Retroperspective

A year in Portland art
By IAN PAIGE AND CHRIS THOMPSON  |  December 20, 2006

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BARNSTORMERS At SPACE: Gallery, back in May.

CRYPTOZOOLOGY: OUT OF TIME PLACE SCALE, BATES COLLEGE MUSEUM OF ART Rare are the instances of true interdisciplinarity in exhibitions of contemporary art-moments where disciplines meet, mix, and couple to produce offspring that belong to neither field and set off on their own in search of even wilder mates. Bates’s show set a standard for the sort of intellectual rigor, curatorial care, and absurdist humor necessary to succeed in probing the darker sides of the encounter between the practices of contemporary art and science.

HILARY IRONS, AUCOCISCO “Sheetrock Mountain” provided the rare delight of a young up-and-comer hitting her stride. Irons (now striding her way through an MFA at Yale University) bid farewell to the Portland community with a collection of sprawling scenes that ride the line between utopian community and dystopian reality. Social and gender investigations manifested in a brilliant new motif for the artist, interwoven colorful bargello patterns within the illustrative compositions, that alludes to continued success exploring the mystical and its relation to human foibles.

THOMAS MANNING, USM It was the exhibition that never was, plug pulled by the University, and which therefore took to the street — sort of — with a mid-September walking exhibition of a few of Manning’s works and dozens of free color reproductions distributed to the crowd. In a debate that raged around the status of the artist — political prisoner, cop-killer — the art objects themselves got lost in the shuffle; the march reminded one that it is this access to and engagement with the art that is truly central. Not because we would or should insist in some straightforward way that the art is what it is all about, art that was robbed from us by the forces of censorship, but because what art really invents for its maker and makes possible for its audiences is the construction of a community, and ways of participating in the production of a world worth belonging to.

THE SACRED AND PROFANE, PEAKS ISLAND Maybe you shouted into the cavernous abyss of Battery Steele. Maybe you marveled at Crank Sturgeon and his ten-foot-tall headdress while you waited in line for some delicious Morpheus Eats. Perhaps you banged the hell out of a giant drum bigger than your average Manhattan apartment or, chances are, you just grabbed a candle and wandered the catacombs to observe the unrestricted creative installations in every nook and cranny of the abandoned edifice. Top it all off with a performance by Samuel James and you have an old fashioned Maine harvest festival, albeit infused with a more sophisticated and communal artistic approach. The Sacred and Profane proves that, as long as local artists are willing to join together, the true joys of artistic creation and celebration lie outside the commodity system.

JUDITH ALLEN AND EIRENE EFSTATHIOU, WHITNEY ART WORKS This tag-team exhibition of work by mother and daughter was one of the most compelling of the year. Where Efstathiou’s work opted for a cool humor and collector’s eye for gathering snapshots of portentous moments from other people’s histories, Allen, her mother, staged scenes of healing and portraits of healers that pictured an interpersonal intimacy whose presence had been all but exorcised from her daughter’s paintings of the distanciations and voids in 21st century social life.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Yale University, Cultural Institutions and Parks, Museums,  More more >
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