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Meaningless Less Meaning: New Work by John Knight

By Lisa Radon
February 26, 2012
Featured, Visual Art

John Knight, Meaningless Less Meaning (detail) 2012

The will to make order. The will to make. The will to mark. The mark to make own. Or is a painting still a painting when it’s on a pocket? How does decoration differ from art? Is it all really just in the support; is it just in the context? How does context matter? Is it true that all art needs to be recognized as such is not to be displayed in a white box space, but in fact in any readymade space that we declare is gallery?

From Pied-a-terre’s (SF) early incarnation as a living room gallery in Portland to Jim Papdopoulos’ ΜΕΣ(s)Α Project Space in a closet in SE Portland, the project of carving out art space gets ever more micro and ever more domestic in Portland, following on the heels of apartment-gallery blossomings in other cities like Chicago from which Papapdopolous hails. (Of course in the big picture this is really a return to art-viewing in a domestic environment, isn’t it.)

But this is not about closet galleries, really. Except that John Knight’s installation, Meaningless Less Meaning, at ΜΕΣ(s)Α refers back to its location (in a closet) by hanging some of its elements (clothing) on a chopped off clothing rack and by including what I’m fairly sure was a painting on a bathmat. The recurring painted motif of a loosely executed grid on a white background lives at scale on a couple large canvases, on the bathmat, and on isolated spots (a pocket, say) on a number of articles of clothing on the demi-rack. The “grid” is drawn on a piece of paper at the foot of the rack, and it jangles as an animated gif on a flatscreen.

It’s this last I like the best, throwing the grid, a tried ‘n’ true method of ordering, of clarity, of chaos reduction both in the world (city blocks) and in art (LeWitt just for starters…Hannah Higgins wrote a whole book on the grid) into a jittery flux so that order becomes disorder and/or disorientation.

In his statement about the exhibition, Knight quotes John Kelsey, “In other words, such a gesture doesn’t care to fulfill any particular end to succeed in accomplishing some ultimate significance or work. Filling the space as it does, it exhibits the “place” of painting, and returns this place to its own possibility.”

The place of painting here ranges from the traditional easel painting to the street version, the silk-screened garment. While the idea of making work as a placeholder, of carving out space for possibility is intriguiging, raising its own set of questions, what may be more interesting is that the placeholding is done by a grid…a linear thing no matter how janky the lines.

Does its linearity limit as the “snap to” function in Photoshop does, keeping the elements in line? Or does a little bit of order, a little bit of linearity, wring possibility from the void of the blank white canvas?

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