Five humanities

Exploring Pollack's latest group show
By NICHOLAS SCHROEDER  |  January 10, 2014

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'ARM BALL, LILIA' by Rollin Leonard

You’d be forgiven for not artwalking in sub-freezing temperatures through the minefields of winter last Friday. But hopefully you’ve softened. An inspired collection of contemporary Portland artists features all month at Ed Pollack’s Fine Arts gallery, and to the willing, their collective energies could slice through the cruelties of the season.

Three series of complex drawings chart Clint Fulkerson’s recent progress with geometrical patterns and the solid line. All three follow a separate calculus, the artist extrapolating ideas commonly confined to napkin doodles into constellatory organisms and dynamic shapes. “White Nebula,” white pencil on black paper, is a sleek gestalt of teeming cloud formations and celestial vertices. Their logic is elegantly self-governing, and most interesting at points where Fulkerson cleaves irregularities of shape and lacunae into the design. He flips the chromatic scale for two other series, black ink on white paper: “Quad Formation” muses on isometric cubes and pyramids, but it’s the third, “untitled,” that seems like a breakthrough. For these, Fulkerson employs circles building out from a central point, each rendered as if the surface they’re drawn on is being pinched from the opposite plane. The result are these fat, squishy, comical bodies of essentially simple annular lines, vaguely reminiscent of Philip Guston; like the absurdity of whoopie cushions made to look respectable. As prolific and astute as this artist is, I’ve never seen his work so humorous and humane.

No demographic receives more media attention than the middle-aged male, so Wyatt Barr’s view of him as a fresh subject may initially seem curious. His six portrait prints are laboriously crafted, each wash of sumi ink stripping away some detail of expression, giving each man a distant, ghostly visage. They’re more statuesque than sentimental — not sad, nor particularly noble. But each seems appropriately weathered, as if Barr’s studio efforts mirror the labors echoed in each man’s face, and the numerous washes and liquid masques have the effect of smoothing the wrinkles, which could poetically be read as a sort of repayment Barr is bestowing upon an elder generation. The labors erased from the face while the character stays intact, the midlife Mainer born anew; spiritual compensation where few other forms are available.

Two series of drawings by Kimberly Convery show off her strengths of simplicity and imagination. Some are small landscape studies of the proud oak trees of Hewnoaks Artist Colony, whose majesty Convery manages to retain while whittling them to mere thin, wispy lines; splinters in the paper. Her signature motifs, the lemminglike herd of microscopic beings drawn clustered as a singular unit, find new action in a lovely, meditative scene where they’re fastened to fat clouds in long suspended ligatures. In another drawing vaguely inspired by Japanese art the herd is absent; their energy is suffused into the clouds themselves, which graze the whitespace of the paper and dwarf two distant buildings. These pieces are patient and meditative — as with Fulkerson’s circles, Convery uses small studies to discover essentially new capacities.

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