Out of this world

Found objects and items rise into new life in Anna Hepler's solo show at the Portland Museum of Art
By ANNIE LARMON  |  July 28, 2010

DWARFED BY HER CREATION Anna Hepler and "The Great Haul."
"The Great Haul" plunges from the 22-foot-high clerestory of the Portland Museum of Art's entryway, a tear-dropped fishnet that resolves just before it touches the ground. Lit interiorly by a skylight, the monumental parabolic installation throws squares of light and shadow on the gallery floor below it, a kaleidoscope that ethereally balances the tension between the sculpture and the museum's architecture. The piece is composed of two layers of sewn and stapled salvaged plastic, an interior net of black and blue tarp, and an exterior one of white and translucent plastic. The dimension lent to the sculpture by juxtaposition of light and dark, both in material and in effect, establishes the binaries explored throughout "Makeshift," Anna Hepler's first solo show at the PMA. Four new interrelated bodies of work are displayed on the first and fourth floors of the museum, each extracting something elementally lovely from the conversations between weight and weightlessness, temporariness and permanence, chaos and control, and art object and waste.

"Makeshift" is the first exhibit in Circa, a new series of exhibitions featuring contemporary artists from Maine and beyond that will run semiannually at the museum, both in group and solo formats. Assistant curator Sage Lewis says the shows will be "reflections of the moment, of the year in which they were generated. We are hoping to place these exhibitions in time, making them an important addition to the artistic culture of Maine. For the artists involved, the recognition and appreciation of their work will help them grow and produce further." The museum chose Hepler to launch the series because she is an artist working in Portland while showing extensively nationally and internationally, and her work is becoming increasingly ambitious. Her mixed-media approach also stands as an apt introduction to the series, engaging compelling trends in contemporary art. Former Acadia Sessions collaborators Petra Simmons and David Camlin filmed the process of the exhibit's production and installation. Their behind-the-scenes documentary will be on view at the museum accompanying the exhibit.

"The Great Haul" boldly inaugurates the series, an overwhelming promotion for contemporary art at the museum, immediately engaging the viewer upon entry and demanding closer inspection. While the dramatic arabesque form is intrinsically elegant, its construction is rough, with staples unhidden and the ends of multi-colored thread un-tucked and un-trimmed. The process of production is exposed and approachable, as are stains and wear and tear from the re-purposed plastic's prior lives, confusing the transcendent quality of the work. "Haul" is riddled with dualities. Considering its scale, the piece assumes a certain gravity; the glowing white vertex is charged with a tensile pressure. Yet the materials are light and latticed, and the sculpture is fragile and movable.

A kinetic site-specific installation inhabiting the fourth floor of the museum furthers this inquiry. "Full Blown" is alternately a robust, turgid cloud (expanding into the reaches of the upstairs gallery) and a flaccid drapery, depending upon the point at which you encounter its 16-minute cycle of inflation and deflation. The whir of a fan starting announces the re-awakening of the larger-than-life piece, composed of semi-transparent plastic and drab brown packing tape. A gust of air incites the weighty plastic curtain to stress and shift, bulging in spots until the body becomes defined and its shoulders rise off the ground. In full effect the brown-taped seams of the structure add an abstracted visual component, a cartographic blueprint to examine as the work swells to its potential, then sighs back to its inevitable shrug through the porous plastic. When fully inflated, the work takes on a planetary weight with a pull that can be experienced from the third floor gallery, as it peeks over the ledge above.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Sculpture, Portland Museum of Art, Portland Museum of Art,  More more >
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