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Review: Portland2010 at Disjecta

By Lisa Radon March 19, 2010

The Portland2010 Biennial opened last Saturday night at two of its eight venues, Rocksbox Fine Art and Disjecta. The exhibition by Ditch Projects at Rocksbox, I’ll talk about in another post. But the work at Disjecta was very familiar to followers of the arts in Portland. David Corbett recently had work in a group show at Half/Dozen Gallery, Crystal Schenk’s stained glass shopping cart, "Have and Have Not," was at the PNCA faculty show, Bruce Conkle and Marne Lucas’ installation, "Warlord Sun King," had been previously installed at the Marylhurst Art Gym while Crystal Schenk and Shelby Davis’ drywall semi, "West Coast Turnaround," was installed at Milepost 5 albeit with a few yards fewer of trailer.

It was fantastic seeing Sean Healy’s installation yesterday with fewer viewers in the house and with the benefit of knowing its title, "Muscle Car Memory/Carcinoma." The four candy-colored resin "concrete blocks" are the shadow of that muscle car that finally made if off the blocks in the suburban driveway while the accompanying wall pieces constructed of what look like the paper end of hundreds of cigarettes on end are missing only the grease marks of fingerprints as they stand to mark the mechanic’s time spent under the hood. This is the second time today I’ll note in writing the minimalist overtones (in particular, West Coast minimalism as influenced by car culture) of work that’s moved beyond it, in Healy’s case toward a sort of oblique slice of All-American narrative. It’s such a strong installation.

While Crystal Schenk’s crystal-encrusted longhorn skull is lovely, its mounting on wood paneling made it feel too winkingly NW kitsch and deterred its ability to jab at Damien Hurst’s absurdly over the top diamond-encrusted human skull. Her "Have and Have Not" fares better, an extraordinarily crafted grocery cart with turned wood handle and stained glass sides quietly referencing the church of consumerism in a charged form that doubles as transportation tool of last resort.

The more I see of David Corbett’s exploration of complex if improvised structures the more I like it. Here there are three works on paper and a sculpture, two and three-dimensional representations in transparent ochre and dripping glossy black respectively of something like a Buckminster Fuller dome folded in on itself once and again, an irregular, tangled armature of a failing polyhedron or a ridiculously complex model of an unknown molecule. The works on paper, "Glass Houses I-III" are forms floating free of context. The thick and dripping coating of the sculpture, "Past Craft," anchors that form in the real and messy world.

Bruce Conkle and Marne Lucas’ "Warlord Sun King" is a blinding tanning bed studded with plants and garbage, suspended from the ceiling and dangling various minerals and stones like a monster chandelier gone to pot. Conkle and Lucas invoke the decadent style of the court of Louis XIV (tanning bed >> Sun King)—a kind of grotesque Hall of Mirrors reflecting the recent financial bubble that made wealthy art stars—but with a DIY aesthetic: panels of used tinfoil, a very handmade golden shovel, and gold thrift store frames. In the frames the natural world (also busy retaking the chandelier) is pristine but deformed in a stand of burled tree trunks and boxed in glass in natural history museum diorama. Meanwhile there’s a portrait of Lucas in repose holding a framed photo of Conkle, le roi et la renne au fin de civilization as we know it?

Portland2010 Biennial continues with openings tonight at Left Bank for Stephen Slappe and the Templeton Building with multiple installations/artists.

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