Eugene Weekly : Visual Art : 2.11.10


These Are Not Memories that Have Passed Each Other by Mark Andres and Chris Knight

Young & Under 21
Multi-artist shows at DIVA and White Lotus
by suzi steffen

What does age or size have to do with art? 

The Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts deals with the first, in a show that pulls artists from the Midwest, Canada, California and Portland. Lane Arts Council’s First Friday Art Walk brought more than 1000 people to DIVA on Feb. 5. The day after that crush, DIVA feels quiet, in recovery mode from the party. As rain pours outside the floor-to-ceiling windows in the front gallery, the works of “Young Visionaries” provide whimsy, intensity, beauty and thoughts about the paths of artists in a world with so many media options.

In the largest gallery, to the right of the door, Kristin Beaver’s portraits stun me with their forthright declaration of competence. How often do viewers get to see women artists making monumental-realistic oil portraits? That’s as rare as the subjects, reportedly the artist’s friends, who appear fully clothed but in poses I’d call provocative — not sexually, but in terms of provoking curiosity and a bit of discomfort. Lou With Knife most obviously confronts some mystery; with a bandaged right hand, the model puts on lipstick as her left hand holds a knife. Her red eyes make me believe this portrait comes from a photograph, but the portrait remakes the photo so that the viewers stand in for the mirror, reflecting and reflecting on the young woman’s complexity. “Her work is a contemporary re-imagining of the portraiture of Sargent, Whistler, Henri, Glackens, et al.,” the DIVA website says, and that Sargent reference seems most apt — except that Beaver, who’s from Detroit, wields both artistic and social control, unlike Sargent. Her subjects aren’t her social betters, but they also aren’t her erotic play-toys (at least in the paintings); part of the strength of the work comes from a deep comfort with the models’ milieu.

Mt. Daisen by Nozaki Shinziro

Across the room, the collaborative pieces of  Mark Andres and Chris Knight brighten the room with These Are Not Memories that Have Passed Each Other and The Amsterdam-Toyko Express. The latter playfully dominates its corner with a huge, gaily colored miscellany of panels that to my mind mimic a collage of woodblock prints, Impressionist work influenced by woodblock prints and photos. Knight lives in Portland, and I look forward to seeing much more of his work. Quieter work in that room and in one of the galleries on the other side of DIVA’s current space comes from Kassie Teng, whose drawings, with their complicated, sinuous lines and dreamscape shapes, seem to illustrate our modern, tentative, looping, layered lives. Finally, Daniel Sperry’s SOMETHING HAPPENS TO YOU AT 40 makes me laugh (what happened to 30 as the marker for adulthood?), and Joshua Newth’s impressive pencil sketches and illustrations add lustre and polish to the show.

Eugene galleries have a mania for multi-artist exhibitions this winter, with everyone from the Jacobs Gallery to Maude Kerns mounting shows with a multitude of artists. At White Lotus, where “Under 21” has been up for a month, the title doesn’t refer to the artists’ age but to the size of the works. No side of each work, says the gallery’s Jennifer Huang, can be longer than 21 inches.

These small pieces, which include prints, watercolors and paintings from Japan, China, New Zealand and the U.S., make for a varied show, one that apparently has attracted many buyers (as shown by smiley face stickers on many labels). The smaller pieces, clearly, not only fit better in many houses but in many budgets. Out of such a varied show, I most enjoy Nozaki Shinziro’s silkscreens; Nancy Pobanz’ Foretell; Barry Cleavin’s He Who Casts the Last Feather; Connie Mueller’s lovely (and local) Winter Sunset, Peoria Road, OR and Rick Bartow’s cute/energetic/disturbing coyote prints.

None of the work is particularly disturbing or intensely intellectual save Cleavin’s, but even the pleasant, beautiful works have the force of hard-won skill and an artist’s vision. And what’s wrong with a pint-sized piece of peace in this tumultuous world?

DIVA’s “Young Visionaries” stays up through March at 110 W. Broadway, and White Lotus’ “Under 21” remains on the walls through Feb. 27 at 767 Willamette.