February 17, 2013

Art Review: 'Flat Earth' scores visually, falls a bit flat on message


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“Untitled” by Pincho (Spanish).

Courtesy photos

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“Link and Luster” by Cassie Jones (American), acrylic on duralar.

Additional Photos Below



WHEN: Through Feb. 23

WHERE: Rose Contemporary, 492 Congress St., Portland


INFO: rosecontemporary.com; tetraprojects.blogspot.com

Ze Carrion's "Hitler" in acrylic and spray paint features a mostly pen-drawn close-up of the surprised face of Charlie Chaplin. The genocidal Nazi leader is presented as a sweetly goofy tragic-comedian. The letters of "Hitler" appear as ransom-note magazine cutouts, which is just enough to incite the insidious undercurrents of cultural imperialism.

"The Flat Earth" just doesn't speak up enough for itself. While plenty of the works are witty or well-executed, the only messaging that gets across is the simplest, literalist illustration of a flat world. And when the metaphor is lost, the subtlety frustratingly dries up and blows away.

Then we are left to wonder: Does this group of (presumably) graffiti/mural artists represent what's going on in Spain? Or do we have to withhold any broader insights?

Hatched by Jeff Badger and Jeff McCreight (a.k.a. Rubicon1, an ex-patriate Portlander in Spain), "This Flat Earth" is exciting, and its energy and conceptualism are commendable. Moreover, the fact that such shows are so commonplace (this isn't Badger's first; I did one 15 years ago between NYC/Santa Fe/Caracas; Maine Marine Peter Buotte took Maine art to Iraq; etc.) reinforces the flat earth idea.

But I don't think the art or the ideas get far enough toward their potential.

In the end, Friedman's free market economic/commercial philosophy fails to make the jump to cultural self-awareness, and the cultural divide of "This Flat Earth" either reflects that or fails to overcome it. Maybe Friedman's "Hot, Flat and Crowded" would have hit the kinetic tipping point -- not only does it add culture to commerce, it sounds like a party.

Just flat, after all, is kind of flat.

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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“Decommissioned” by Kenny Cole (American), gouache on paper.

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“Triumph of the Vanishing Point” by Jeff Badger (American), ink on paper.

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“Tierra Plana” by Ruina (Spanish).

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“Hitler” by Ze Carrion (Spanish), acrylic and spray paint.


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