In the Studio – Becoming What Was

MarisaLee4“How one walks through the world, the endless small adjustments of balance, is affected by the shifting weights of beautiful things.” – Elaine Scarry

We come across moments that wear us thin and test our control. It is what comes out of these trying times and the tension of longing that creates this collective. This show is about the strain of desire. It is about the beautiful and unexpected that comes from loss. It is about the resilience that creation stems from. Within this work presented, we show beauty in spaces where it has run dry. Using the space within Duplex, walls become activated into opportunities to weave in and out of longing. Photographs, scans and drawings offer viewers the ability to move between loss and gain, presenting times of what was and what is to become. Meanwhile video installation in the front window welcomes passersby to engage in the denial of recognition, furthering desire and asking for clarity from the rest of the exhibition’s pieces.

Alongside the notion of the search for beauty, we aim to start a conversation. Within each of our lives there comes a point where these experiences overlap. This show is designed to create camaraderie—to create a collective hope in finding more than what the eye can see.

Duplex: How did you come together and settle on the theme?
Kelly McGovern: I think all of our work strives to find beauty in that which isn’t commonly perceived as beautiful; whether that is found through the body or the mundane, violence or every day things.
Candace Jahn: I think that going into it all of our mediums are very different, and our approaches too, but we knew there was this underlying thread that wove all our work together, whether it be our motive beyond making or our process, there was a distinct commonality even it is not evident aesthetically.
Micah Schmelzer: I think its important to note that all of our work comes from a similar place, especially geographically, and so our relationship to where we come from and how we make is very much so tied to those places. That’s why I think it has made it easier to settle on a concept we can all relate to. Read More «In the Studio – Becoming What Was»

Happy New Year & Thank You!

We have officially entered the new year, Duplex was first conceived two years ago! Nostalgia is one of my favorite things, so here’s to my top three:

Hitting PORT’s Next Wave 2014: New Faces In The Portland Art Scene

Megan’s Inside/Outside the Portland14 Biennial.

Hiring our first intern: Emily.

I feel really good about 2015, not only do we have some great shows lined up, but we are on the look out for some big projects. Thank you for all the support you’ve given us so far throughout our infancy. Any challenges or hardships that may come in the next year will only make us better, but it’s easier with you.

In the Studio – Icon

One of the great challenges for a painter today is to make small works powerful enough to be noticed in an art world that typically celebrates grand gestures.  There is even a saying amongst artists, “if you can’t make it good, then make it big.”  But there is a great history of small works, notably historical icon paintings which were primarily small religious works meant for private contemplation or instruction.  Typically depicting a single religious person or object, they were meant to be a stand in for that object’s power or importance.  Eschewing the singularity and overt religious imagery of those historical works in favor of contemporary subject matter, the artists selected for this exhibition convey an impressive dynamism in their small works.  Their vitality beckons the viewer towards a more intimate, contemplative moment with the art.  This intimacy effectively becomes a politic that stands out as an increasingly rare experience amidst the often loud, boisterous nature of contemporary culture.

Feldman Explorer #3 The Preserver
Explorer #3 The Preserver by Roni Feldman

Duplex: How do you personally relate to the theme of the show?
Roni Feldman: My paintings, much like traditional icon paintings, are meant to induce contemplative visual exploration.  They each depict a different explorer and a different exploration of paint, beckoning viewers to become explorers themselves as they look at them.  I love to explore, be it the local city, or a trek through the Andes.  Travel is a method of mind-expansion, both about the make-up of the world, and one’s own self.   Art is my way of engaging others in exploration, but on a quieter, more intimate and interior level.
Max Presneill: Small paintings, for me, allow a focus upon a singular aspect of themes which occur in my large works but without the multiplicity of relationships that the large ones contain. This means that the images are often more iconic due to this contemplation of an important facet without distraction.
Jay Erker: These small works I do have an intimacy about them, especially when creating them. The proportions of the marks and the found image is something I have control over. I feel more connected to the work. It feels like a secret…a relationship that develops between myself, the media, and the image with which I work.
Emily Counts: For this show I wanted to make a piece that leads the viewer’s eye to one small focal point, that could potentially create intimacy with the viewer or a moment of introspection. I am interested in the symbolic importance of the traditional icon paintings and the potential for powerful meaning within a small space.
Rachel Warkentin: Working small has always been a crucial part of my process, even when, like Emily mentioned, “small” is more about an intimate, powerful moment in the piece, rather than a piece that is small overall.  I love playing with the different ways a piece can take up space as well.  Traditional icon paintings are a great example of this, since they tend to be dramatically lit and framed and they have this whole narrative built into them that’s more about the way they’re regarded rather than their physical manifestation.
Erin McCarty: I actually have always tended to work quite large, but have recently made a conscious decision to give smaller, more intimate and contained works a try. I do love the idea of saying more with less.  I tend to overwork paintings and get lost in unimportant details that no one notices other than myself really. Then, once I’ve stepped back after being completely absorbed in one small area of the painting, I’ll typically have that “oh no what have I done this was a much stronger piece hours ago” moment.  With smaller works, my compositions tend to be less complex, and it forces me to focus on the idea at hand. It targets my energies. I think this is a great experiment for me right now.

Rachel Warkentin Two Day Suspension
Two Day Suspension by Rachel Warkentin

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On the Front Lines, or in the Back Room?

This is a post I’ve held off publishing for a cascade of reasons, but with the recent Joint Statement from Museum Bloggers & Colleagues on Ferguson, written by the Portland Art Museum’s own Mike Murawski, I think now is the right time to contribute to the conversation around what is the role of Museums – “as institutions that claim to conduct their activities for the public benefit — in the face of ongoing struggles for greater social justice both at the local and national level?” The following are some of my reflections on our institutions and communities that came to a head in the wake of the deaths of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice and too many others. You’ll notice that I’ve ruminating for long enough for some of my commentary to be dated.

I take the bus around town, and back in August one of my frequent stops was advertising the Portland Art Museum. The bench informed me that surveyed museum-goers would rather a “collective museum”, than a “museum of collections.” On evenings when I sat there waiting for my bus I wondered about what this advertisement meant. On the one hand I “know” what it means from my study of art history and contemporary art theory. On the other hand, I’m beginning to think I paid for a degree in mythology wrapped prettily as knowledge. The mythology I refer to is regarding the progressiveness of the art world, and of art’s inherently progressive values.

Questionnaire from 'Would You Rather', a hybrid game/research initiative by GUESTWORK
Questionnaire from ‘Would You Rather’, a hybrid game/research initiative by GUESTWORK

There is a notion found wherever the contemporary art world is that art is on the right-side of history. The idea that art pushes history forward, dragging people, economies, and politics with it is not a new idea, or even a bad idea, but it is a dangerous idea. It’s not new because it can be traced back to the notion of the “avant-garde” in 19th century France. It’s not a bad idea because certainly some part of history lends it the gravitas of truth. But for both these reasons it is a dangerous idea in the present day. It is no coincidence that new, unorthodox, and experimental art practices began to be described as ‘avant-garde’ during the bloodiest period in modern French history. Read More «On the Front Lines, or in the Back Room?»

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