SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY
(An acronym for CUNT ;-)
curated by Jennifer Locke @ Portland State University, Portland, Oregon
in the Autzen Gallery in Neuberger Hall & MK Gallery in PSU's Art Department
Catalog essay by Stephanie Ellis
I am a big fan of Jennifer Locke as an artist, performer, colleague and now a curator. It is an honor to be invited to write a short essay for this exhibition.
Jennifer often speaks of her seduction by the formal and the minimal. Both terms are typically aligned with talk about aesthetics and good taste that aim to deliver a quality end product. In those conversations, categories, --morning doves, lemon pies, capitalism, the pacific, gender, republicans, the Spanish language, art -- assume a mantle of clarity. Categories appear natural yet depend on chronic policing of their boundaries. Identity or membership in a category depends on resemblance to a model or a set of ideal core characteristics.
Such a transcendence of form is hardly what Jennifer has in mind. Her enthrallment with what is structural and lean links to something "gutsy + juicy + difficult-to-pin down". This GJDPD I wil call obscure. Following Jennifer's intuition, formalism + minimalism will be an expansive unfolding's. I imagine Jennifer the curatior as Jennifer the catalyst for open-ended processes that are not the means to a thing but the thing itself.
Obscure is allergic to identity catagories. A world that finally confines itself to the predictable. Out of respect to the curator and artists, I set mysefl to writing about this exhibition as a set of extended possibilities. My best efforts, necessarily incomplete, are a homage to artists who refuse the romance of anything goes as well as the rules of identity.
The common sense of obscure is to cover over clarity; to be in the dark. I will add a further sense: to name what cannot yet be seen or imagined. Even when obscure is literal, it is never simply a cover up. The installation of Anne McGuire and Karla Milosevich is not a typical tease about what is hidden -- skeleton in the closet. I bet that when opened the crypt in their cryptology would be ha-ha half empty. Wha is inheritied or shared is not a stand-in or representation of the repressed but rather the actual psychic space of repression. Laura Swanson's scrumptions self-portraits do not use the whipped cream or the shower curtain to hide the obviious. Rather, the artist brilliantly sets up the viewer to discover the latent potential of seemingly worn-out cliches. Nicole McClure's paper dolls lack an armory of paper clothes but that exposure is nullified by a stockpile of headshots.
Monet Clark shows up in her smart video "NUDE" wearing "nude" underware. This double-cross cover up is exactly the kind of expansive obscure that suits this crowd.
To go further, I will claim that this exhibition rejects a binary between the literal and the metaphorical. Rather then confusing the boundary between oppositional categories, the boundary itself becomes the joke. In the art world myth of abstraction with a capatal A, mess is an expression or purveyor of meaning.
For Ray Mack, abstraction is the gorgeous expression of mess -- vomiting heads and leaking boobs. The lyrical black and white distortion of Laura Kim's video of herself making fart noises through a shower curtain is Francis Bacon turned upside down -- an excellent description of a joke's productive labor.
Metaphor defines itself as a displacement between identity categories (dog for sleave, to give one exmaple). In Greece, where I hear the buses are called metaphors, this travel is literal. This group is full of buses. The funny part is -- the terminal is not only an end point, but also a potential beginning. Traffic is coming and going, and where you get off nobody knows.
In Christine Ancalmo's stunning video lopp "Untitled: Cancelled" is a circuitous crotch becoming a machine or a runaway machine becoming a crotch? Is Amanda Kirkhuff's tenderly rendered penis becoming a horse's head or is a velvet horse's head becoming a penis? Is the strange enticing dog in Keke Hunt's video "Projection" becoming a hairy arm or is a hariy arm becoming a dog? Is lovely Ana Fernandez becoing a mop or is a zealous cleaning machine dissolving into a passionate mystery woman? In the intensely visceral video "Fisting" by Stephanie Halmos, is the mouth becoming a self - devouring cannibal -- the body as perversely imploding or is the fist becoming a second neck for the head -- the body as monstrously propagating?
These jokes even upturn a contemporary myth of evolution: the higher life forms are the product of ever more complexity. How can this truth claim be sustained without foregoing the possiblility that the tipping point for human might be a primate that never became adult? The juvenile as the extended possibility. Likewise, stupidity is not always a question about the obvious, it is sometimes the question about what is assumed or goes unquestioned. The elephant in the room might be a rabbit. what is the trick Witney Lynn ull when a live bunny is swapped for a dead hare? Or when Nao Bustamente's butt in the air is plainly her birthday cake and a volcano?