A Repentant Return

Just over two months since my last post – completely shameful. It’s been a combination of not setting aside time and not having much to write about.

On Saturday I went gallery/museum hopping in Portland. Some highlights:

1) A lovely conversation with Andy, the owner of Aucocisco Galleries, which represents many of the more interesting Maine-based artists I’ve come across thus far, including some friends of mine, and including Katherine Bradford, whose work the Bowdoin College Museum of Art will show this summer. He is in the midst of a suite of shows called DOUBLE DOZEN, a series of twelve, one-week long, two-person shows; in this iteration, Josefina Auslender and Tanya Fletcher. It’s an innovative (and I imagine stressful to organize and hang!) format.

2) Two shows at Space Gallery:

2a) Sophia Narrett: I Was Dreaming ThisThis 2014 MFA Candidate from RISD makes enticing works out of embroidery thread – some of it woven together to create well-modeled forms and figures, some of it just tangled and hanging loose from the bottom, top, or sides of the picture plane (though these pictures are not rectangular, nor of course are they flat). My companion, painter and printmaker Mary Hart, noted that this was an interesting feminine/ist contrast to the very masculine paintings of Danish artist Per Kirkeby, currently on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. The point is well made: large versus small, aggressive versus delicate, fine art versus craft, abstract and anti-narrative versus vaguely fantastical. Narrett creates pastoral scenes with a variety of figures, some male, some female, some nude and some clothed, sometimes engaged in some cooperative endeavor, though it may not be clear what that i—a woman’s response to Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe. But while the feminine/ist connotations were important to my understanding and interest, I worry about over-stressing them, because the work has a power apart from that – an aesthetic power (they’re beautifully and skillfully made) and a psychological one that I believe anyone can relate to.

2b) Surface Tension, a group show curated by the Bowdoin Museum’s former Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Diana Tuite (and a title I was hoping to use for my upcoming surrealist photography show! hrrrrumph). Most intriguing were the photographs of an artist who had figured out how to stop a printer from drying ink; he would hang portraits after he printed them and let them drip – a fascinating and mesmerizing process that could also be viewed in a nearby video.

surface tension

3) MFA and BFA graduates in the galleries at MECA (Maine College of Art). Apparently something art students there don’t necessarily learn is careful editing. Much of the work was just an accumulation of junk – which is already such a much used aesthetic that there needs to be a good reason for it, and here I couldn’t see much of one. Interestingly, the BFAs (in June Fitzpatrick’s adjacent gallery) were better at focusing their collections of stuff on a particular topic, theme, or medium, making their work seem much more sophisticated than their supposedly more experienced counterparts. In one gallery of MFAs the work was so close together it was hard to tell where one person’s junk ended and another’s began. My favorite was an artist who use words in her works in punny ways: for example, a clock with M’s at the cardinal points, with a second hand with an O on the end of it, constantly respelling MOM. But she, too could have used better editing – the works would have been more affective/effective if there’d been fewer of them, and they hadn’t been interspersed with other things (what’s this large abstract photo doing in the middle of these?); as installed, it was a bit of a confused jumble.

4) At Rose Contemporary, a show of faculty from Southern Maine Community College, including two friends – Mary Hart, mentioned above, and Cassie Jones. This was the first time I’d seen Mary’s paintings in person: tiny, detailed paintings of objects, framed together in evocative pairings: a wedding band and a rubber band; two views of a chestnut, one male, one female. I recently paid Cassie a studio visit, an experience as joyful as her works are – brightly colored drawings and paintings of abstract patterns, on pleasingly tactile materials such as a vellum-like paper, and stuffed felt. She has a trampoline in her studio! This explains so much.

5) A Taste for Modernism: The William S. Paley Collection (from MoMA) at the Portland Museum of Art… in my next post (hopefully in the next few days).

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