nine gallery

Henk Pander: After the apocalypse

Nine drawings at Nine Gallery take us into surreal spaces, classically

There’s a taste of Henk Pander at Nine Gallery right now. It is delicious. Just a taste because there are only nine drawings, but delicious because they are elegant, big (38” x 50”) pen and ink on paper drawings. And just a taste because Pander is a multifarious artist. He’s a painter’s painter with conventional oil on canvas (commissioned portraits of Oregon governors McCall and Kitzhaber, for example), and he also handles watercolor that dances at huge scale for that medium.

These drawings, all from 2014-2015, depict apocalyptic fantasies, typical of one vein of Pander’s work since he moved to Portland from The Netherlands fifty years ago. Vistas feel barren (Pander finds deserts to be “powerful landscapes”). Architecture is ruins. Humans are forlorn. Animals are feral. Three of the drawings include massive dinosaurish beasts with tyrannosaurus-like heads, dog-style bodies and long whip tails. The drawings are huge for “pen-and-ink.” As Pander says in his posted notes on the show (one of the very few “artist’s statements” that I’ve ever found worth reading), the drawings’ “larger formats…create a tension because of the contrasting fine lines.”

Henk Pander, "Observation Post," pen and ink./Courtesy Henk Pander

Henk Pander, “Observation Post,” pen and ink./Courtesy Henk Pander

There are three striking things in this exhibition: concept, composition and technique. In his statement Pander says the process for the drawings is “nearly stream of consciousness.” Maybe there are some small sketches before these drawings begin, but Pander notes that there is no “preliminary pencil or underdrawing.” So how does a concept like Observation Post develop? Here we have a tightly composed landscape fragment containing some rocks on barren ground, a pock-marked concrete pillbox casemate, two hungry looking emaciated dogs snarling over some large bones, a naked human female entering the scene from the upper left, a vulture coming in for a central landing just above the dogs, a quizzical rat in waiting that blends in with the rocks, and an airplane exiting the scene, passing over behind the pillbox. And after you take all that in, you notice the four fingers jutting up from the ground at the lower left.

On his website (henkpander.com—well worth a visit) there is a biographical note that says in part, “His training provided him with skills that related to Dutch art extending back to the seventeenth century as well as to twentieth-century movements such as Expressionism and Surrealism.” Surrealism is evident here. The Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror was influential to the Surrealists. At one point de Lautréamont describes a young boy as “beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella.” In this drawing there are a lot of chance meetings. Pander (born 1937) was a young boy in Holland during World War II and that casemate relic might have something to do with that. He recalls a winter when there was no food or heat, and in this drawing we have a few bones under contention. The rat lurks, as small animals often do in conventional classic Dutch paintings of the 17th century. But over all of the drama in the scene, the plane flies away. It can be seen as a comment on how some are lucky enough to just be above it all.

Henk Pander, "Climax", pen and ink/Courtesy Henk Pander

Henk Pander, “Climax”, pen and ink/Courtesy Henk Pander

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, "A view of the magnificent tomb near the remains of the factory in Torre de Schiavi outside Porta Maggiore", etching./WikiArt

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, “A view of the magnificent tomb near the remains of the factory in Torre de Schiavi outside Porta Maggiore”, etching./WikiArt

Two of Pander’s compositions include his dino-creatures in doggy-style copulation. In Climax the creature behind throws his head back in ecstasy beneath a fractured fragment of an ancient Roman dome. (I was thinking about how ruin fragments in some of Pander’s drawings reminded me of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s prints from the 18th century. Checking myself, I found the direct reference for this drawing: A view of the magnificent tomb near the remains of the factory in Torre de Schiavi outside Porta Maggiore.) The head of this dino fits elegantly within the arc of the dome, and its lighter aspect is set off by the shadow within the dome. Similarly the receiving-dino, crouched on all four legs, is composed with its head related to a ruined vaulted hall. The arc of the top of the head mimics the adjoining arch of the top of the vault, while the arching neck-jaw line below does the same with the arch of the far end of the hall. These aspects act like anchors, fitting the action into the architecture. Pander’s compositions utilize classic methods in assembling parts—but here well-known methods are worked through the mind of a virtuoso. Students could learn a lot here.

Henk Pander, "The Convoy PQ-18 with Liberty Ship", pen and ink/Courtesy of Henk Pander

Henk Pander, “The Convoy PQ-18 with Liberty Ship”, pen and ink/Courtesy of Henk Pander

While the subject matter seems “dark,” Pander’s technique, for the most part, keeps the drawings feeling light. Only one drawing, The Convoy PQ-18 with Liberty Ship, has the familiar deep velvety black of dense cross-hatching. Otherwise we see apocalyptic scenes in bright overcast. There are thousands of ink lines in these drawings, and each line has a purpose. It could outline. It could cross-hatch with others to make a shadow. It could run in parallel with many others to define a sky. It might be a little stroke to define a surface. But what it will not be is an empty gesture “art-mark” flourish to claim that an “artist” is at work. In every work, if one asks, “Why is that (object, line, mark) there?”, the answer is, “because it is pictorially essential.”

On First Thursday evening, my ArtsWatch colleague Patrick Collier posted on Facebook: “Henk Pander at Nine Gallery is like walking into a temple.” I agree—a temple designed by Hieronymus Bosch perhaps.

Henk Pander, "Flight", oil on canvas/Courtesy of Henk Pander

Henk Pander, “Flight”, oil on canvas/Courtesy of Henk Pander

If you happen to be in Salem, you can see a couple major Pander paintings at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. The Burning of the New Carissa, 2000, (oil on linen, 63 x 81 in., collection of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Salem, Ore., Maribeth Collins Art Acquisition Fund, 2010.043) is being shown as part of the permanent collection. The New Carissa was a ship that wrecked on the Oregon coast in 1999 (finally totally removed in 2008). What Pander depicts is a view of the oil being burned off to avoid spillage, but in the context of the painting the focus is on a huge nighttime conflagration disaster contrasted with a quiet community—another odd (if real) juxtaposition. Flight, 2009, (oil on linen, 81 x 142 in., courtesy of the artist, Portland, Oregon) is in the exhibition Stilleven: Contemporary Still Life (September 12 – December 20, 2015). Here we have a big studio setup of skeletons rigged up with ropes. The looks and gestures of this group in this big (almost 12 feet long) painting are reminiscent of those dinosaurish animals in the big drawings at Nine.

Note: Paul Sutinen is a founding member of Nine Gallery. Henk Pander is not a member of Nine Gallery, but was invited to show his work by a current Nine Gallery member.

Visual Arts: Wryly wrought

Paul Sutinen's Captiva Meditations at Nine Gallery

Late in 2012, Paul Sutinen spent a month at the Robert Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Florida. During that time he completed two related series of small paintings, and started a blog. (The blog continues here.) Both the blog and paintings crystallize what Sutinen has done and thought about for quite some time. Which means they are both thought-provokingly serious and dryly funny, all to unmask the processes and objectives of art itself.

Sutinen is exhibiting the first series of paintings, “Captiva Meditations,” at Nine Gallery this month. The fifteen, 12” x 12” clayboard panels of acrylics, ink and graphite are all done in black, white and gray. They follow another exhibition last April at Nine Gallery of the second series from the residency, his “Captiva Suite,” consisting of twelve 16” x 20” panels done with acrylics and in color. Had I seen the latter in a timely manner, meaning with more than a few days left in the show, I would have written about it at the time. However, to now examine the black and white series (a classification of convenience, just as it is for that type of photography, and unobjectionable as long as gray is recognized as the midrange) without including the color work would provide an incomplete assessment.

Paul Sutinen, Constellation of Drawings (Memory)

Paul Sutinen, Constellation of Drawings (Memory)

Paul Sutinen, Memories

Paul Sutinen, Memories

We should also look at precursors, namely his “Constellation of Drawings (Memory)” from 1990, which hangs at Oregon Health & Science University, and a mural, “Memories 1990-2011,” painted in 2011 as part of a group show at the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College, both in Portland. We see similar shapes that have echoed over the years in Sutinen’s painting, and although the work has become progressively less structured, the process has become more refined.

Continues…

Spot On: Time for Nine

Nine Gallery celebrates its 25th with some art about time

Paul Sutinen, “Meeting Note”/Nine Gallery

By Patrick Collier

The catalogue that accompanies the group exhibit marking the 25th anniversary of Nine Gallery lists all 22 artists who have been members over the years. (The gallery was started with a group of nine artists, and while that number has remained consistent throughout most of its history, there are now eleven members.) Some have come and gone, some have gone and come, and an intrepid few have been with the loose-knit collective since its inception in 1987. Following the roster are short bios and artist’s statements for each, some a sentence long while one is nearly a page in length. Three members are relatively new, and one, Mary Catherine Lamb, has died.

Jeremy Kassen’s entry is the shortest. A member from 1987 until 1990, from what I can find, he is teaching young children at an alternative school in Brooklyn. I did a web search but couldn’t find samples of his art. Michael Bowley, a member from 1989 to 2011, who still lives in Portland, gives us barely more information than Kassen, yet includes an old black and white photograph of a young boy and a dog in a yard. Judging from the shadows, it is late in the day in days gone by.

John Weber, a member from 1987 to 1993 apparently isn’t making art any longer, yet long-time Portlanders will remember him as the curator of contemporary art at the Portland Art Museum. His career has taken that trajectory. Similarly, Greg Ware, a member from 1991 to 2008, while still a practicing artist, now has the responsibilities that come with being the Provost at PNCA. Perhaps not surprisingly, a good number of past and present members are faculty in college art departments.

All might be considered stalwarts of art.

****

“Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly.”
― Alan Lightman, “Einstein’s Dreams”

In fact, one does not get to be considered stalwart without putting a considerable amount of dedication and energy into an endeavor. And while one cannot presume that any of the members of Nine Gallery consider themselves to be heroic or epic in their practice, time, understood as enduring, must certainly enter into their frame of self-reference,  at least from the evidence of a number of pieces in the present group show.

On the left side of the door jam, Maria T. D. Inocencio has painted a series of flowers, the title for which is “Each Bloom Lasts for Just One Day.” Its meaning is readily evident: Appreciate beauty when it occurs, for it may be fleeting. Her piece continues to the opposite jam on which she has embedded a digital clock, and above that, couched words of advice: “Welcome to the present moment.” Yet this is a participatory piece as well, for below the clock are the words, “Please sign in,” and many have obliged by covering the jam with names, dates and times. If only for that moment, or continuing on into viewing the whole exhibit, time slows down to allow for some degree of contemplation.

Michael Bowley’s “Timepiece” marks time much like a clock would, but as duration. A standard, black office clock has had its numbers and hands removed. In their place is a blank, white, face and a piece of spring metal where the second hand would be. As it rotates, the metal marks the paper. Designed to perform a specific function, the metal leaves some trace of itself on the paper, yet how long will it be before the metal wins out and etches through the paper?

Ellen George and Jerry Mayer, “Time Remaining”/Nine Gallery

Following in a similar trajectory, Ellen George and Jerry Mayer have collaborated on another kinetic sculpture, “Time Remaining,” only this time a wooden ball attached to a mechanical armature leaves its marking of a circle upon the top of a pedestal. I can’t help but start to get depressed, for even though we may find a way to make the perfect circle and the mechanics for doing so are of our own making (the spectre of Walter Benjamin), to what end when it would otherwise seem perfunctory? Together, “Timepiece” and “Time Remaining” may be the most somber pieces in the exhibit.

Gary Boswell’s “Glyphticket: Azure” compounds the question of futility of purpose. Instead of numbers, Boswell’s sundial uses the alphabet to establish time, except that the ABCs are interrupted; some letters have been pulled from their sequence. Three quadrants of the dial contain all of the letters that are not used in the fourth, and those in the latter spell out a word.

It would be one thing, and simplistic at that, to replace the circle of numerals with one of the alphabet. To remove the letters from sequence runs contrary to our notion of time, and also linear thinking. Yet, perhaps I make too much of all of this, for when there is an azure sky the dial is both most easily “read” and the more reason we have for a word for that color. It is how we compartmentalize the world. This idea for the piece might supercede an ability to wholly represent that idea spill beyond Boswell’s actual device, which makes the “glyphticket” a matter of convenient, if incomplete consolidation/representation, and in this case, make it conceptual art.

Gary Boswell, “Glyphticket: Azure”/Nine Gallery

Although it might not seem like it at first, perhaps because we are not quite sure what we are looking at, Paul Sutinen’s “Meeting Note” is very much about time, too, as in not wasting it. We’ve all been there: Minutes drag by as a petty issue only tangentially related to the agenda gets beat into the ground. That is when I doodle. Sutinen looks into his empty coffee cup, makes note of the marks left behind by the beverage. He then takes the cup back to his office to trim away all but the base and side seam of the cup. The meeting was not a complete loss if this simple, enigmatic and elegant little sculpture was the result.

****

I have a special place in my heart for Gallery Nine, for I wrote my first Portland-based art review about Bill Will’s work there in 2010. Relatively new to the city’s art scene, I was surprised to find this little gallery tucked into the much larger Blue Sky Gallery. At the time I did not take that idea any farther than “How nice of this big organization to provide this space for others.” It seemed to fit the vibe I was getting from the art community at large. Little did I realize the enduring relationship between Blue Sky and Nine, and how much the spirit I felt in Portland sprung from their cooperation.

1987 may mark the beginning of Nine Gallery, but before it came groups such as the Portland Center for Visual Arts, Northwest Artists Workshop, The Video Access Project and Blue Sky. All had some part in the establishment of Nine, for as some of these organizations dissolved, members reconvened as Nine. And, it may be argued, as these artists found a way to endure together, they also laid the groundwork for the strong art community that has developed in the years since.

Another twenty-five years? Stephanie Speight joined the group in 2004. Ellen George joined in 2009, as did Inocencio and Renée Zangara. Turnover happens slowly in this group, which may work to their advantage. So might their laid-back approach to the use of space itself.

The literature accompanying the exhibit makes much about the independence each artist has in their exhibition decisions, and besides some friendships between artists, keeping the space active is the primary, binding factor. Meeting just once a year as a group, there is little to distract them from their art and lives (yet the lack of better documentation from the last twenty-five years is a loss). And unless Blue Sky closes its doors (unlikely) or needs the space now occupied by Nine Gallery (again, unlikely, as Chris Rauschenberg, the President of Blue Sky, is a founding member of Nine), the group has little reason to cease doing what they have done for the last quarter of a century.

Linda Hutchins. silver and rust. silver wall drawing; 9'h x 15'w x 20'd. 2011.

Linda Hutchins. silver and rust. silver wall drawing; 9'h x 15'w x 20'd. 2011.

 

…the wall as a measure of the time it takes to speak, the hands as percussive…

Ethereal curtains. She calls them ribs. But any name is provisional, an approximation, a suggestion.

These are marks made by Linda Hutchins on the walls of Nine Gallery for the installation, silver and rust, on which she and poet Endi Hartigan have collaborated. When Hartigan and Hutchins met, Hutchins had begun experimenting with fingertip drawings, using nails on carbon-like paper to make scratch marks. And then came the thimbles. Here in Nine Gallery, ten silver thimbles tip each finger as she splays her hands at the ends of her upstretched, outstretched arms and makes marks, moving her hands up and down the wall in short strokes, always eight times; then she lifts her hands from the walls and moves them inward and down, replacing them on the wall and marking again.

The low-high sound of each mark-and-return times ten fingers is rhythmic and mezmerizing. Of course, I was lucky to be there, to hear. When you stand before these marks, you’ll have to imagine the silver scratchings. And this is as it should be, because these drawings are a record of a body in a space in time, the splay of Hutchins’ fingers, the height of her reach, the level of her heart which is at the foot of the valleys to which these swooping curtains dip.

And as they met, earlier this year, Hartigan was working on a suite of poems that, among other things she thinks of as an “incantation against nothingness, the calling into being what is not there,” in “the intermediate zone between the lyric and the world, the self and the voice, the white space and the image.” And so it was that the image spoke to the word and the word spoke to the image and silver and rust was called into being from the Nine Gallery’s white walls…but just barely. Some of the patterned drawings are so faint that you have to get close, very close, to see their thin lines. Hartigan’s sheaf of poems sits inside the door of the space, several pages hung on pins above. She’s been revising the poems throughout the course of the exhibition and rehanging select pages as Hutchins has added to the wall drawings, sometimes in response to Hartigan’s poems…the circular, flower-like forms elsewhere on the wall, for example, in direct response to Hartigan’s poem “Flowering Ribs.”

Elsewhere, Hutchins drawings truly do look like scratchings. This is what they sound like:

Thimbles.2

This is in case you missed the performance that artist and poet did, alternating between Hartigan reading and the sound and movement of Hutchins drawing. It can be no accident that a poem like Hartigan’s “Everything that is not a goldfish,” swoops and repeats rhythmically. It can be no accident that it speaks to this collaboration, to this set of drawings, to its own state situated as a poem in an art installation, to abstraction itself, abstractly and perfectly as only a poem could.

Everything that is not a goldfish
(excerpt)

Everything that is not a goldfish
Everything that is not a mustang
or a goldfish everything that is not a cloud

improved or a mustang or a person or a goldfish
improved Everything that is not a mustang
or a love or the molting improvement

Everything that is not everything improved
in a person become the molting of persons everything
that is still diminished in what it’s not be a mustang

Everything that is not the state of diminishment
become the state of a mustang everything
that is still a state of a mustang state itself

Everything incanted as a small curl
everything incanted forth glittering
Everything diminished and incanted….

 

And this is what is so rewarding about this installation: that the poem does not determine the drawing, that the drawing does not dictate the poem. Rather there are points at which they touch, and as Hutchins’ thimble-clad fingers touch the walls, something happens there. There is this silver membrane between word and image that remains intact, that filters the empirical, the obvious, through the sensitivities of two artists to create a productive ambiguous zone open to the viewer’s individual experience and imagination.

 

Linda Hutchins. silver and rust. silver wall drawing; 9'h x 15'w x 20'd. 2011.

Linda Hutchins. silver and rust. silver wall drawing; 9'h x 15'w x 20'd. 2011. detail.

 

Now come close, and look up. And you will see the glint of silver in the marks. And you might imagine as I did, a gilded space that had been created stroke by thimble stroke in a white box of a space. In looking up you will also see, running along the tops of the walls, excerpts from Hartigan’s “Whale Speech Elegy” which encapsulates the back and forth dance between drawing and poem: “…the wall as a measure of time it takes to speak, the hands as percussive….”


Closing reception and conversation with Barbara Tetenbaum:

Saturday, December 31, 11:00 am at Nine Gallery, 122 NW 8th Avenue
Related drawings on paper through Dec. 31 at Pulliam Gallery, 929 NW Flanders Street

 

 
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!