Looking backward

Portland art: 2007 in review
By KEN GREENLEAF  |  December 19, 2007
insideart_Greenhut_WaterSha
AT GREENHUT: "Water Shapes," by Sarah Knock, 36" x 50", oil on linen.

It’s been eight years since I last committed art reviewing and I’m only just now rising from the ashes at the Phoenix, so a look back at 2007 presented a problem; my show attendance in recent years has been more idiosyncratic than methodical. Fortunately I have colleagues, so I’ve been poring over archived columns and dispatching e-mails to find out what drew their attention this past year.

Some shows I did see would stand out in any year. The “Tiny” show at Whitney Art Works is much better than any group show of 300 works by 80-odd artists has any right to be. The 30th-anniversary show at Greenhut Galleries ought to be good, given the gallery’s long and successful track record, and it is. Both of these shows are still up, “Tiny” through December 22, and the Greenhut 30th officially through the 29th, though most of it will remain until the end of January.

This year there were solo shows by two artists who have worked in Portland for more than three decades, becoming masters at what they do. Noriko Sakanishi showed a group of her quietly mysterious and powerful works at June Fitzpatrick at MECA in October. Jameson showed a big group of new paintings by William Manning in September. Any year with shows by these two is a good one.

insideart_Greenhut_ParableO
AT GREENHUT: "C. Series: Parable of the
Cave," by Thomas Nadeau, 36" x 36", oil on
canvas.
And some galleries came through very strongly: Whitney Art Works, in addition to “Tiny,” hosted Aaron Stephan’s “The Problem with Ladders,” including a large structure made from books, as well as portraits of people like Marx and Wittgenstein built up using book pages. And it displayed the “Tools of the Banal” by Barak Levi Olins.

Chris Thompson, who held the space I now use, wrote about the Charlie Hewitt show of drawings and prints at Whitney in March, his first solo in Portland in a decade. Hewitt’s boundless energy and muscular imagery are infectious. It’s the kind of work that makes one glad it’s been made, and it was good to have a show of his back in Portland.

And Wes LaFountain at Jameson, beyond Manning’s work, brought in the “time-based paintings” of Raphael Di Luzio.

Thompson also noted the performance/installation piece “Corridor at Sea: the Performative Object” at ICA@MECA, of which he wrote, it’s “an ambitious experiment in thinking through the relationship between performance and installation.” Now nearly forty years on from the first radical performance and installation works in New York, they have become a staple at art schools. ’Tis ever thus.

And there was “Green Horizons” at Bates College Museum of Art, a six-month project that explores “the intersection of art, science, pedagogy, and the notions of sustainability and environmental engagement.”

Ian Paige, my Phoenix colleague, wrote about the Portland Museum of Art Biennial last spring that it was “carefully curated and benefits from a judicious selection process.” He also noted that a “decidedly Yankee sincerity surfaces in the absence of any flippant, art-world insider plays on culture.” Big juried group shows run the risk of looking like the camel that’s a horse designed by a committee, so it was to the jury’s credit that the show had coherence. The Biennial, by the way, grew out of a legacy given to the museum for that purpose by the late Port Clyde painter William Thon.

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