Walsh, Shift & James Lavadour
crystal ball and wish list
by Jeff Jahn
will 2004 hold for Portland artists?
Institutions are fine but they're really only there
to do two things: facilitate living artists and keep the work
of dead ones around.
They create a permanent baseline cultural edifice.
But do they really advance art much more than as a resource or
by being a symbol of civic commitment?
Instead, artists, dealers and collectors are the real
active elements in an art scene. Actually, three artists, one
dealer and one good collector are all it takes. The artists are
the only ones responsible for the new angles, excitement and levels
Institutions are by nature slow to catch on and always
hedge their bets. There's rarely any focus on what is truly new.
They're conservative and educational. Here is a Dave Hickey quote
regarding museums from zing
"The perfect MOMA show would be Picasso's paintings
of the Holy Land from the collection of Jacqueline Kennedy."
It would be sarcasm if it weren't true!
is awake ... so what now?
Olson and Kim Hamblin at Process.
What is exciting is that Portland artists completely
outflanked the institutions in terms of capturing viewer attention,
press, zeitgeist and, in many cases, setting standards of adventurousness.
Now the real elephant-in-the-room question is: Who,
if any, of these thousands of artists will become the reason why
people will associate Portland with excellent art?
Still, 2003 was hung up on "the group." That's OK
for one year as a way to prime the pump, but it's essential to
move on. Autonomous art is the only way to go and I'm not just
talking about the same old solo shows we've seen.
To alter a phrase from Disraeli, "an art scene can
be so inclusive that no one can comprehend it." Yes, there were
overly formal institutional pretensions and sometimes difficult
to coalesce gregarious artists' efforts in 2003. So what! If it
wasn't immediately clear, 2004 can clarify.
I see Portland's purposeful imperfection as an asset
epitomized by Bruce Aune in Rationalism, Empiricism and Pragmatism:
"The goal of our intellectual efforts cannot be
a static polished procession ... In our many efforts towards knowledge,
science, math, logic as in life itself, it is the process not
the terminus that should concern us if we are wise."
Motives with Seattle and Portland artists.
Likewise, I feel it's very important to avoid writing
the book with the movie in mind; we are doing this the hard way.
Instead, the whole group-show convoy constituted a
very public dance marathon, which was much longer and more sustained
than anyone could have predicted.
We proved the depth and will of the Portland art scene,
and in many instances invited other cities to come play, too.
However, it's the follow-through that matters and
the eccentricities of individual artists should be intensified.
Eccentrics attract admirers and admirers embolden eccentrics.
As a 2003 Portland recap, it was a perfect storm of
group-show gemutlicheit and full-court-press ops which
outed the scene to the larger public and some outside press. Chronologically,
between I.A.E., Diorama-Rama, Blood and Guts Forever, The Best
Coast, The Modern Zoo, Oregon Biennial, Core Sample, Process,
Ulterior Motives and a nice cap off with The Battle of the Artist
Curators and Mark Woolley Gallery's 170 artist grid.
It's tough to think of a city in the Americas with
so much artist-driven gestalt-making all without a lot
of government grants . The original
armory show was a similarly messy group introduction affair.
The reaction should produce a complete 180. This will
be the year of the solo dance ... Who gets to be Travolta, Fred
Astaire, Dick Van Dyke, Christopher Walken or Martha Graham? Then
there's Alfonso Ribeiro or Elaine's big dance from Seinfeld.
Oh, the horror of happy feet!
In 2003, the art scene's momentum was absolutely confirmed
from the bottom up. Let's remember: Historically, artist-originated
flowerings have huge lasting civic effects when they are allowed
Previous examples are Takashi Murakami's Super Flat,
the Abstract Expressionists, the YBAs, Die Brucke and, most recently,
Winnipeg's Royal Art Lodge. They don't produce one artist, they
produce five to 10-plus in a sustainable mutual context.
My 2004 wish list
of AGPS's photovoltaic tram tower.
1) Portland's aerial tram, designed by the
AGPS firm, should move forward as a high-profile architectural
design project and signature symbol for the city.
Its more realistic budget has now doubled, but it
was ridiculously under projected at the previous $15 million.
Nothing this involved costs only $15 million, unless it's some
bare-knuckled effort without any design quality.
Portland doesn't need a ski lift, it needs a piece
of architecture to back up the forward thinking we pride ourselves
The tram, with its custom cars and photovoltaic cell-clad
reception towers at the top of the hill, will be a cutting-edge
design signaling something very new to Portland: progressive architecture
viewable from many parts of the city.
It's important to remind ourselves (and the world)
that we live in one of the most progressive U.S. cities. Portland
needs to start acting like a showcase for innovative, mature problem-solving.
That'll bring jobs, folks.
Portland has the potential to brand itself as the
Switzerland of the U.S. Let Seattle expand the monorail; if they
want it, they deserve it.
to the Overland Dead" (Detail) at The Modern Zoo.
2) The word ambition is no longer news or out
of the ordinary within the art scene. Portland is a city with
nearly two million people in the metro area. If an artist is making
work and showing it in the city core, that ambition is built in.
Besides, new people are moving here all the time; they would not
uproot themselves from elsewhere if they didn't have some sort
In fact, it's all the more reason to cover their work
in terms of how it achieves that ambition, or doesn't. Yes, personalities
are fun to write about but, really, it's meaningless compared
to reacting to and evaluating the work. Artists' personalities
are often more about surviving the day intact enough to make work
that is still engaged. Yes, Beethoven was a prick but people
barely care about that now.
In 2003, ink was spilt on perceived personalities
rather than content. We need a higher level of discourse than
that in Portland.
We should be conscious of stepping up the level of
rhetorical calibration and treat every review positive
or negative as a reward. Artists are constantly looking
to justify their existence and reviews mostly only matter for
whether they advance discourse by testing that need for legitimacy.
An oddly indecisive and internally inconsistent review just makes
anyone with art knowledge or, better yet real knowledge, shake
their heads at the amateur mistake.
"Rheomorph 6," by Matthew Hagget, at Butter's Gallery.
Thus, if an artist or event is reviewed, all judgments
should be backed up. Otherwise the critic just looks reactionary,
which flirts with ignorance.
I'm certain I've been guilty of it, too. But for 2004,
let's look at the purported aims of the art and review how successful
it is at accomplishing them ... after that, explicate why. Any
art review that is less articulate than Curt Loder's MTV News
is just a wasted effort.
For example, there's Matthew Hagget's "Rheomorph
Rheomorphic behavior refers to a flowing state and
any review of "Rheomorph 6" should at least consider
First off, "flow" is a given for an encaustic work
which incorporates molten wax. But it also calls attention to
the conversely controlled chrystalline structure that rheomorphic
materials do not easily lend themselves to. Thus, the artist is
accurately pointing out why his encaustic works are quite unlike
most of the hazy gray works most others produce in the medium.
From there on, a little subjective and objective rambling gives
the reader a chance to consider where the writer and artist are
Critics always have interesting egocentric broncos
to ride, a kind of deranged attention to details and notions that
may or may not be pertinent. We often make mistakes publicly,
and we all have little triggers that get tripped. Give us hell
if you disagree!
Koons and Nike ... hilarious/vulgar?
3) Prices for established artists need to rise
(this is not artist whining). Portland artists of note are undervalued
and rarely break the $2,000 barrier, which is crazy considering
basic quality cabinetry and countertops can be very steep in comparison
... all without the intellectual and more concentrated visual
payoff. It gets down to respect even though the number
of collectors in Portland is very high.
For example, in those great art centers like Milwaukee,
Wis., St. Louis and Denver, anybody who is established can expect
to be commanding $2,500-$5,000 or more for their work. We need
another stratum of pricing for established artists in the $5,000-$10,000
It's a respect thing; the money is here. I see the
same Mercedes and Ferraris here as any other city with a decent
collector base ... oh, but that's the new rich ostentatious
but often noncommittal in cultural affairs.
The solution? Artists cannot have only a Portland
gallery. By upping the demand in more than one city, artists can
establish fair market value and get a fair price for the work.
Right now, most established Portland artists are below market
value. We should not treat established artists like newcomers,
but the price-spread is too similar and that's demoralizing.
Also, very large work should not be subjected to the
$1,000-per-foot-width price that I see from Tom Cramer to Michael
Brophy. If you've got the space for something that large, you
can afford a higher price. Larger works are significantly more
difficult to create than smaller works. Portland artists and dealers
need to be conscious of their artists never selling over $5,000
or $10,000. This collector price-barrier psychology needs to be
4) We need more new artist-curators and
art writers. The venues, like the Littman Gallery, _Hall and
many warehouses exist, as do several art-based publications.
5) I sincerely hope the Core Sample catalog
comes out, looks great, has excellent essays and helps awareness
of Portland's rich scene to expand. The editors seem to be active,
so be mindful of your doubts. Many longtime residents are needlessly
pessimistic when capable people are at work. It's coming and those
who aren't in it will be very whiney. I've done two catalogs myself
in the last 18 months and it's an insane amount of work, a lot
harder than putting on the show.
of William Pope L.'s "eRascism."
6) PICA should keep the Weiden + Kennedy gallery
space, although it almost certainly won't happen.
One major reason is that thousands of living units
will come on line in the Pearl District this year. If PICA goes
itinerant and outside the Pearl it will create bad mojo, since
many of those residents will feel underestimated and abandoned.
Also, the artist backlash of negative emotions could very well
sink the TBA festival and, ultimately, the PICA organization.
Then again, not everyone sees PICA as the ideal organization
to fill that Kunsthalle role in the city. Will the former Belmont
Factory space from Core Sample or PCAC/Modern Zoo fulfill the
role? A clear plan and pragmatic, non-cliquey leadership is needed.
Once a leader emerges the city should get behind that plan. Something
more flexible than an organization molded by a single person is
Word on the street is that many feel PICA's visual
arts program was idled, then stopped just as it started to publicly
overtake the financially failing performance programming.
It's true: how artists feel sets the climate of talk
on the streets. If PICA asks the community to save the space so
some interesting shows by young cutting-edge artists from Asia,
L.A. or England can be shown in town, then PICA will see massive
Showing mid-career New York and French artists ain't
too exciting and most everyone wants to see something they haven't
William Pope L. is from Maine fer chrissake; let's
find out if anything is going on in Arizona, Texas or Calgary.
It doesn't need to be blessed by the Whitney; they should be watching
PICA to scout things out! It made PICA look a bit rear-guard;
sure Pope L. was amazing, but any intelligent being could have
seen it coming.
In terms of the Brad Cloepfil space ... it works,
especially if some of the shows are more like lab experiments
(all the way with Jim and Shell, William Pope L.).
I think the cool demeanor of the space is most exciting
when it is actively challenged by the work.
Also, the entryway space before the stairs could be
a showcase for some interesting local ideas. Only the Portland
Building does this now.
Oh well, it remains to be seen if PICA survives at
all. Survival requires a retool through the kind of effort and
will that may simply no longer exist without Stuart Horodner as
7) Galleries that have not taken on new artists
in many years should seriously consider doing so. Mark Woolley,
Elizabeth Leach and PDX all take active interest in what's going
on and they do get more press than any other galleries in town.
Also, the same-old same-old limits your clientele to those who
want the same-old same-old.
Muse purchased by Ms. Sally Lilly in the '20s
8) Will two or three collectors come out of
their shells and form close public bonds to their favorite artists?
None of this "I am a quiet collector" thing. That is very
bourgeois. Patronage goes beyond purchasing and enjoying the work;
it also becomes a question of advancing and challenging the artists
Serious collectors are almost always interesting people
and think for themselves. Why not collect gregariously with the
expressed purpose of gifting some of it to the Portland Art Museum,
which will have an excellent new wing in 2005?
I think a Gertrude Stein-ish salon or two would be
great so that everyone can be invigorated hosts and guests
alike. Besides, feeding artists is a noble thing.
9) The 2005 Oregon Biennial format? The Portland
Art Museum's 2003 Biennial was a whipping boy. Bruce Guenther
knew he was going to be playing Custer, but this was pretty bad
(I do think it had great reactionary effects despite being a dud).
Should the Biennial be overhauled? Yes. The main need
is a Biennial that becomes the big show that launches artists
nationally, not certifies recruits for galleries.
gallery, part of PAM's North Wing Project.
For example, artists who have already been in a Biennial
now find it a tad meaningless, and that's a problem. Why not make
it a more exclusive but experimental affair with no more than
PCAC (now officially called The Modern Zoo) can take
care of unwieldy salons with 50 people in them as a good staging.
Portland needs a platform for the national stage and
it's silly for it not to be at PAM. Eleven younger artists (and
one or two old dogs who still have some teeth to give the show
some experienced nuance) would be good.
Everything chosen should be rather different from
the other inclusions, and big statements like James Boulton's
"Spark Gap Transmission" certainly work out great.
Do I believe that galleries need to recruit outside
of the Biennial's flock? Absolutely.
In addition, some ringers should be invited and scouted
out ahead of time; other participants in the 2005 Biennial can
be chosen by slide jury.
The idea of having a guest curator in whole or part
(four or five of the participating artists) could be good if it
were someone like David Pagel, David Cohen, Peter Schjeldahl,
Elizabeth Brown, Peter Doroshenko, Virginia Wright or maybe even
an artist like Yek or Robert Gober, etc.
Only five people entered video work in 2003, which
means a majority of the video practitioners boycotted the show.
Let's change that. It all gets down to institutional priority
and Guenther will be very busy with the new museum wing and acquisitions,
plus a Cezanne show in 2005 ... a guest for part of the show could,
at very least, be a time saver.
The Biennial was cramped and boxy feeling. I learned
a hell of a lot about spatially laying out a show from Guenther's
"The Essential Gesture" show in L.A. during the '90s. The 2003
Biennial flew in the face of those lessons. So halve the number
of artists unless more space is allotted. Spatial layout cannot
be an afterthought.
institutionalization of institutions?
| PA M's
North Wing from the outside.
There were major institutional gains being made despite
PICA's identity crisis (which caused the financial crisis). One
major bright spot: the Feldman Gallery developed into what it
should be a destination. Nan Curtis gets the credit here.
In addition, Reed College's Cooley Gallery finally has a curator
and an engaging program ... perfect!
All major universities should have a curated program
for one of their galleries as a form of public outreach ... cough
... PSU? ... cough.
The big news, though, is that PAM's 28,000 square
feet of modern and contemporary space is going to happen. It's
opening in 2005 along with another Biennial and will shine a national
spotlight on us. I suggest the artists and museum both play for
keeps in 2005 Biennial programming, or else I suspect the artists
will give the museum the kind of bad national press it doesn't
want. More on that later.
PAM's new wing, a former Masonic temple dubbed the
"North Wing," will cement modern and contemporary art into the
city's civic infrastructure.
The museum will finally be able to show work by Gilbert
and George, George Segal, Paul Klee and Philip Guston in the proper
way: permanently and with informative context.
floor of the North Wing (notice the Kevin Appel and Gilbert
and George with views of the Greenberg collection below).
The North Wing even has an endowed cutting-edge rotating
artist program for the fourth-floor glass penthouse
Also, with the proliferation of cool new spaces like
Compound, Backspace, Ogle, Haze, Gallery 500 and Motel, Portland
exploded in 2003. Even Pacific Switchboard got a new location
The question is: will the quality of shows go up?
Some are OK, a few are good ... but great?
Also, will written statements be made and backed up?
Art isn't just about the work it's also the context it
creates and highlights.
in the house?
Jensen's "Double Kitty Cave" (2003).
These things all set the stage for more interesting
individual distillations in 2004. Basically, it's up to the artists
to see this through. People are watching and individuals will
get credit if they do it right. Style is essential ... it helps
define the expectations for the work and physically represents
the conceptual side.
The sheer mass and different personalities of polyglot
visual-art shows in 2003 highlight one thing: extensive solo and
duo shows that go beyond what we've already seen are needed to
cement gains by young artists like James Boulton, Chandra Bocci,
Laura Fritz, Michael Oman Reagan, Melody Owen, Adam Sorenson,
Todd Johnson, Chas Bowie, Johnnie Eschelman, Dan Ness, Mariana
Tres, Eric Palmer, Cynthia Star, Tim Dalbow (May at Haze), Jennifer
Rhoads, Scott Patt, Paige Saez (February at Pacific Switchboard),
Rose McCormick, Laura Domela (February at Laura Russo) and Nic
Walker (January at Haze).
It's all about proving they have a trajectory and
the sustained oomph to continue distilling and reinventing what
There is another group of artists that is more established
and has some major-league experience.
These artists are looking to grab the brass ring by
reaching a full potential which is within their sights: Brenden
Clenaghen and Sean Healy (both have shows in September), Ellen
George, Erin Kennedy, Mark Smith, Matthew Picton, David Eckard,
damali ayo, Bruce Conkle, M.K. Guth, Dan May, Mike Shea, Heidi
Schwegler, Storm Tharp, Jacqueline Ehlis and Malia Jensen. This
is the varsity team with significant recent gains that should
really challenge them for their next acts.
In a rebel-base like Portland, artists need to be
clearly superior to make any real headway.
Right now James Lavadour and Tom Cramer are the only
two fully developed artists in Portland who are clearly better
than anything even mildly similar worldwide. Two is pretty good;
Seattle only has Robert Yoder and San Francisco has an elderly
Wayne Thiebaud. Minneapolis and Chicago have none ... L.A. and
New York have many, but they are mostly aging and long established.
London and Tokyo have been the main New Talent birthplaces.
I've dragged a couple astute New York critics around
Portland, and they were a bit disturbed that the work equals a
lot of what they see in Chelsea. With so much at stake, conservatism
has set in there.
Gagosian has great established mature artists, but
guys like Franz West leave pretty much every young artist (except
Elizabeth Peyton) in the dust. My problem? Neither Chelsea nor
the Pearl is good enough for me these days.
The artists have already recalibrated, and a deceptively
simple central question is emerging around which a lot of work
is being created: What enhances our lives?
It's a mature theme more associated to Switzerland
than the U.S.A. But it makes sense coming from Portland, a city
that has a great combination of individualism and pragmatism.
It's important, because the rest of the world would love the U.S.
to grow out of its 20th-century adolescence.
Jensen's "Pillow Stack."
New York and L.A. cannot do it. It's similar to why
the Factory Records thing happened in Manchester and not London.
Portland is still the progressive U.S. city.
Oscar Wilde famously said, "America is the only country that went
from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between."
The truth of that statement has created a serious allure for Portland,
which is a civilized place. The biggest problem with civilization
is that the artists cannot be overly tame or you get the Lawrence
Gallery ... bah!
Here are some examples: the comforts of Malia Jensen's
cat condos or her uncomfortable but really nice looking ceramic
pillows. As part of her oeuvre, it questions the tradeoffs between
comfort and placid appearances.
Other examples: the wonder and awe of Tom Cramer,
the inventive charm of Chandra Bocci, the environmental double-edged
sword of Bruce Conkle, the curious physical exploration-inducing
materials of Jacqueline Ehlis, the workmanlike performance of
David Eckard's "Scribe" they all address root
human impulses; work, play, curiosity, relaxation, risk assessment,
etc. The quality of these works comes from the surprise they induce
by being so concentrated on their activities.
Shea's "One Shot 16."
Thus, the work coming from Portland has many correlations
to the real world, whereas Matthew Barney, Bill Viola and Inigo
Manglano-Ovalle are pretty much smoke and mirrors and feel like
art in a purgatory without furniture.
It's not work that acknowledges that people put their
pants on one leg at a time.
One international rising star, Chris Johanson, just
moved to Portland and the combination of plain-talk practicality
and gonzo iconoclasm here should sit well with him. Welcome.
Let's see: 2001-2002 was the alarm; 2003 was the wakeup
and 2004 begins the main course ... will 2005 be the dessert?
One truth about the Portland art scene exists: impressive
architecture, like Savage, PICA and the Oregon Biennial are all
fine and good. But unless the space is challenged by the work
and inhabited by progressive and not pandering work, it means
Architecture alone cannot engender success. Portlanders
think for themselves and they respect individuals in their art.
rest of the world ...
Whiteread at Haunch of Venison.
For 2004 in New York there is a Whitney Biennial that
will be considered a success if it simply does not suck and somehow
supports the myth that New York is still the chief seedbed of
emerging art. Later, in July at Site Santa Fe, curator Robert
Storr will present his biennial on the grotesque.
It was sooo funny last spring: Chelsea galleries
were gleeful that Whitney curators were making the rounds in New
York, ensuring that Lawrence Rinder's 2002 Biennial wouldn't repeat
its New York-isn't-all-important-anymore mantra.
Still, most New Yorkers have conceded that they have
lost their once-absolute power to make or break the next new thing
to the international art fairs and London's riskier galleries.
I mean, Haunch of Venison as a London Gallery name is like something
Henry VIII would dub if he came back as an art dealer ... Cocky!
So I'm betting on Storr, because he at least understands
that both aesthetics and clear, internally/externally consistent
thinking matter. Nothing can be worse than the preposterously
subtitled Venice Biennale, "Dreams and Conflicts: The Dictatorship
of the Viewer." It was a premise that seemed to blame the very
attendees for the state of the art world ... a brilliantly executed
mistake. If only they had given out official Venice Biennale shorts
with the words "Kick me, I'm pretentious" on the backside!
The short story is that, basically, nobody knows what
is going on and decided to be arch pretentious instead. Which
gets to a good point: aesthetics matter which was the real
message of Dave Hickey's Site Santa Fe in 2001.
Also, why else build Dia Beacon with space for huge
works that have huge physical aesthetic impact?
Right across the street from Dia Beacon is the best
example Sol LeWitt in the Max Protech sculpture garden.
LeWitt (whose work I love) was patently wrong when
he considered the execution of his ideas as perfunctory. The issue
of whether he does or doesn't make them himself does not matter,
but the execution definitely does.
LeWitt's provocative contrarian stance is good brinkmanship,
but once you realize his work's appeal lies in its supremely ambivalent
and precise execution, the thesis fails.
Still, his statements add to the ambivalent tension
of the work and are thus mostly internally consistent.
Besides, had Osama bin Laden simply left 9/11 "a conceptual
construct," there is no way it would have mattered. Actions
and execution will always speak louder than words ... welcome
to the messy part of the 21st century. Purely conceptual work
only worked directly after a time of really great art object-making
(1950s and early '60s). These days that battle has already been
Walsh at Field.
OK, this is a provocatively titled, expertly installed
and consistently high-level show. Yes, it is better than many
of the commercial Pearl District gallery offerings last month.
It is the best Everett Station Lofts show since Laura Fritz at
Sound Vision last May.
Every piece breathes with Joan Mitchell-esque colors
and brushwork, but the beautiful frame jobs are unnecessary because
"M theory," a large multi-part watercolor on unmounted paper,
is the clear showstopper.
"M theory" is also known as superstring
theory, but could this be Mitchell theory? Mounting theory? I
like the intertextuality.
Yes, Joan Mitchell painted many things better than
"M theory," but she also painted many that are worse. We should
take note of Walsh. Still, she could learn a thing or two from
Laurie Reid's often-unframed works on paper. This work is still
too conservative, as if the packaging has to support the work.
Let's see where Walsh goes with this. She has excellent touch.
It's excellent work; now evolve the style so Mitchell and Reid
no longer come up.
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
Boros' "Then Again."
Shift is a really excellent photography show and highlights
a worthy direction that photography is taking these days: interconnected
Thus, the shift is the inherent flux between
an image pregnant with potential meanings and true context ...
as in Harrell Fletchers undeveloped rolls of film. Giving
context to an object shifts its meaning and this intensified subjectivity
is very different from postmodernisms outdated fetish of
isolation. Shift is about photography emerging from an outdated
genre it helped define via Cyndi Sherman and Chuck Close.
Jeremy Boros' photos of a package and its end address
creates an ellipse where the viewer fills in the blanks, becoming
the mailman in the equation. It's a fascinating strategy and appeals
to my archivist sensibilities.
In another example, Coco Kuhn photographed serial
repeating patterns in the folds of Berlin newspapers, Sept. 11-14,
It's a strategy that only captures the point where
each newspaper is folded, arbitrarily revealing only one line
In some cases, it's about Saddam Hussein, in others
it's about Berlin's isolation from the 9/11 event. Instead of
abstraction turning away from the world it speaks of very small
differences in connectedness in a world where everything is instantly
It goes beyond postmodern deconstruction and irony,
and explores how connectedness makes us aware of how little we
know of a big world with important details that our instant communications
do not convey. I'm going to be annoyed if anyone calls it post-contextualism;
it is simply comparing the details against the limited lens of
media coverage. We arent post-anything; everything eventually
Kuhn's "Sept. 11, 2001" (detail).
Another German, Weibke Loeper, photographs scenes
in Berlin where the old East German utilitarian architecture stands
next to the reconstructed buildings. The contrast isn't so much
jarring as it is a record of the in-betweenness of being a Berliner
in a state of flux.
Local photographer Chas Bowie also makes some gains.
His photograph of a surfer waiting for the next or most preferred
wave also leaves behind his past hipsterish subject matter with
something more mature: a sense of finding a connection.
Bowie's work is more pensively engaging now, with
its friendly sea lion and a young woman's neck. It seems to invite
questions rather than the previous narratives. All it lacks now
is a highly identifiable style. It's still very indebted to Ed
Ruscha, as well as Fischl and Weiss. Not the worst choices to
Dec. 9-Jan. 3
"First Ghost Camp."
James Lavadour, with his gestalt ghosts and mythic
fire, is the best abstract landscape painter on the planet. I've
seen a lot of 'em and nothing comes close.
His hovering and dripping fog forms on "First
Ghost Camp" are at the very least on par with David Smith's
By utilizing myth and landscape, he comes naturally
to abstraction instead of formalism. It is experiential.
From the simple means of a squeegee, he gets thousands
of effects that can be combined.
Like a good creation myth, the beginning is simple
but the complexity in the end-product is the payoff despite
the fact that the simplistic means are still apparent. At a certain
point a musician stops playing the instrument and just becomes
the music. Lavadour knows exactly what that is like.
These shows are all step-up efforts and Im excited
about the coming season. Still, beyond Cramer and Lavadour, I
really haven't seen a solo show that can sweep me off my feet.
To quote the terribly cheesy Karate Kid movie: sweep