Monday, January 12, 2009

have i mentioned...

although i was apprehensive about the art i've been seeing in portland, i have seen a couple exhibits this month that left me in awe. the first was at mark woolley gallery, and unfortunately the exhibit is already closed; i saw it on its last day. but it was really interesting, stephen scott smith's work is matthew barney meets twin peaks.

stephen scott smith, bunnysmith

smith confesses that his art focuses on narcissism in his artist statement, and i far from doubt his narcissism. smith looks like a good looking, intelligent gentleman and i probably don't. he says, "I am basically making fun of the whole fame-obsessed world that I am of, not above." which is fine. we know all about narcissism. as cal would point out, christopher lasch wrote a whole book on it and i've heard enough driveling essays on narcissism and facebook while i was at college to last me a lifetime. stephen scott smith then adds that he believes "what we see in others is really ourselves." interesting, but an idea still not fresh of face. so let's see, he connects narcissism with facebook and then with voyeurism (maybe?) with identity. okay, nothing new.

stephen scott smith, zebrasmith

but what was interesting about this exhibit was the craftmanship. everything was perfectly crafted. and you know jess marie has turned me and i know believe in craftmanship over concept. it's like pretending you're writing the best novel ever while you can't even put a grammatically cognizable sentence together. the technique and form carries the concept, even the conceptual artists (with a captial 'c') understood this. so even if smith's work is conceptually shallow, the execution was flawless. each photograph was blown up to large proportions, the focus right on the tip of the nose of each self-portrait. extraneous material to the photograph, such as frayed rope, meticulously worked into the portrait and displayed. the videos were edited very well. the whole exhibit was visceral and visually stunning.

stephen scott smith, video still from hyenasmith

in the end, smith's musing about narcissism fall a little flat, except that it is interesting, or at least i find it personally interesting, the ways in which narcissism manifests and what it produces when not denied. if we suppress our narcissism through facebook by calling it "social networking," what if we were to call it just what it was and be unabashed?

anyway, more impressive and stunning and interesting is an exhibit i happened to catch at IGLOO saturday morning. the exhibit, or rather i should say, on-going installation/de-installation will continue through to the end of january. gary wiseman with meredith andrews present "where am i."

they're working on a project that builds on relational aesthetics and takes those principles in a different direction. let me describe my experience: when i entered through the white metal front door into IGLOO, my eyes immediately fell onto gary wiseman himself sitting at a small table in the middle of the gallery. the table was cluttered with papers and books and computers and cables and a large scanner. to the right of wiseman's table and the door were scraps of fabric and paper and other samples sealed into ziploc bags, neatly and evenly spaced pinned to the wall. to the wall to the right of this display, a web of strings hung connected various points in the corner. on the far wall another display of drawn and printed images as well as a map of portland. in the right window, a multicolored disco ball; in the left various objects and artifacts.

wiseman asked how i had found the event, handed me a hand explaining the project, and then explained that the abstract matrix of string to my right corresponded to the pins placed in the map of portland on my left which themselves corresponded to places he had held exhibits or events in portland in the past. he explained that the objects in the window were left from past events of his, and that each visitor to the gallery was invited to take one of the objects as a gift. he was then taking the address of each visitor and was plotting where the gifts went to in relation to where they had been used in his art ventures. they plan to use the information to create a book and further art projects. i inspected the various displays and objects in the gallery, nearly speechless. not only was i impressed and interested in his project, but it was exactly the sort of idea i jot down and analyze in my own sketchbook. in fact, the entire exhibit looked like my sketchbook had become large and three-dimensional. especially the web of string.

this sketch was from my sketch book and used as the title slide for my senior project in art history titled "Relational Aesthetics and the art of creating space." gary wiseman's project reminded me of felix gonzalez-torres, who everyone knows i love. i even own a piece of licorice by the late artist, tucked safely away with the reason of my possessions in alabama where it can't be eaten.

and i wanted to tell this all to gary wiseman but i was just struck dumb for some reason until his friend meredith came in. she was nice, helped me pick which gift i should take. we settled on a ball of blue yarn to match the jacket and sweater i was wearing.

i sat while gary took my photo, chatting with meredith, sometimes looking nervously at the camera. and all i could think was how this was the sort of art i've been waiting to find and how much it reminded me of my own art and how i wanted to make more art.

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