Ginsberg and Bocci
In October I needed to breathe. The Portland-wide
Print Symposium wasn't as devastatingly dull as I had hoped,
but somehow the lack of solo shows left me breathing fumes
from the presses.
Must ... find ... fresh ... air.
Instead, I found garbage and surprise,
surprise it is a good thing.
Still, I should say something about the symposium:
At Bullseye, Rae Mahaffey's prints combined glass etching
and the prints made from them in an array of transparency
that was ambitious. She pulled it off; well done.
Xu Bing at PICA was masterful, but it left me
wishing I could see one of his rooms filled with books.
The Korean Prints at Mark Woolley were amazing
in detail and visceral impact, I also liked the connection
to printing on fabrics.
Brendan Clenghan's relief prints at Pulliam
Deffenbaugh were really excellent (although I find his neo-Freudian
theoretical basis dated and silly in a post-graduate way
there is a reason Freud is not considered a legitimate form
of therapy anymore. Drop Freud as a crutch and just deconstruct
need and want. Who needs all of his 19th Century baggage?
The work deserves better; hell, even La Leche League is a
The Jordan Schnizler Collection print exhibit
at PAM reaffirmed some of my beliefs: Oldenberg's early '60s
prints have so much more force than any of his fabricated
sculptures and the Andy Warhol Maos are masterpieces either
as prints on paper or prints on canvas.
But, in the end, is a print symposium just another
example of Portland's lack of ambition at the institutional
level? I realize it is part of Gordon Gilkey's legacy, but
can't Portland do a symposium on why American art as a whole
has stalled? Prints have fed a lot of the international art
market. In hindsight, that blue-chip speculative aspect has
strangled a once-fine medium and whored it so thoroughly that
all but the few who are real good at the medium should just
Manuel Izquierdo Gallery
Pacific Northwest College of Art
825 NW 13th Ave.
Through Nov. 8
Ginsberg's "Digital Wallpaper"
Emily Ginsberg's digital prints are fresh, engaging
and aesthetically ambitious. Even her artist statement is
good. In her words, "'Blotto' is a project that explores
the structure of decorative pattern as behavioral pattern
... somewhere between the structure of commercial display,
clinical observation and the comforts of domesticity."
She achieves this by adding a kind of Rorschach
test pattern to the mix. In a nice inversion of expectations,
her inkblots contain bilaterally symmetrical fragments of
the human form taken from video stills.
The implications are innumerable. "Blotto"
explores our expectations for decorative/abstract patterns
(where patterns are purely patterns), only to loop us back
into the anthropomorphic human impulse to see figures in abstract
shapes (like seeing recognizable things in clouds).
In this case, the Rorschach shapes actually
are human figures, but presented like wallpaper patterns.
Ginsberg doesn't give the viewer a rest.
In a way, "Blotto" is the chicken-and-egg
question: "Do we see the shape before the thing or recognize
a type of object before really comprehending its posture?"
It is a trick question our minds are
always in flux and Ginsberg makes art for fluxy minds. If
this were a computer program I would call it spaghetti code:
that which loops in upon itself.
Ginsberg is not only relevant on an idea level,
her overall show design is perfect. The designer Martha Stewart
colors I usually hate are chosen precisely for the baby boomer
ambivalence they engender. Titles for the four prints, identical
save their colors, are perfect.
"Celestial celery" is a paen to every
dieter who ends up buying bulk tea. Likewise, "confused
chamomile," "latent lavender" and "skittish
sky" all seem to describe the adventures of a Yuppie
caught in a shopping district with no Starbucks or Pottery
Shopping is a behavioral pattern and so much
of it is triggered by visual class-conscious signifiers. Ginsberg
understands the ritual and this is relevant, adventurous and
Because of this, "Blotto" was the
best show in the vaunted print symposium, as it had inexhaustable
content and resonance. It stood out in a flurry of shows more
dedicated to surveys of techniques and regions.
1741 SE Hawthorne
tropical reeses peanut butter cups glad garbage bag barbie
wheat thins," by Chandra Bocci
Typically, Chandra Bocci is an installation
artist, but this decidedly limiting café show had some
Don't let the café blind you. Her work
caught Sean Lennon's eye in New York (darn that Yoko; Bocci
was going to do an installation for Sean until the estate
settlement annoyed him so much he moved out of the Big Apple).
But Bocci's good there will be other opportunities.
To do her thing, Bocci cuts up cardboard boxes
emblazoned with major brand logos and arrays the delicate
pieces into a maze of beauty. The delicacy only makes them
more interesting, almost like a tickertape parade for Coke,
Wheat Thins and Tide. Pretty exciting. The work has a crass,
WTO kind of anti-capitalism, but at the same time celebrates
the profusion of consumer options.
Unfortunately, about half of the works seem
diminished by the small rectangular bases they are built on.
These bases contradict the inherent delicacy of the materials
Still, several of the small works have condensed
punch, with titles that hilariously list the brands as if
they were ingredients on the back of a box. For example: "skittles
tropical reeses peanut butter cups glad garbage bag barbie
wheat thins" is as garish as one would expect, but it
beckons the viewer to look closer revealing even more
garish drips of hot glue gun. Just like the ad world, it is
all held together with ticky-tack.
"coca cola deli select ham ritz crackers red baron
pizza fred meyer laundry detergent"
Another favorite, "coca cola deli select
ham ritz crackers red baron pizza fred meyer laundry detergent"
reminds me of the Atlanta Olympic Games, the Las Vegas strip
and Los Angeles on a Friday night. It is festive and fleeting.
Still, one senses that Bocci, like Chris Ofili,
has a penchant for pattern but in a manner that only
an American could so bluntly foist upon the public. It doesn't
shock, it entrances almost like she is a barometer for the
economic power of these brands. Yet, in contradiction, she
willfully strips them of their identity in a display of her
own individual assertiveness.
I'd like to see where she develops ... let's
get this girl an opportunity to do a real installation. Some
of the photos from her studio have me pumped.
I want to see what she can really do.