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Zeitgeist: cramming a lot of art into a small space.
Critical i

Zeitgeist and anticipations
Serving it up al dente
by Jeff Jahn

kay, dinner guests are always commenting on how al dente I cook my pasta. But hey, I love to eat things that don't yield so easily to the teeth. I dare say I prefer beef jerky to beef Wellington – and the rarer the better for my steak (last one was in 1998). Yep, I'm into fresh veggies and variegation of the senses instead of pudding and consistency.

It's the same for art. I dislike the stuff that panders to me explicitly with a fine pre-digested surface and an easy saccharine content. If the work has a candy-esque content, I want to feel compelled to search for razor blades hidden within. If every work in a show has the exact same sort of surface and content, or maybe surface as content, it often signifies a lack of risk. Mark Rosenthal, formerly of the Guggenheim New York, thinks risk is essential to abstraction and I have to agree. Nothing risked, nothing gained.

“Cacophony of One Hand Clapping”
Tyler Kline and Keith Rosson
Zeitgeist Gallery / (971) 544-1365

Everett Station Lofts / 625 NW Everett, #109

Walls at Zeitgeist: open First Thursday and by appointment; click for a visit.

When I wander around First Thursday, Zeitgeist is one gallery I can always count on to serve up art al dente. If you think Portland is too tame, come here. Often wilder than the whole outsider/insider, low-brow/high-brow distinction, Zeitgeist crams lots of art into a small space.

Forget about curators who talk about letting individual pieces breathe, this is an avalanche of art and not for the aesthetically faint.

Previous installations, like an entire wall of lost pet telephone posters by Dan Ness, have given me pause.

In this show, Tyler Kline and Keith Rosson have taken three years worth of collaborations and put it up for all to see. There is a Basquiat-like frantic poetry, which sometimes legitimately gels into a disjunctive poetry. The work is painted on doors, boards, broken skateboards and other found items.

There is a lot of raw energy and you can distinguish Rosson's social-existential poetry and graphic novel cartoons from Tyler's more expressionistic fury. Only in four or so pieces do they gel. But when they do, it's spectacular – like in "The hardest thing in the morning," whereby a Franceso Clemente-like out-of-body Naples yellow floats the other elements. It's a bit like morning sunshine, and since I've never had a hangover, I suppose the threatening sunniness evokes a similar sensation of dread.

Other images – a shapely woman, a needle and a martini glass – populate a scene dominated by some sort of flying green pickle that leaves a winding green contrail throughout the piece. In the words of Keanu Reeves' career, "Whoa."

Too bad more of the pieces just don't hit the mark. This is often the case with collaborations. Common ground is often found in the growth that the artists make while working with one another. Zeitgeist shows new work by the same five or six artists every month, so this is truly an evolving community.

Zeitgeist is open First Thursday and by appointment.

Portland in 2002

Tom Cramer's "Machine"

A lot of new expectations are being set in Portland, and we need to live up to the worldwide buzz. With that in mind, I'd like to point out a few of the exhibits that I'm expecting something exciting from, in no particular order.

Tom Cramer, Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery: He's got swagger, a probing mind and when in top form, he's the artist who best fuses pop, spirituality, line and ancient hand-carved craftsmanship into one world. Cramer debuted a new style two seasons ago, and expanded it last year. He's entrenched in the Northwest, but will this be the year he reaches a more national awareness by pushing himself further? There's something about the yellow and metallic works ...

“New in town,” Portland Art Museum (April 2-June 23): Many have wondered whether Bruce Guenther is going to "coast" in Portland, and apparently he's not. He's bringing some hot international painters to this strange city that is still obsessed with painting. Will these guests be simply light without heat? Or will they help seed Portland's awareness? I, for one, am pumped! Still, some of the more raucous youngsters in town may come out ahead in comparison. We shall see.

“Climate Control,” EAGERWALLY Gallery (603 SE 3rd – a block north of Montage in a nice warehouse space; Feb. 1): Several artists, including Ed King, will create installations that explore how marketing manipulates consumers. WTO comes to the art scene? Come see some of what the younger Portlanders are up to. Portland isn't just painting.

Melanie Manchot, PICA, (Feb. 6-March 23): Normally I dislike photography, which seems … uh, derivative by nature. Overall, I still think Steiglitz makes Cyndy Sherman look like a grad student. But in this rare instance, Manchot's London-based work is relentless enough in all facets to get me excited. The last time I got excited in a similar way was Andreas Gurskey's first U.S. one-man show at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Jacqueline Ehlis at SAVAGE (summer): I'm biased, but to my eye nobody is as sophisticated, raucous and controlled with the "now" hot media of wood-grained birch panels. Somehow, she's got furious Day-Glo fused with baroque control. One of the few painters who's better with space than the best architects, she lives to beat expectations … there, that should set the bar high enough. See three of them in Tracy's office.

Robert Yoder at Froelick Gallery: Signs, signs, everywhere signs. Yoder's cut-up road signs remind me of Oregon's freeways – elegant post-cubist civil engineering.

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.

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