New American Paintings/Blog

Mise-en-Scéne at Elizabeth Leach by openstudiospress
July 11, 2011, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Art World, Portland | Tags: ,

John Sansini, Francisco and Louie, oil on canvas, 72″ x 60″, 2008

I’ll admit, with all the hubbub over Portland’s annual Trek In The Park (trust me, it’s huge), I was lured into Elizabeth Leach Gallery by Luke Butler’s stunning little trio of Trek characters (which we spotted earlier this year while shooting video at Art Los Angeles Contemporary), which show Bones, Kirk, and Spock, in that order, frozen in anguish on seas of gray. Butler is attracted to Trek and more specifically, Kirk, calling the Captain “a model of vulnerability,” and of Shatner, the man, “His vulnerabilities are on the surface for all to see.” What’s great, too, is that Butler’s fallen heroes – though Trek they be – aren’t silly, and they don’t aspire to kitsch – they’re too well-painted, and too inspiring of pathos. Butler’s most well-known works are the Star Trek pieces, but his work at large too deals with masculinity and vulnerability. (Google him and check out the nude president collages.)

There are more heroes in the group show: John Sansini’s “Francisco and Louie” is a love letter to big, bold painting – the oil is rich and swirly and begs to be touched. According to the gallery, Sonsini hires day-laborers who are typically tapped for manual labor, mainly building projects or landscaping, and pays them hourly to model. The subjects, with their Thomas Hart Benton hands and head-on gaze, rule the room.

More after the jump!  Kelli Rule, Portland contributor

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Elena Pankova at PNCA by openstudiospress
February 9, 2011, 11:05 am
Filed under: Art World, Portland | Tags: , , ,

Elena Pankova, All Untitled, 2010, Acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable. Courtesy CANADA, New York.

“Between my head and my hand there is always the face of death” is a quote from dadaist Francis Picabia. In the group show of the same name at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), guest curator Kristan Kennedy interprets this quote with seven contemporary painters whose works explore the psychology and mortality of the human form through the physicality of paint.

Among the more curious of works on display are Elena Pankova’s untitled installation of paintings flanked by a hanging houseplant. Crude, abstracted facial features are stenciled in layers on warm black backgrounds. From a distance, the works are vibratory dashes of pure color. Up close, you can see the artist’s hand. Some brushstrokes are transparent, painted deftly, and delicately, and the effect almost resembles cut and layered tissue paper. Others are opaque — creamy whites, powdery blues, and come off powerful, like warrior masks.

According to the Kennedy, Pankova’s faces are “fractured family portraits.” The plant is meant to reinforce the idea that the faces (though we’re psychologically predisposed to identify with them) are not really what’s alive. By deflecting our identification, it puts the focus on the medium. Pankova’s paint and pattern—not subject matter—is what’s most visceral. More pics after the jump.  —Kelli Rule, Portland contributor

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Power of Presence: Anna von Mertens at Elizabeth Leach by openstudiospress
January 27, 2011, 1:05 pm
Filed under: Art World, Portland | Tags: , , ,

ABOVE: Bacchus’ Aura, After Caravaggio , 2009 | Hand-stitched, hand-dyed cotton, 39.75 x 33 inches. BELOW: Anna von Mertens, Kurt Cobain’s Aura (Zoe’s), After Elizabeth Peyton, 2009 | Hand-stitched, hand-dyed cotton, 13.75 x 11 inches. Images courtesy Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR.

Anna Von Mertens‘ hand-dyed and stitched cotton aura portraits are both haunting and exuberant. Portraits, her solo exhibition of works at Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland, Oregon are the result of the artist’s study of aura reading applied to canonical portraits from art history, ranging from depictions of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa to Warhols’s Marilyn. Her works reveal Rothko’s proof that color is spiritual, and their spiritual power resonates as a chromatic relationship between warm and cool tones. Through a multi-layered dyeing process, finished by meticulous hand-stitching, von Mertens keeps the silhouette of each original portrait, adding the locations of each subject’s chakras. More after the jump.  —Kelli Rule, Portland contributor

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Hit the Pacific Northwest: Victoria Haven at Greg Kucera & PDX Contemporary by openstudiospress

ABOVE: Victoria Haven, NORTH X NORTHWEST MYSTIC (Gore-Tex® version), 2010 | Gore-Tex®, silver marking film, thread, 24 x 27.5 inches. Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle. BELOW: North x Northwest Sampler, 2010 | Ink and pen on paper, 14 x 14.75 inches. Courtesy PDX Contemporary Art, Portland.

Seattle-based artist Victoria Haven’s two current exhibitions, Hit the North (47° 60’N) at Greg Kucera Gallery and Hit the North (45° 52’N) at PDX Contemporary Art, dramatically defy expectations. In contrast to the grids and geometric forms characteristic of the artist’s work in recent years, the art in both Hit the North shows enters new territory by merging figures and abstracted forms with text and cultural references. Ranging widely in mediums, from sumi ink and aluminum to western red cedar and Gore-tex, the exhibitions coalesce into a single body of work through references to themes widely affiliated with the Pacific Northwest: the region’s outdoor features, weather and music scene.  —Erin Langner and Kelli Rule

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