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Review: Manor of Art

A great many-headed beast of a show in a labyrinth of rooms

By Lisa Radon August 15, 2009


I told him it is like sitting through a poetry open mic. There are awful moments, but you wait patiently because something good might happen. What I will say is that there was something for everybody as we strolled through Manor of Art on Friday night. And everybody, indeed, was there. The cross-section of the curious who showed up was surprising and heartening.

The rooms could be divided into installation, gallery, little art shop. There were plenty of Juxtapoz-flavored (figurative, decorative in a comix/graff-infused manner) rooms painted floor to ceiling, a punk rock crash pad, what looked like an embalming chamber, plus activities like a pump-action BB gun shooting gallery and elsewhere a meditation chamber.

It was easy to get turned around in the halls, easy to get overwhelmed. I didn’t see it all, and know I’ll have to return. And all the while, bands played in the central courtyard below.

What the exhibition points up is that for many, art=expression, and that’s that. "I made some cool sh*t" is enough. And I appreciate much of that cool sh*t; I’ve purchased some of it. But I also recognize that personal style aside, it’s not saying much that’s new, it’s just saying what’s right now. It wants to be the individual that fits in. And it is its own conversation.

That said, standouts at the Manor included the surprise of Sara Nyquist’s wooden bridge to an outdoor platform. And Kelly Rauer’s "The Conversation Series, Study #1" was a beautiful video of a pair of hands forming the word "aggressive" in string followed by the profile of a woman’s face as she slowly draws the string into her mouth, unravelling the word. Elsewhere in the room, a tiny platform holds a pile of pink string and one wall is painted with a repeating pink form in a chest-high pile. The quietness of "Conversation" knocked me out, particularly in context in the cacophony of the Manor. And it will be interesting to see where Rauer goes with this series, especially in light of and as possible counterpoint to the rising tide of machismo in Portland’s art scene at the moment.

Rhoda London showed a couple of lovely works on paper, abstractions of piles of stones; studies of shade, form, with unexpected texture mixing things up. Gabe Flores, too, brought nature into the building. His "Greener than You?" was a moss-floored, wood-paneled room with green apples appearing to cascade down the bumpers on the walls from branches above. Gary Wiseman and Meredith Andrews, like many others, installed a dirt floor, but that was only part of their ambitious, labyrinthine piece with a fire pit, a hall of mirrors, and dark twisting corridor ending in a room with a television. That Andrews and Wiseman performed crazy and disaffected roles on the opening night overdetermined the piece. Absent actor, I think the experience will be strong.

I like the concept behind Derek Ecklund’s video, "Golden Hour," that he would record sound and video from the room in which it would be installed. And it resulted in a beautiful and melancholy piece…the excerpt I saw was sun-through-trees accompanied by a deep thrum…to which the deep red painted room in which it was installed was incidental.

In walking around the halls, I thought perhaps I was the only one who couldn’t get away from what this building had been. In the preview I called it a retirement home. It was clearly a nursing home. There’s a difference. And so Adam Bailey’s installation of clothing that very well could have been left behind here, was troubling. So to find out that one of my favorite pieces of the show by Brennan Conaway was his way of thinking about the building and what it meant as I was, was a relief. He says his time in the building made him resolved to "live well and die well." As a reminder and a threat, his wood construction of a platform/passageway with lengths of slats that contain and pierce a mansized space was called, “A Lifetime of Lazy Choices and An End That Feels Like Fate – The Fish Trap.” The way the slats were angled inward permitted entrance but confounded exit.

This post has been updated w/correct title for Gabe’s room.

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