls in the subterranean West Coast space at YU a couple of weeks ago and lamenting that the development of that building would likely mean a lot of drywall white walls hiding all that haggard and patinaed masonry, and I was reflecting on the plans Disjecta had had for the Templeton which would have ruined the wrecked magic of the place that we all loved, I have to say, I love a good white cube.

The world is a visually busy place, particularly in the urban environment where there’s not just texture and form, but message everywhere. And so to me, the white cube, particularly when hung with a sparse elegance, as the recent Ajna Schwörer exhibition at Fourteen30 Contemporary, is a deeply appreciated luxury.

Fourteen30’s beautiful space, the former NAAU on SE Ankeny, was hung with just three of Schwörer’s bleach paintings of modest scale. This provided not just the opportunity but the invitation for extended looking and reflection sans distraction. And these works are worth it. When I first saw them, the absence of color that the bleach created on at least one of the works (they are all untitled) reminded me of the show at the Vestibule of bleach paintings by Alex Felton and Kevin Abell. But Felton and Abell were essentially presenting a record of an action, splashes of bleach on black fabric, the splashes bringing to mind Hans Namuth’s film of Jackson Pollock at work and the kind of bleached t-shirts that were a fashion overlap for punk and metal kids.

Schwörer’s doing something else, something slower, more considered, more compositional. And yet chance comes into play as the bleach is constrained by the batik process, but also finds its own way, often at the edges, where straight lines grow tiny tendrils and tongues. And how many shades can be had from removing a single color? Simplicity births poetic complexity.

“Untitled” (2011) features ghosts of hexagons in burnt peach on a fine weave black cotton as if an angular something had been set down on it again and again, leaving a “ring” as a glass might on an unfinished table. The radial nature of “Untitled” (2009) is one-part Rorschach and one-part Shroud of Turin, suggesting, in all its ambient texture, a kind of alien face. And when the gallery, and maybe the artist as well, use the word “alchemy” to describe what Schwörer’s getting at, it’s here and in “Untitled” (2011) (the other untitled from 2011) that it comes to the fore.

For if “Untitled” (2009) is almost, if you cross your eyes, drawing figure out of the raw denim through its bleaching, the points at which the bleach escapes, licking out in little rivulets from the center edges of “Untitled” (2011) suggest the medium transforming material in spite, as much as because, of the artist. This latter, most elegant “Untitled” (2011), features a folded, grayed ivory “frame” around a black rectangular field as if we were somehow with x-ray vision seeing through to the stretcher bars. What is framed is a field of deepest black, the raw fabric, highlighting presence in absence or potential in the void (see for comparison: Cage’s 4’33”) even as Schwörer’s methods use deletion or the creation of absence to make image of what’s left.

Jordan Wayne Long in a crate in a van. image via jordanwaynelong.com

 

For the past week, artist Jordan Wayne Long has been in a crate in the back of a van for his performance “Box Shipment #2.”  The performance winds up tonight July, 7 at 7 PM at the Fourteen30Contemporary @ the 937 space curated by Rocksbox Fine Art, although apparently the van arrived in Portland yesterday evening.

Long has been in the crate, communicating only through an online Lord of the Rings Game (and a couple of videos), as the van is driven from Bald Knob, AR to Portland by a crew including Bradi Roberts, Matt Glass, and Shane Long. Here’s what the inside of that crate looks like:

 

Jordan Wayne Long in crate for Box Shipment #2. image via jordanwaynelong.com

 

And here’s the equipment list which includes more electronics than clothing or food. Gross. Jordan eats 28 protein bars in a box while his LOTRO character, Adanwings, adventures in Meneldor with wargs and hobbits.

How do we know? Well because someone called “Townsfolk,” “a level 40 Dwarf of Meneldor,” has written blog posts tracing the movements and actions of Adanwings. So on July 3:

On a peacemaking campaign across greater Eriador, Adanwings filled the role of ambassador today. Acting as liaison between the Rangers of the North and the hillmen of upper Dunland – a region known as Enedwaith – Adanwings slaughtered a great many of the behemoth Plains Oxen.

 

And it turns out Adanwings is a girl. Here she is slaughtering an ox:

image via jordanwaynelong.com

 

Also inside, here’s a Day 5 update YouTube video which is not as exciting as oxen-killing:

 

 

Meanwhile, outside the crate, the crew has been blogging about visiting Carhenge and the Christ of the Ozarks statue, seeing fireworks, and copping extra electricity for the crate at the motels where they stay. Long’s website runs these two blogs, in box and out of box, parallel to one another. Out of box notes the stats like Long’s time exercising, sleeping, playing the game, water-drinking, etc. that he communicates via his Facebook page.

I’m interested in the project addressing the split or blurring between the virtual and the real. Looking forward to the performance winding up tonight at 7 at @937 (937 NW Glisan).