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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Carl Klimt, National Register of Historic Places.

MESA Project Space

by Daniel J Glendening

MESA Project Space is a small gallery with a footprint of about 3’ x 4’ in the closet of artist Jim Papadopoulos’ studio apartment in SE Portland. In National Register of Historic Places, the gallery’s second exhibition, Carl Klimt transforms the small space into an apparently working office charged with the sole task of researching the history of the host building, the historic W. S. Salmon House.

Carl Klimt, "National Register of Historic Places"

The gallery houses a small desk, covered with papers and manila file folders, office stamps, an index-card phone book, pens and post-its, and a copy of the original application seeking historic designation of the house submitted to the National Register of Historic Places. A series of shelves houses more paper documents, loose-leaf and bound in file folders and accordion document cases, old VHS movies and slide carousels, floppy-disk boxes, stacks of books about Oregon history, and Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. The walls are covered with carefully placed and systematically arranged notes on pieces of paper and pink post-its, photo-copies of parcel maps and owner registrations of the building, and roughly composed photographs of architectural details and peeling wall paint.

Carl Klimt, "National Register of Historic Places"

In cinema and television there is a shorthand visual marker for the depiction of the unhinged obsessive: a wall, often in a dark, dimly-lit space, covered floor to ceiling with tacked up photographs, wrinkled Xeroxes and scribbled notes, arranged according to some unknown and esoteric system of logic, marked with symbols and shorthand known only to the person behind the accumulation. These are walls of information, meant to illuminate in a screen-readable manner the intricacies of the obsessed mind, the haphazard patterns by which a serial stalks his next text target, or by which the paranoid uncovers the mechanics of her latest conspiracy cover-up.

In Don de Lillo’s 1988 novel, Libra, Lee Harvey Oswald keep an office in the closet of the small home he shares with his wife. In this closet office, he polishes his gun, and writes communist pamphlets. He keeps the door locked at all times.

Carl Klimt, "National Register of Historic Places"

This is not to say that Klimt is, necessarily, the manic obsessive collating notes late into the night behind closed doors. The project itself is obsessive in its focus, concerned with the articulation of the history of a site, but there are places where its construction as artifice begins to show through. The telephone is inoperable, and there is some question as to whether the slide carousels and floppy disk cases in fact held any slides or floppy disks. The maps and notes on the wall may be arranged with a care that contradicts pure utility and allows aesthetic decision making into the equation.

Carl Klimt, "National Register of Historic Places"

It’s these cracks in the illusion that allow the work to begin to be something more than a simple documentation of history. National Register of Historic Places is not the thing itself, but a representation of the thing, a depiction and exploration of what history in fact is, and can be. Klimt himself said that in the process of digging through the city archives, he really didn’t learn anything about the house that wasn’t already on Wikipedia. The project becomes, then, not so much an exposure or illumination of the history of its site as an illumination of what history is in a more general sense, and, as hinted at in the selection of VHS tapes on display, Klimt identifies with the role of the Indiana Jones archaeologist, the detective of The Pink Panther Strikes Again, or the explorer/naturalist at the heart of Desert Solitaire, sifting through the detritus of the past to try to tease out the threads of the present.

It is somewhat telling that in this office Klimt has designed there are no flash drives or firewire cables, there are no computers or internet routers or video screens or compact discs. Aside from the couple VHS tapes, there is only paper. Typewritten paper, and handwritten paper, and files of paper and spiral bound paper and loose paper pinned or taped delicately to the wall.

History, in the end is paper; the past is measured in 8.5”x11” sheets.

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Grier Edmundson. Looking Around Looking.

Fourteen30 Contemporary

by Daniel J Glendening

In Looking Around Looking, Grier Edmundson presents a body of work that addresses, to some degree, the difficulty of being human.

The exhibition balances four intertwined modes of working, consisting of a small body of oil on canvas paintings (abstract, representational, and text-based) hung sparingly on walls papered with silk-screened wallpaper. The wallpaper, composed of a mirrored photographic image of the collaps-ed/ing Tacoma Narrows Bridge, from a distance coalesces into an almost baroque pattern, tragedy (one small dog was killed in the collapse) and opulence converging.

The titular painting series, Looking Around Looking (I hope I get all the titles right, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t. I’m new at this, and I forgot to write them down.) is a series of abstracts, following an apparently simple process of composition in which a set of arcs in red, yellow, green or blue, emerge like ripples from one side of the painting, each color from a different side, overlapping in a crudely intricate web. On the gallery’s east wall, two of these paintings hang as left-right/top-bottom mirror images.

On the west wall, a small abstract is paired with a larger text painting, I Am What I Am, and a small painting titled A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, depicting a chimpanzee, paintbrush in hand, hard at work on an expressive abstract. The south wall of the gallery contains just one painting, a smaller-sized portrait of Rick Welts, who, on May 15, 2011, came out as the first openly gay prominent American sports executive.

Grier Edmundson, "Looking Around Looking" installation view, Fourteen30 Contemporary

Like I said at the beginning, Edmundson presents a body of work that seems, in some way, to be addressing the difficulty of being human. We are socialized animals, socially encouraged to set aside our baser instincts and follow a more logical, analytical and systematic approach to the world. As a society, we cut chunks of the land out of the order of natural growth, out of the weeds and the brambles of the wild lands and divide it into grids, into repeated patterns, in some sort of attempt a wresting control of the world from the world. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed in 1940 due to a phenomenon known as aeroelastic flutter, a self-feeding vibration where aerodynamic forces on an object resonate with the object’s natural mode of vibration, producing a rapid, wave-like motion. This motion self-perpetuates and escalates, becoming, potentially destructive. The bridge collapsed in a 42 mph wind, human engineering toppling under natural forces.

It is the mirror self, the doppelganger on the other side of the reflection, underneath the ego. It is the secret life that every person carries around inside of them, those secret things that we fear, that we don’t think belong in the world, or that we don’t think the world is ready to hear. We are, after all, simply apes, barely able to restrain ourselves from flinging shit at our oppressors.

It is a quiet proclamation. I am that mirror-self. I am what I am.

Philip Iosca. Hopefully I Become the Universe.

PNCA Manuel Izquierdo Gallery

by Daniel J Glendening

Philip Iosca’s Hopefully I Become the Universe is sad. So sad, in fact, that it is somewhat difficult to write about.

The exhibition serves as something of a memorial to the lives of eight young men, ages 13-19, who took their own lives between July 9, 2010 and September 18, 2011. These deaths were the result of harassment and bullying they received at the hands of their peers for being, or being perceived as, openly gay. This story is the crux of the work, the point on which it all hangs.

Hopefully I Become the Universe (all work 2011) is made up of a collection of varied works, coming together to build a whole. The titular work hangs in the entrance to the gallery, a white neon sign reading, in handwritten type, “Hopefully I become the universe,” the closing remarks of the suicide note left by Seth Walsh, who died September 27, 2010 at the age of 13. The entry alcove houses a small video monitor, displaying a collection of three YouTube videos touching on subjects of anti-LGBT bullying and gay marriage, by Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, who took his own life on September 18, 2011.

"Hopefully I Become the Universe," Philip Iosca, 2011

The main gallery is lined with a series of archival digital prints in simple wood frames entitled Trouble In Mind. Each monochromatic print serves as a portrait of one young man, its flat CMYK color profile generated by the numerical values of the date of his death. Each print is a flat tone, ranging from grayish putty to mauve. In the center of the room stands M.M., a stack of found copies of Norman Mailer’s Marilyn, 65.6” tall, Marilyn Monroe’s height, according to the description.

The final piece of the exhibition is a small publication. This houses the story behind the work, a brief narrative of the tragedy memorialized, an explanation of the process behind the digital prints, and a portrait of each individual subject with a short anecdote to give them renewed life. This is where the exhibition all hangs.

Without the story, what we’re presented with is a series of vaguely fleshy-colored prints, which upon close inspection reveal their digital plotting, and a stack of books standing in for a mythologized figure of popular culture, an uber-femme of cinema, written by a man who wrote, from a fictionalized Monroe’s point of view, in Of Women and Their Elegance: “First, she discovered I wear no panties, and to make it worse, a bit of my natural odor came off with the removal of the skirt. Nothing drives people crazier than a woman with an aroma that doesn’t come out of a bottle. Maybe I should use deodorant, but I do like a little sniff of myself.This is, at best, sensationalist, aside from its absurd hetero fantasizing.

Without the story Iosca provides, the viewer might be left in something of a quandary, in which death is analytically flattened into a simple sequence of numbers, and Marilyn Monroe is reincarnated at full height by a repeated invocation of her name in text. There is a coldness, here, in the algorithmic means of the works production, something that seems just a little too distant, too removed. Each victim becomes simply a time-stamp, his data inserted into a system in order to render a flattened, representative output. It’s the story that bears the weight of the exhibition, that allows for humanness to re-enter the work, and maybe makes each portrait a little closer to being just that: something ghostly and far away. Life really is just a series of small tragedies, and small victories, unfolding one after the other.

Damien Gilley, Infinity Games

Midori Hirose, Boners and Blobs

The Independent

by Daniel J Glendening

The Independent presents a two-person exhibition, pairing the sharp geometries of Damien Gilley with the amorphous forms of Midori Hirose.

In Infinity Games, Gilley gives us a series of small works of laser cut acrylic set into mirrored shadow boxes, and laser-etched gold-painted panels. These works depict, in some way, a collapsed architecture, a vaguely Escher-like built environment for the 23rd century. This is an architecture of sharp lines and cold stainless edges, like something out of a futurist psychedelic rabbit-hole.

A proun painting by El Lissitzky. Ink and watercolor on paper, 1925.

These small, mostly two-dimensional pieces seem to be attempting to render a three-dimensional, spatial experience, or, perhaps to push it further, a four-dimensional experience of space and time, onto a flat plane. Conversely, one could also say that Gilley’s installation work is an attempt to render a two-dimensional environment onto four dimensions of time and space. Whatever the case may be, the work has the potential to initiate a collapse of vision, through its distorted geometry. It maybe owes a little something to the El Lissitzky, a depopulated geometrical environment pushing for a technologically enhanced state of futurist-utopia.

Damien Gilley, "Small Multiples," metallic acrylic on laser etched paper.

Midori Hirose’s Boners and Blobs is, aesthetically, in marked contrast to Gilley’s angular etchings. Hirose presents a series of small black and white sculptures, crafted, it appears, out of some type of clay. Sitting atop pedestals are two clear acrylic boxes, each containing one half the eponymous boners and blobs, rough hewn, phallic rods in one, and a pile of small, flattish, coin-like blobs in the other. There are several small pedestal sculptures, also a mottled black and white, in blobbily phallic and loosely geometric forms, and a sphere of spinning LEDs (a globe for a new millennium).

Midori Hirose, "L n L," mixed media.

There is something vaguely futurist about Hirose’s sculptures, as well, as in L n L, a vertical tower penetrating one of two loosely geometrical square rings. There is a human-ness to the work, a life and a sense of humor despite their charred bone and ash color scheme. As if to say hey, the world may burn, and we may become digital-organic hybrids caught in the fires of a world we helped to destroy, but we can still fuck and fight and look at ourselves in the mirror every morning and smile at our prowess.

No future. Long live the future.

by Daniel J Glendening

First off, I’d like to welcome you to this site, lay out a little of what it is going to try to do, and outline the reasoning behind its inception.

Justice League PDX is an attempt to add a little something to the critical conversation surrounding arts exhibitions and events in Portland, OR. As pointed out in Renny Pritikin’s list, Prescription For A Healthy Art Scene, in order to flourish an arts community requires, among other things, “sophisticated writers to document, discuss and promote new ideas/continuing regional development,” as well as “publications for them to write for.”

I do not claim to be an especially sophisticated writer, nor to be particularly insightful in my analysis. Often, when viewing an exhibition, I don’t really know what to think, and am simply curious, or excited, or bored. However, as an artist exhibiting in Portland, I have, over the past few years, often found myself complaining at the lack of critical written dialogue surrounding exhibitions. While Portland boasts a few arts writers and platforms, they are only a small handful of voices in a very crowded room.

What I aim to do here is to share a read of the work, with as much candor and honesty as I am able (a sometimes difficult task in an arts community in which everyone knows everyone). And while that reading of the work may not be spot on, may be misinformed or simply unhelpful, what a written discourse can serve to do is act as proof. It is a small piece of evidence that the work was seen, that it existed, and that people looked.

There’s a conversation going on. I might have something to add.

"Prescription For A Healthy Art Scene" by Renny Pritikin