of Matthew Picton's "Back Alley Cutout #6, Medford OR" at Mark
McKenzie, CEID, Kennedy & REAS
was uncharacteristically bright and sunny beyond meteorological
In the galleries, artists that used to be dull seemed to have sharpened
their work, while good artists showed occasional signs of becoming
brilliant. There were lots of interesting shows with a good mix
of national and local offerings.
For that reason I can't wait to see a smattering of James Boulton's
latest at Pulliam Deffenbaugh and Dianne Kornberg's potential victory
lap at Elizabeth Leach this month (I've seen some of her new work,
so it isn't blind anticipation).
Overall in February, the brilliant Matthew Picton at Mark Woolley
had the most accomplished and thought-provoking work, but the Amanda
Wojick and Claire Cowie combo at Elizabeth Leach Gallery were also
Add in Dave McKenzie, the CEID show and Mona Superhero and
it was definitely a month with lots of worthy things to see. Superhero
(a local) has done well in New York but I find her smartly executed
duct-tape work lacks the depth to go beyond novelty.
"Cricket House" (2004).
On First Thursday I ran into lots of other things to like as well.
Local abstractionist G. Lewis Clevenger finally took a page from
Hans Hofmann's playbook and juxtaposed receding cool colors against
advancing warm tones. This enlivened his rather formulaic geometric
compositions to great effect. Now they'll stand up to higher standards,
as evidenced by his recent Joan Mitchell award.
Conveniently, Portland collectors noticed and all but one painting
sold. Note that most of these works were Hofmann-sized do
you think the Pearl District loft real-estate boom is having an
At the Everett Station Lofts' tiny Epitome Gallery I found Scott
Wayne Indiana's installation of two-by-fours to be memorable. The
work's enveloping pine scent, combined with being surrounded by
a processed forest, was really enjoyable. I'd like to see where
Mark Woolley Gallery
Picton's "Cut Out Drawing, Brisco School Playground, Nov 1999."
It's no wonder Matthew Picton is receiving ever more national attention
and is featured alongside the likes of Jack Pierson, Christian Marclay,
Polly Apfelbaum, Joseph Kosuth, Christo, Al Sousa, Nam June Paik,
etc., at the very respected Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati till
The show is called "30 ways to make a painting" and Picton is unique
and developed enough to stand upright in that group.
In Portland, Picton's latest work, like the show stopping "Cut
Out Drawing, Brisco School Playground, Nov 1999," updates and further
clarifies Smithson's idea that earthworks weren't about nature so
much as the specifics of entropy and disassociation of space from
By translating and repositioning the destructive effects of nature
into something more durable, what Picton achieves is akin to Shelley's
"Ozymandias" poem. The work is a Duchampian readymade remake, an
existential love poem to impermanence and vanity, as well as a reminder
to savor life.
Let's call Picton's work a more durable destruction that leaves
an indelible mark of mortality on the eyes.
of Matthew Picton's show.
That said, I saw some minor presentation problems. The lovely aqua
floor piece, "Cast Roadway, 2nd St. Ashland, OR" could have used
a small riser to contrast the rich reddish-orange wooden floor.
Also, the other colored squares (rubber road castings) should lose
the Lucite bars from which they hang.
One last thing: The show's largest work, "Brisco School Playground,"
should have been in the main room instead of getting relegated to
the back. Overall, I found the combination of works on paper, stark
but fragile looking wall installations and chunkier wall objects
a refreshing course in how to transform a single subject of study
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
James's favorite tags.
At PICA, the Todd James (aka REAS) exhibit and talk was an informal
walk through the unintentionally successful career of a New York
graffiti artist gone commercial.
He's done it all, from tagging trains and tipping over cars at
the Venice Biennale to TV projects.
I like how Jeffrey Deitch asked James and Barry McGee to "obliterate"
him for a show at Deitch's gallery. That's why he is Jeffrey Deitch
and most dealers are so safe by comparison.
Still, I found James's history lesson on New York subway graffiti
a lot more interesting than his exhibition of new graphic work,
which is dangerously close to becoming a bunch of adolescent Ziggy
cartoons. Raymond Pettibon is better and, as luck would have it,
he comes to PICA in April. Still, James's reminiscences of the old
train-tagging days were gold. Ten train cars in one session is definitely
worthy of underground legend status during that less complicated
Portrait as a Ghost
Savage Art Resources
from McKenzie's "We Shall Overcome" (2004).
Dave McKenzie's Portrait as a Ghost show at Savage Art Resources
was definitely worth a romp, too. His video, "We Shall Overcome,"
was a perfectly timed call to arms back in 2004 when regime change
at home was a topic. With the artist donning a Bill Clinton mask
in Harlem, he projects both the hope and expected disappointment
that ex-president's presence creates in that iconic neighborhood.
With Louis Armstrong's music (the appropriate "We Shall Overcome"),
the video feels good but where is the substance? Most of the emotional
power of the piece comes from Satchmo's music not Clinton's
effigy. Beyond the music the imagery is all Clinton: all show, smiles
and walking with a purpose. Yet, there isn't any real change about
to happen. I think that is part of why the video works.
After this last election, the piece feels a little dated but one
can't deny it has some residual soul. Other works in the exhibition,
like the black Santa Jesus and coffee mugs, just seemed like witty
filler. Let's just say Dave McKenzie is not Bette Saar or Chris
Ofili. Instead, McKenzie is trying for hollowness in iconography
and achieving it all too easily.
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
Kristan Kennedy's latest show, Valentine Field at Elizabeth Leach,
was a major step up for the artist in terms of visceral acuity and
visual payoff. In the past, her silhouettes of heads reminded me
of a certain piece my parents commissioned. It was a double portrait
of my little brother and myself we were wearing clothes the
Brady Bunch kids would have considered too '70s. Mercifully, Kennedy
gave us none of that nostalgic sentimentality this time.
Instead of saccharin nostalgia, this new work is about process.
Specifically, the studio process as it leads the artist on a journey
through the intentional and unintentional. Many works were made
by using one work on paper as a pallet for another piece, setting
up an interesting 21st-century causality string. Kennedy then goes
back and highlights certain aspects that the unintentional process
group of Kennedy's works.
Andre Breton would have approved and the work is certainly full
of eccentricity, because it's basically the intentional work and
the studio floor all at once. The most fully realized piece was
"Blob 1" has a moldering quality, like a compost pile
but more fleshy. Is it a gut pile from some deceased creature (or
a painting)? I want to see where this work goes.
If there is one criticism, it's that the color schemes of hazel
and chestnut brown with red, teal and hot pink is too décor friendly
(if you shop at Seaplane,
it's couture friendly). If the colors varied between the very intentional
autumnal tones found here and some more unintentional color experiments,
the work might push more buttons.
(Central Eastside Industrial District)
New American Art Union
Curator Rose McCormick's Central Eastside Industrial District group
show was an interesting cross section of various styles. The quality
of the work varied but there were two gems and some interesting
teasers hinting at possible improvements. It's no secret there are
a helluva lot of artists in Portland and it's true most of them
have either lived in the CEID or staged shows there. It was home
of the first Donut Shop, the Portland Independent Salon 2001, Meeting
People, Maritime, the Best Coast, some of Core Sample and, most
recently, the Affair @ the Jupiter Hotel art fair last year.
It is where a lot of the action has been. Also, now that Savage
Gallery, the nationally lauded clarklewis restaurant, the Doug Fir,
New American Art Union and Holocene have set up shop, it's where
you go if you know what you're doing. Note: the artists knew it
first so pay attention.
First off, no stylistic arguments were made by this show (although
they could be made in future curatorial projects). McCormick did
a good job of being eclectic. All of the work was adequate, but
four pieces rose above being OK and two were wonderful. Not bad
for a semi-rookie curator.
Adkin's "Architechtural Drawing."
The first thing one confronts is Greg Simons's "Untitled #43."
The work is a series of blue disks on a wall. They look like nice
mod-minimalist tchotchkes from far away, but up close the surfaces
are somewhat crude and the work falls apart. Minimalism is hard
and this piece shows why. The details absolutely matter.
There is a similar evocation of minimalism's ghost in Brad Adkins's
"Architectural Drawing." Made from a clear Gatorade bottle that
has been perforated relentlessly, Adkins is finally showing that
he understands his own artistic impulse and process. Years ago he
would say that making the work is his least favorite part. OK, valid
stance. But it definitely showed and undermined his efforts.
His old joke-based work was akin to a prop comic's act and embarrassingly
lacked the intellectual rigor of Carrot Top. The work needed (but
was too forced to have) the absurd reflexive knowingness of Martin
Creed or Charles Ray.
Now, after drilling so many holes in the bottle, it is clear that
Adkins has become a process artist and accepts it. The truth was
that we all saw his joke-art as a cover-up for deficiencies in education
It was obvious he'd never met with a real critique and he's been
treated with kid gloves.
Besides, it's no secret that the Oregonian will rubber stamp anything
that invokes the idea of "community," no matter how ill
conceived. This new work is much better and I'm thrilled that progress,
rather than excuses, is being made.
Still, "Architectural Drawing" isn't great. It's an over-indebted
riff on Tara Donovan and Tom Friedman's jaw-dropping process work,
but it sets up a motif of nonchalance and porous insinuation into
space he should mine. It's also an object that objects to the object's
Adkins's best piece shown to date was seen in January at the PDX
group show. A roll of blue painter's tape coiled inward, it, too,
rejects any traditional use or functionality. It also serves as
a personality surrogate for the artist who recoils into himself
like a turtle when startled. Charles Ray previously mined this motif
very well, but was only successful by interjecting himself into
Still, I like how the piece was like a passive-aggressive Richard
Tuttle making an anti-painting statement while perhaps longing for
painterly release. It lacked Tuttle's adventurous tidiness, but
Adkins is developing a vocabulary of useless and futile gestures.
It's good to see. Let's hope a little more original vocabulary in
material and process tempered by self-knowledge creeps in for his
solo show at the Art Gym's project room later this year.
At all costs avoid the overt prop-comic jokes. It's just a defense
mechanism and it fools no one "Defense Mechanism" might even
be an OK show title. The forthcoming show will determine if Adkins
is just a conflicted wannabe mediocre academic conceptualist who
craves but doesn't learn from attention, or somebody who just took
a while to develop. I'd say it's a 50/50 bet.
The best work in the CEID is "White Light" by Matt Cardinal. The
work is a rainbow shelf of books arranged along the visible light
spectrum with a rainbow of dumpsters displayed in corresponding
colors above it. The titles of the books have no theme and act as
totems of variety. The title, "White Light," refers to how all colors
of the spectrum combine to become white light. Anecdotally, white
light has associations with truth.
creates a quantum singularity with more ...
Some interesting questions can be raised by this arrangement: Does
the information contained in the spectrum of books become knowledge
in the light of day? Or does it all end up at the dump no matter
what color dumpster you use?
Poetic and up front, this work makes a great impression.
Last but not least is Jesse Durost's "Compulsive, Unrestrained,
Consumption and Proliferation: The Study of a Black Hole."
Just like its title, it's a study in excess.
It is a simple piece of found plastic with the word "more" painted
relentlessly until the gravitational density of mores become an
unintelligible black hole. It reminds me that minimalism is mostly
a misnomer as its works are often comprised of studying excess through
Reminiscent of Christopher Wool and Ed Ruscha among others, this
was a smart piece executed perfectly. As a final validation for
a job well done, the collector that I brought with me to the show
I'd like to see more from Durost in the future.