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Wolves & Urchins

February 23 - March 25, 2009

Wolves & Urchins
Hayley Barker, Wendy Given and Anne Mathern

Gallery 2: Warlord Sun King: The Genesis of Eco-Baroque
Bruce Conkle and Marne Lucas

Wolves & Urchins:
Hayley Barker, Wendy Given and Anne Mathern

Wolves & Urchins is an exhibition about the stories we tell ourselves about the dangers and lure of the forest, the cave, the mountaintop, the swamp, and by extension the bushes in the backyard and the weedy ditch by the side of the road. Hayley Barker, Wendy Given and Anne Mathern all make works that pull at the guts of our relationship with the wild or marginal. In one way or another, like children and the adults they become, they not only observe, they pretend.

Wendy Given's series The Wilds is made up of large-scale photographs of wild places. However, upon closer inspection one begins to notice that these seemingly empty landscapes are inhabited. Given is interested in an aspect of visual perception called inattentional blindness, or the inability to see things that are present. Her photographs subtly encourage us to overcome that blindness and take notice. They also awaken memories of sensing the presence of something unseen.

Hayley Barker's monsters emerge out of the shadows and confront us head on. Even so, we are hard-pressed to know exactly what we face. She describes them as conglomerations of bird, insect, human, plant and sea life. They may also be strange predators, malignant growths or recurrent nightmares. Barker's choice of gouache, ink and pencil for this body of work allows her to conjure monsters that materialize, threaten, slip away and return.

Anne Mathern is also asking us to think about wild places and their inhabitants – real and imaginary. However, in photographs like Black, instead of confronting "the other," she becomes "the other" – taking on the persona and the powers of the wild one. In addition to photographs, we are exhibiting Mathern's Doomhawk, a video done in collaboration with a fantasy-metal band with gay, straight and transgender members. Doomhawk has been described by Mathern's dealer Scott Lawrimore as "an escape from everyday reality and return to a darker, primal age," and as a work about the contemporary tribes we form and project through common "tattoos, make-up, jewelry and clothes."

Wendy Given began exhibiting photographs and video in Los Angeles after graduating with an MFA from Otis College of Art and  Design in 2002. Recent exhibitions include No Man's Land at Solomon projects in Atlanta. Given lives in Portland, Oregon.

Hayley Barker has an MFA in Intermedia from the University of Iowa. In addition to painting and drawing, she is known for her video and performance work. Barker lives in Portland, is represented by Charles Hartman Fine Arts, and is a member of the Marylhurst University  faculty.

Anne Mathern lives in Seattle where she is represented by Lawrimore Project and is a member of the cooperative  gallery Crawl Space. Mathern's work was recently included in Thermostat: Video and the Pacific Northwest at the Seattle Art Museum.

Warlord Sun King: The Genesis of Eco-Baroque
Bruce Conkle and Marne Lucas

Bruce Conkle and Marne Lucas are two Portland-based artists known for their Blinglab collaborative performances at PICA's 2006 Time-Based Art Festival. For this exhibition in The Art Gym, the two artists have coined the term "eco-baroque." They seek to combine a sensibility to the natural world that includes acknowledgement of many of its baroque, over-the-top manifestations that are not unlike the excesses of the Baroque era. If you imagine the Palace of Versailles crossed with the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, you will be ready for Warlord Sun King.

The Regional Arts and Culture Council provided support for the Warlord Sun King exhibition through its Artist Project Grant program.

Artist and author Ryan Pierce writes in his essay for the exhibition catalogue: "Warlord Sun King: The Genesis of Eco-Baroque is inspired largely by the mythical extravagance of King Louis XIV of France and the culture of decadence and hubris that flourished under his rule. Lucas and Conkle have hijacked formal details from the Palace of Versailles, the converted hunting lodge that served as Louis's showcase, and supplanted them with a mixture of mirth and mayhem to create a commentary on the endurance of societal negligence and pomposity. The result is something that more closely resembles the original hunting lodge than a palace: organic materials and gathered rubbish, a tanning bed from Craigslist, and some specimens from a rock hound's collection set the stage for the inevitable erosion of modern luxury."

"We draw inspiration from moss, lichen, crystals, minerals, honeycomb, coconuts, Native American culture, reflections, gold leaf, fountains, dioramas, chandeliers, most shiny things and psychedelic patterns found abundantly in nature. Our collaborative process is very spontaneous and allows us to push the boundaries of each of our individual oeuvres, often to absurd dimensions. We share a similar sense of humor, political, social and eco-based attitudes about the world and making art. Individually, we have produced work that explores Pacific Northwest regionalism with both humor and reverence for the place where we have been raised and live."

-- Bruce Conkle and Marne Lucas

Warlord Sun King Exhibition Catalogue - $10

The Art Gym is publishing a 20-page full color publication in conjunction with Conkle and Lucas's exhibition. The essay by Portland artist and writer Ryan Pierce discusses all things Sun King and Eco-Baroque and provides background on recent work by both artists that spawned this new collaboration. A RACC artist project grant and The Art Gym's newly established Publication Fund helped make this catalogue possible.

 

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