"Parachute" at Compound.
Pack, Doty & Ghostmilk
time in Portland
in Portland was filled with some good traditional gallery shows
and some holdovers from December, but what struck me were a few
unexpected group shows with a standout here and there.
So yes, I'm going to cherry pick January. But before
I discuss those picks I'd like to discuss some international goings
First off, Ive noticed that the upcoming 2005 Venice Biennale
seems slightly lower key than usual. It has been lackluster for
several iterations and I suspect they're trying to avoid getting
people's expectations up. Still, this one is generating very little
talk internationally other than Ed Ruscha being chosen as
a last-minute representative for the U.S.A. This is odd.
So, is the Venice Biennale losing its luster? Or is it that Robert
Storr has been chosen as the 2007 curator simply sucking the air
out of this one? Also, although Ruscha is arguably one of the best
living artists and a personal favorite, his nomination has an air
of the same old same old.
One thing certain to please is Storr's panel discussion about the
current state of the art, promising a panel of the best minds. I'm
hopeful it will include Hans Ulrich Obrist and maybe Storr can coax
his best foil, Dave Hickey, back into the ring?
last important New Yorker: '80s icon Jean-Michel Basquiat
Im also looking forward to the Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective
at the Brooklyn Museum in March. It later travels to L.A.'s MOCA.
Of all the '80s painters, Basquiat is the only one who will be
considered first tier 100 years from now.
Sure, he painted a large number of stinkers, but the best ones,
such as "Six Crimee" in MOCA's collection, hold up to
the iconic works of Pollock and Warhol. Rough and poetic in a time
of stylized roughness and pretension, Basquiat is the last truly
important artist New York has developed.
Matthew Barney is an entertainer by comparison, and nowhere near
as important as Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami.
by Jen Pack.
I enjoyed some of the work by San Francisco artist Jen Pack at
Pulliam Deffenbaugh. At their best, like "Triptych," these
stretched and stitched abstractions feel like Paul Klee combined
with the kites I used to fly in Orange County parks as a kid.
They also have an interesting surface/support transparency that
is very direct, festive and light. Some feel tensionless and unsubstantial,
though, like a gimmick that's easy to write off as window dressing.
I also really liked the Goto+Play Film Festival at the Milk Gallery
in the Everett Station Lofts. These flash and animation shorts sometimes
felt like the extra-arty demo commercials that they were, but others,
like the offerings by Ghostmilk studios from Toronto, stood out.
My favorite was "Know
Your Monsters." For me, there is something about Bullwinkle-quality
"Chew His Face Off" (2004).
Next up, I found the photographs by Craig Doty at Savage Art Resources
to be slick, redundant and overly formulaic.
I'm not the only critic who has gotten a little bored by the never-ending
assembly line of youth-obsessed photography being churned out by
new Yale grads each year.
It's kinda like those boy bands and Britney Spears clones. Instead
of filling the pop music world they fill New York galleries to the
In "Chew His Face Off," for example, the use of two mimetic
figures in staged erotic/combat proximity with one another has been
done to death and done better by Matthew Barney. Think about
the combat between Barney and the cat woman in "Cremaster 3."
Also, Barney has done film stills with two ambiguously gendered
actors for more than 10 years.
Beer's "Twins" (1998).
Not coincidentally, Barney is another Yale guy. He clearly set
up this tradition at his alma mater, which also has the famous photographer
Gregory Crewson on its staff.
But it's better to be first and these new Yale grads come off like
tribute bands to Barney and Crewson. Also, I think Sue de Beer (who
didnt go to Yale) has an original style and more attitude
when doing youth-oriented mimetic imagery.
For my money, only Justine Kurland (yet another Yale photographer)
deserves much attention. She has somewhat gotten away from the ubiquitous
youth imagery and elaborately staged photos.
In another work, "Ryan #1," Doty photographs crying men
(something a famous photographer, Sam Taylor Wood, does much better).
Doty needs fresh subject matter.
view of Scott Patt's "Parachute."
My overall favorite this month was Scott Patt's "Parachute"
First off, it's simply the most impressive and professional display
I've seen in a while. Also, this all-white version of a classic
WWII-era parachute speaks volumes.
The parachute's red hardware and white fabric are reminiscent of
a first aid kit and this gives the work a desperate flux of cynical
and hopeful sentiments.
Although nostalgic, the piece really does feel like the current
zeitgeist as things spiral further out of control in Iraq.
Thus, this white paramilitary item could be waving a flag of peace,
surrender, defeat and/or claiming a lost purity that war makes impossible.
Patt also created a thematic T-shirt with a graphic of an open
parachute that spells out HOPE.
Although a T-shirt seems both crass and too idealistic, its status
as a consumer good available for purchase reminds me how economics
fit into the war machine. I find it impressive that Patt has taken
Jeff Koons-like pop and turned it into something kitsch-less.
Peace, of course, isn't as easy as a T-shirt. But for those who
consider this war a huge mistake, hope is about all we've got.
That's the irony; hope is really depressing when it's all you have.