N o v e m b e r   2 0 0 1

Roy Lichtenstein's "Modern Room," at Portland Art Museum
Critical i

Prints, Ginsberg and Bocci
by Jeff Jahn

In October I needed to breathe. The Portland-wide Print Symposium wasn't as devastatingly dull as I had hoped, but somehow the lack of solo shows left me breathing fumes from the presses.

Must ... find ... fresh ... air.

Instead, I found garbage and – surprise, surprise – it is a good thing.

Still, I should say something about the symposium: At Bullseye, Rae Mahaffey's prints combined glass etching and the prints made from them in an array of transparency that was ambitious. She pulled it off; well done.

Xu Bing at PICA was masterful, but it left me wishing I could see one of his rooms filled with books.

The Korean Prints at Mark Woolley were amazing in detail and visceral impact, I also liked the connection to printing on fabrics.

Brendan Clenghan's relief prints at Pulliam Deffenbaugh were really excellent (although I find his neo-Freudian theoretical basis dated and silly in a post-graduate way … there is a reason Freud is not considered a legitimate form of therapy anymore. Drop Freud as a crutch and just deconstruct need and want. Who needs all of his 19th Century baggage? The work deserves better; hell, even La Leche League is a better fit.)

The Jordan Schnizler Collection print exhibit at PAM reaffirmed some of my beliefs: Oldenberg's early '60s prints have so much more force than any of his fabricated sculptures and the Andy Warhol Maos are masterpieces either as prints on paper or prints on canvas.

But, in the end, is a print symposium just another example of Portland's lack of ambition at the institutional level? I realize it is part of Gordon Gilkey's legacy, but can't Portland do a symposium on why American art as a whole has stalled? Prints have fed a lot of the international art market. In hindsight, that blue-chip speculative aspect has strangled a once-fine medium and whored it so thoroughly that all but the few who are real good at the medium should just stop.

Emily Ginsberg
Manuel Izquierdo Gallery
Pacific Northwest College of Art
825 NW 13th Ave.
Through Nov. 8

Emily Ginsberg's "Digital Wallpaper"

Emily Ginsberg's digital prints are fresh, engaging and aesthetically ambitious. Even her artist statement is good. In her words, "'Blotto' is a project that explores the structure of decorative pattern as behavioral pattern ... somewhere between the structure of commercial display, clinical observation and the comforts of domesticity."

She achieves this by adding a kind of Rorschach test pattern to the mix. In a nice inversion of expectations, her inkblots contain bilaterally symmetrical fragments of the human form taken from video stills.

The implications are innumerable. "Blotto" explores our expectations for decorative/abstract patterns (where patterns are purely patterns), only to loop us back into the anthropomorphic human impulse to see figures in abstract shapes (like seeing recognizable things in clouds).

In this case, the Rorschach shapes actually are human figures, but presented like wallpaper patterns. Ginsberg doesn't give the viewer a rest.

In a way, "Blotto" is the chicken-and-egg question: "Do we see the shape before the thing or recognize a type of object before really comprehending its posture?"

It is a trick question – our minds are always in flux and Ginsberg makes art for fluxy minds. If this were a computer program I would call it spaghetti code: that which loops in upon itself.

"Digital Wallpaper," inset

Ginsberg is not only relevant on an idea level, her overall show design is perfect. The designer Martha Stewart colors I usually hate are chosen precisely for the baby boomer ambivalence they engender. Titles for the four prints, identical save their colors, are perfect.

"Celestial celery" is a paen to every dieter who ends up buying bulk tea. Likewise, "confused chamomile," "latent lavender" and "skittish sky" all seem to describe the adventures of a Yuppie caught in a shopping district with no Starbucks or Pottery Barn.

Shopping is a behavioral pattern and so much of it is triggered by visual class-conscious signifiers. Ginsberg understands the ritual and this is relevant, adventurous and wry investigation.

Because of this, "Blotto" was the best show in the vaunted print symposium, as it had inexhaustable content and resonance. It stood out in a flurry of shows more dedicated to surveys of techniques and regions.

Chandra Bocci
100% Garbage
Daydream Café
1741 SE Hawthorne

"skittles tropical reeses peanut butter cups glad garbage bag barbie wheat thins," by Chandra Bocci

Typically, Chandra Bocci is an installation artist, but this decidedly limiting café show had some eye-catching moments.

Don't let the café blind you. Her work caught Sean Lennon's eye in New York (darn that Yoko; Bocci was going to do an installation for Sean until the estate settlement annoyed him so much he moved out of the Big Apple). But Bocci's good – there will be other opportunities.

To do her thing, Bocci cuts up cardboard boxes emblazoned with major brand logos and arrays the delicate pieces into a maze of beauty. The delicacy only makes them more interesting, almost like a tickertape parade for Coke, Wheat Thins and Tide. Pretty exciting. The work has a crass, WTO kind of anti-capitalism, but at the same time celebrates the profusion of consumer options.

Unfortunately, about half of the works seem diminished by the small rectangular bases they are built on. These bases contradict the inherent delicacy of the materials on top.

Still, several of the small works have condensed punch, with titles that hilariously list the brands as if they were ingredients on the back of a box. For example: "skittles tropical reeses peanut butter cups glad garbage bag barbie wheat thins" is as garish as one would expect, but it beckons the viewer to look closer – revealing even more garish drips of hot glue gun. Just like the ad world, it is all held together with ticky-tack.

Bocci's "coca cola deli select ham ritz crackers red baron pizza fred meyer laundry detergent"

Another favorite, "coca cola deli select ham ritz crackers red baron pizza fred meyer laundry detergent" reminds me of the Atlanta Olympic Games, the Las Vegas strip and Los Angeles on a Friday night. It is festive and fleeting.

Still, one senses that Bocci, like Chris Ofili, has a penchant for pattern – but in a manner that only an American could so bluntly foist upon the public. It doesn't shock, it entrances almost like she is a barometer for the economic power of these brands. Yet, in contradiction, she willfully strips them of their identity in a display of her own individual assertiveness.

I'd like to see where she develops ... let's get this girl an opportunity to do a real installation. Some of the photos from her studio have me pumped.

I want to see what she can really do.

E-mail Jeff at pivotofjade@hotmail.com, don’t miss his recent columns and be sure to see his April essay, Art and Threat: Untaming Humanism.

site design / management / host: ae
© 2001-2005 nwdrizzle.com / all rights reserved.