Friday, April 2

Terrell James and the Experience of Art

Most of the time when I look at art I'm not ready to. I'm distracted or waiting for something else. Or I'm too busy looking for my expectations. Looking at art is an experience I have to build up to. Last night's First Thursday was a good experience. I don't even think the art had much to do with it.

I set out with a list, like always. And went early to avoid the scene. I had a good few minutes alone with Lavadour's multi-paneled piece at PDX Across the Hall. Having a second alone in a gallery like that, on an evening like that, seemed pretty spectacular. I might have spent most of those seconds thinking about having that lavish solidarity with the piece - even if I wasn't having it.
Maybe most imporant for absorbing the work was getting the right kind of disruptions from myself. I popped into Elizabeth Leach knowing about the Judd pieces. Some blue thumbprints on the prints had this guy talking loudly. I thought they looked better with the smudges. They appeared to be so much more human - not just Donald Judd the idol from textbook history. And so almost by accident I found myself more excited about Julia Mangold's pieces. I think I enjoyed the Graphite and wax drawings only because of  their proximity to the large black cube sculptures. Would I have liked them alone? These drawings were almost whispering.

The Larry Sultan swimming pool photographs at Blue Sky Gallery was what I was after all night. And even though I was wowed by them, I kept feeling like I was just sliding off of them. But buying a small book, and having a rather unremarkable conversation with someone selling me the book, really put me in my place.

Maybe it's the idea that the work just sits there. And there are so many people and so many distractions. You just slip off the work. I even remembered reminding myself, "Even though you have this book of reproductions, go back and remember that." Somehow the conversation planted me in a place. Out of myself. Somehow the order of seeing these things was introducing me into a certain mood. I wonder if I would have enjoyed everything as much backwards?

I continued the rounds, stopping in at the Froelick Gallery, taking PORT's recommendation on Victor Maldanado's minimal giant green piece. I could only appreciate how fantastically it commanded that space - maybe the best way I've seen in that gallery yet. But there were too many gestures of people bent over into it, looking like they were trying to get it - or had gotten it and couldn't believe you hadn't yet - and none of these people looked like they knew what was going on.

I fled to the back. But then looking over someone's shoulder I suddenly realized I was entirely enjoying the Terrell James' Field Paintings. I had at first thought the other pieces seemed heavy handed for abstraction. But these little oil on paper studies were fantastic. I realized I was looking at paintings that were making me think about painting - nothing else. In retrospect they have a bit of Twombly in them. They had delicious swirls of choice colors. A bit of whimsy with seriousness.

And after leaving the gallery, with a cell phone full of images that would never replicate the experience, I realized I had only really seen those James' pieces. I usually look forward to the Everett Lofts - but seeing a man go down a slide, the whole thing seemed circus-like. I took the bus home so pleased at having fooled myself into looking.

1 comment:

  1. terrific run-down. A great idea executed wonderfully.