Kate Hunt – Congressional Record


Kate Hunt, Congressional Record (2013), nails, twine, and encaustic

There’s a sort of literalness to the visual of a stack of documents that have been cut, fused together, and nailed through. But the underlying idea strikes me as timely and substantive. Kate Hunt’s Congressional Record is a representation and a reminder of how so much information quite quickly becomes inaccessible. Sometimes it’s not actually inaccessible; you can, after all, look up government documents even though most of us never do. But sometimes it really is impossible to revisit information once it has flowed past. In an age when we tend to think of information as immaterial it’s welcome to see it rendered hyper-material.


Kate Hunt – Above the Couch


Kate Hunt, Above the Couch (2012), Newspaper and steel, 12″ x 59″ x 10″. On view at Portland Art Museum (Apex) until August 31, 2014.


Kate Hunt, Above the Couch (detail)

Kate Hunt’s Above the Couch is a layered, wall mounted sculpture made out of newspaper threaded on metal rods and then soaked in water. Apparently she even ages her sculptures outdoors through the Montana winter. The effect is a wonderful mix of the ephemeral and the monumental. Her sculptures begin with the daily newspaper, a perhaps vanishing cultural form, and then gives them a geological weight and permanence. For me her work recalls some of Richard Serra’s early sculpture and also softer work by the likes of Eva Hesse. There’s also something a bit morbid and sad about the piece as it is a record or an embalming of time, a highly compressed bundling of your daily reading and recycling.

Bue Kee – Owl


Bue Kee, Owl (1939), ceramic, on view at Portland Art Museum

Bue Kee’s Owl (1939) might just be Portland’s original piece of vaguely kitschy yet cute and charming bird art. Long before Portlandia and the “put a bird on it” craze there was Kee’s ceramic owl. Kee was a Chinese American who lived and worked in Oregon and who was involved in a number of WPA projects, including Timberline Lodge. This piece is currently in the US General Services Administration Fine Arts Collection. We’ll never know whether this is the ur crafty bird of Portland and it probably doesn’t matter. But I did find myself indulging in some unnatural historical musings: What did this owl that would fit right in at any number of local stores look like in 1939? Did it come off as classy or whimsical, odd or mainstream?

David Price – San Juan Triptych

San Juan Triptych

David Price, San Juan Triptych (2014) encaustic on panel, 12 x 36 in. On view at Butters Gallery

San Juan Triptych offers three views that evoke the San Juan Islands and their particular combination of mountain, sky, sea, coast, and weather. A strong horizon line and the layered effect of encaustic gives them an unusual sense of depth. The soft focus and moody color palette recalls Impressionist paintings, but here the intention seems opposite. Price seems to be concerned not with capturing a particular afternoon or weather effect, but rather something more timeless and generalized: the feel and look of a place as remembered, not seen. While these paintings are small they have a wonderful solidity and presence  – in part due to the exposed and extra wide edges of the canvas and in part due to the deep, transportive space of the landscapes.


Sarah Knobel – Icescapes


Sarah Knobel, Icescape, photo (2014), on view at Newspace Center for Photography until June 1, 2014

An eclectic mix of disposable manufactured objects (largely gathered from one dollar stores), encased in ice, leans forward. It’s in mid melt, as evidenced by some yellowy water and flecks of green (moss?). For me Sarah Knobel’s Icescapes recalled a number of quite disparate phenomena that taken together made for a potent brew. The haphazard, decayed look made me think of trash left behind by a storm, littering a riverbank and marking an otherwise pristine looking landscape. Or perhaps it’s a cross section pulled out of your garbage can and frozen for posterity, a record of waste and consumption. And, of course, it’s hard not to think of the big melt being caused by climate change. Knobel explains that she’s interested in the history of landscape photography and that her staged landscapes, far from permanent, reference “the fragility of the natural world and our impact upon it within a brief time period in relation to its existence without humankind.” The beauty of this series is indeed unsettling, in part, because it presents, at least implicitly, how we’re irrevocably and rapidly changing our world.

Julia Mangold – Untitled Drawings


Julia Mangold, Untitled, pigment in wax on paper 18.5 x 14.5 inches, at Elizabeth Leach Gallery until May 31, 2014


Julia Mangold’s drawings are beautiful, layered compositions created with pigment and wax on paper. Not surprisingly for an artist who is best known as a sculptor these drawings have a sculptural quality: they’re layered and they have a weight that belies their small scale. Some are utterly simple – just some bars of color on a white field that appears waxed – while others  use the same basic elements to build to more complex relationships of shape, color, and depth. As a large gathering the drawings look like a series of experiments with a restricted set of artistic ingredients. Perhaps they’re preliminary studies or perhaps they are ends in themselves. Regardless they reward close looking.

Anna Von Mertens – Aurora


Anna VonMertens, Aurora, hand-dyed cotton on wooden stretcher 54 x 100 inches, on view until May 31, 2014 at Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Aurora is vivid and saturated in color. But rather than being flat and graphic, the cotton surface gives it an interesting depth and vibrancy. It shimmers and floats or wobbles, like its namesake phenomenon. Taken together the show – Above, between and in – is pleasingly odd. The dyed cotton pieces are inspired variously by the aurora borealis, aura photography (which recalls medical imaging technology and images that register differences in temperature), and “patterns left behind from the artist’s nutritional juicing” (which look a bit like Helen Frankenthaler’s abstractions). The work feels like an experiment (and a successful one) in finding visual and conceptual inspiration in all sorts of places: the heavens, unseen energies, and waste.

Shinichi Miyazaki – River


Shinichi Miyazaki, River 2013-4, Douglas fir and ashfield stone On view at Augen Gallery until May 31, 2014

Miyazaki’s River is a gorgeous piece of smooth Douglas fir. The sloping form suggests, as the title would have it, a river. But I found myself thinking more of a watershed – the land that drains into a river. And of course trees depend on watersheds and rivers. The annual rings of the tree are exposed like geological strata. They’re a neat reminder that rivers exist in time – they change and evolve. Miyazaki clearly feels a reverence towards wood and trees. He notes that the wood that he works with is usually decades if not centuries old. He writes that, “I feel an obligation to mark its existence. … but basically I am trying to say thank you.” That sentiment certainly comes across and it’s infectious.

Mark Malmberg – Hsiao Hua


Mark Malmberg, Hsiao Hua 2007. Carbon fiber reinforced bamboo, electronics with Bluetooth. On view at Blackfish Gallery until May 31, 2014

Mark Malmberg’s solar powered robotic mobile Hsiao Hua is a beguiling interweaving of the organic and the high tech. Solar panels, a computer, a motor, and a propeller are carefully lashed and epoxied to a bamboo frame, creating a beautiful creaturely sculpture. With sufficient light Hsiao Hua comes to life, emitting a series of chirps and whistles, wheeling and gliding. In the gallery this is surprising – a bit like walking into someone’s apartment only to be greeted by the squawks of a parrot. Hsiao Hua is an unusual and out of place life form and it makes me think about the relationships between animals and machines, nature and city, high tech and low. It’s also playful and clearly made with great craft and care.

Stephan Soihl – Small Rotating Painted Brass Winged Forms


Stephan Soihl, Small Rotating Painted Brass Winged Forms, 2013 Brass, motor, timers On view at Blackfish Gallery until May 31, 2014

Stephan Soihl’s wall mounted sculptures, which he imagines as performances, are elegant and precise, recalling Russian Suprematism or Bauhaus aesthetics. But there also seems to be a playfulness here. This sculpture moves slowly, almost imperceptibly, driven by a motor hidden on the other side of the wall. It continues its glacial movement until it reaches a tipping point and an arm swoops downward only to begin its upward climb once more. The performances on offer here are slow and subtle so you need to be willing to give them your time. But if you do you will be rewarded.

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