October 13, 2013

Art Review: PMA biennial overlooks paintings but otherwise excels

The process of the curated, rather than juried, show diverges from past exhibits of recent work by Maine-connected artists.

By Daniel Kany

(Continued from page 1)

Matt Blackwell’s “Winter Stealing the Sun.”

Courtesy Portland Museum of Art

click image to enlarge

Justin Richel’s “Endless Column.”

Courtesy Portland Museum of Art

Additional Photos Below



WHEN: On view through Jan. 5; 10 to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, with extended hours to 9 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square

HOW MUCH: $12 adults, $10 seniors and students, $6 ages 13 to 17, free 12 and younger; free admission for all after 5 p.m. Friday

INFO: 775-6148; portlandmuseum.org

Joe Kievett’s three fabric design-like large drawings are extraordinary monuments to detail (think OCD) – one has about 1.3 million distinct (and precise) marks in a grid.

JT Bullitt’s drawings remind me of Jeff Woodbury’s indexical, data-based drawings; Bullitt’s “I Will Not Stop Until I am Asleep” comprises a single black ink line that meanders back and forth with 3D topo-like echoes until, presumably, the artist actually fell asleep.

Bullitt’s two-hour recording of his reading the names of everyone he recalls ever meeting is a hilariously absurd work within an art world so polarized about name-dropping.

There are several very strong thread/fiber works true to the theme of “piece work” including Crystal Cawley’s “Vague Idea Vestment” with its handsomely (and mysteriously) couched puzzle pieces and Allison Cook Brown’s “Glove #3” – white organza evening gloves with double snap expanders under which Brown embroidered shocking blood red.

Other particularly notable works include Carrie Scanga’s “Echolocation,” a soaring dark-but-moonlit sky monotype standing over a bronze ferry sculpture swirling in a mound of monotyped paper forms, and Abbie Read’s “Library,” a cabinet-of-curiosities book wall that looks like a Joseph Cornell/Louise Nevelson collaboration.

Finally, for dessert, we visit the McClellan House: Jason Rogenes’ lighted Styrofoam works carry on the Nevelson logic beautifully and wittily.

Justin Richel’s Kohler residency has paid off – his slip cast “Endless Column” (think Brancusi) of cakes, plates and cups is a towering presence at the 1801 mansion’s front entrance.

Zach Poff + N.B. Aldrich’s “Sferics 2: Bell Cloud” features a grid of bells on the ceiling (think “Downton Abbey”) that ring when a low-frequency receiver picks up atmospheric disturbances even hundreds of miles away.

Matt Blackwell’s two works are virtual layer cakes of symbols – and one is actually a painting.

While it’s too bad this process-focused show interrupts itself with questions about its own process, this is the most elegant PMA biennial to date and I think it’s a harbinger of great things to come from the PMA’s first curator of contemporary art. 

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at: dankany@gmail.com

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Abbie Read’s “Library.”

Courtesy Portland Museum of Art

click image to enlarge

Allison Cooke Brown’s “Glove #3.”

Courtesy Portland Museum of Art


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