April 17, 2011

Art Review: Every decade or so, PMA's Biennial is extra special


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“Cascade, Current and Pool (For the Vanquished Falls of the Presumpscot River)” in hay and twine by by Michael Shaughnessy.

Photo by Sage Lewis

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“Kristie,” a chromogenic print by Siri Sahaj Kaur.

Courtesy Portland Museum of Art

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square. 775-6148; portlandmuseum.org

WHEN: Through June 5

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday; until 9 p.m. Friday

HOW MUCH: $10 adults;  $8 seniors and students; $4 ages 6 to 17; free on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m.

The brutal power of Cox's photographs stems from their disturbing honesty. As horrific as these may strike you, they are incomparably moving and important.

Similarly worthy and powerful is Gavin Rouille's "Transgender Walkway," a mixed-media painting and photographic piece on which you can step that lists and pictures transgendered Americans who were recently murdered simply because of who they were.

Across the diminutive hall from Cox's cutters is probably the most gorgeous and iconic image of the 2011 Biennial: Siri Kaur's C-print depicting a young and tough (though vulnerable) cruiserweight wrestler moments after a victory. Pre-sexual, "Kristie" is nonetheless a beautiful young woman. It is a photograph for the ages.

I also particularly like Richard Veit's refined architectural photographic abstractions and John Kelley's sophisticated meditations on spare, Maine landscapes.

Almost as striking as the Biennial's strengths is the weakness of its painting. (As well, there is no freestanding sculpture whatsoever.)

While I am tempted to list the few paintings that have no business in this biennial, I would rather list the few that shine: Mark Wethli's semiotically brilliant and sophisticated found (and painted) panels, Marissa Girard's powerfully knifed confrontation between nature's and humankind's versions of ultimate power, and Kathleen Galligan's beautifully painted primordial landscape. I also like Sarah Knock's and Rebecca Rivers' water surface images.

For the most part, though, it seems the jurors viewed Maine's plethora of great painting more as an afterthought than a primary vehicle.

If not limited by space, I could go on at length about the worthy art in the show, but some additional favorites include: August Ventimiglia's architecturally here-and-now reductive chalk line wall drawing; Alicia Eggert's nervously twitchy, electronically interactive panel "Wonder"; Selena Kimball's snaking collage of hacked-up engravings; Rachel Katz's cut paper constellations; and Lauren O'Neal's installation of piled chairs.

Despite the fact that painting didn't come to the party, the PMA 2011 Biennial is a credit to the museum, the jurors and Maine's art community. It's an entertaining, smart and enjoyable exhibition, and it's Maine's first "don't-miss" show of 2011.

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



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Additional Photos

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Gavin Laurence Rouille’s “Transgender Walkway,” wood, paint, photographs, silkscreen and varnish.

Courtesy Portland Museum of Art

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“Calvary #2,” oil and wax on collaged panel by Marissa Girard.

Courtesy of Museum of Art

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“Kwazy Wabbit,” acrylic on wood panel by Mark Wethli.

Courtesy Portland Museum of Art

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