Stephanie Snyder

  • picks March 05, 2018

    Elizabeth Malaska

    Elizabeth Malaska’s recent paintings celebrate the pathos and resilience of the anima, asserting its reproductive and spiritual power over millennia of oppression. At the heart of each work is a figure, or figures, embedded within a nonhierarchical matrix of oneiric visions, plants, decorative objects, and patterned surfaces. Feminist psychoanalyst and artist Bracha Ettinger would describe such spaces as ones of “undifferentiated otherness.”

    The artist’s supernatural bodies grow and contort, their limbs and breasts multiplying into Gordian knots worthy of mythical ancients such as Nut, the Egyptian

  • picks January 15, 2018

    Dawn Cerny

    Dawn Cerny’s recent sculptures rise with the elegance of Chinese scholars’ rocks—contemplatively crannied and eccentric—but the nature they embody is a domestic one. The artist’s wheeled monoliths are enchanting interpretations of household furnishings: bookshelves, credenzas, armchairs. Cerny explores the body’s relationship to furniture as an extension of human movement—particularly that of the parental body, engaged in a continuous stream of repetitive, improvised adaptations. The sculptures’ wonkiness invokes the humor and stickiness of parenting and life in general, which, Cerny suggests,

  • picks September 14, 2017

    Derek Franklin

    Like the body, Derek Franklin’s newest sculptures have a shelf life, combining food and inorganic materials in arrangements that feel simultaneously solemn and funny. In Being Mediocre Is a Virtue of Survival (all works 2017), for instance, shiny new crayfish traps rise in a modernist stack with occasional slices of bacon inserted into their mesh exteriors. Catching crayfish with bacon is a common childhood activity in the Northwest, but dry-docked in the gallery and emitting the acrid scent of pork, the work feels forlorn: We’ve got traps and bait but no ecology, no quarry.

    In another sculpture,

  • picks March 04, 2017

    Adrianne Rubenstein

    Without being escapist, New York–based artist Adrianne Rubenstein’s newest works are sensually delightful paintings that transport the viewer to another world: one full of color, joy, and raw innocence. Exploring playful subjects such as a bunny and a children’s toy, they offer a refreshing experience of painting’s visual language unfettered by self-consciousness and theory.

    Rubenstein’s marks are quick and free, shifting direction and transparency across each painting. At times they make more use of impasto; at other times they appear scrubby and drawn, as if with crayon. Educational Toy (all

  • picks October 31, 2016

    Michelle Ross

    For Portland-based painter Michelle Ross, the pictorial language of abstraction is formed in relation to the careful observation of physical gesture and its subsequent flattening and transmission through contemporary forms of visuality, such as print magazines and video. This is where Ross’s obsession with fashion comes in: Imaginatively transforming stretcher bars and their surfaces into a synthesis of good bones and material geometries, the artist paints on top of pages from W, for instance, or scans editorial spreads in order to blow them up and attach them to her canvases. Velvet, cotton,

  • picks September 09, 2016

    Michael E. Smith

    Michael E. Smith’s installation of small-scale sculptures and one video work was arranged in situ during a weeklong stay in this refined domestic environment. The space is both a residence and the site of an eclectic array of artistic projects, many curated from the collection of founder Sarah Miller Meigs. During his time here, Smith brought a selection of his own sculptures and ready-made materials to the site—including clothing, crustacean exoskeletons, and a duffel bag. A critical part of the artist’s practice consists of painstakingly locating objects that interest and inspire him—often

  • picks January 06, 2016

    Paige Powell

    For more than thirty years, a treasure trove of photographs and videos lay dormant in the nooks and crannies of the home of native Portlander Paige Powell, a former publisher at Interview magazine, Andy Warhol’s confidante, and girlfriend of Jean-Michel Basquiat. This two-part installation is Powell’s first museum show displaying the intimate archive she created of the 1980s New York art world. As part of Warhol’s circle, she was surrounded by spectacular personalities. Yet many of her images in the exhibition depict quotidian reflective moments—conversations over dinner, workplace diversions,

  • picks December 11, 2015

    Melody Owen

    Portland-based artist Melody Owen has worked in collage for over two decades, and this exhibition displays her command of the medium at its most inventive and sensitive. This is particularly true of the newest works here, which interweave botanical and zoological imagery—such as flowers, whales, skeletons, and brains—within macrocosmic networks such as circulatory systems, cellular structures, and cross-sections of trees or of the human body. Most of Owen’s source materials are taken from old botany and anatomy books. The images have a velvety texture and a quiet range of tonality, evoking other

  • picks June 19, 2015

    Mary Henry

    Well before her death, the Pacific Northwest-based painter Mary Henry was canonized as a “matriarch of modernism,” yet the introspective artist had little interest in the distractions of categorization. Henry was a painter’s painter—devoted to daily practice and the slow development of visual concepts over time. This focused exhibition of seven paintings mostly from the late 1980s contains some of the artist’s finest abstractions. Deceptively simple in appearance due to their reductive compositions, they’re electrified by bright, saturated colors that are limned and punctuated by black and white

  • picks May 01, 2015

    Blair Saxon-Hill

    At a glance, Blair Saxon-Hill’s newest assemblages appear to be the relics of an indeterminate past. Their distressed surfaces and moody hues evoke postwar movements such as Arte Povera and Nouveau Réalisme, and the artist’s iconography feels similarly dystopian in its overt humility bordering on impoverishment. The works here incorporate old wooden utensils, napkins, black-and-white photogravures of statuary fragments, and fishnet, just to name a few, and these objects often hang from the frames by old wires or are attached to their surfaces by modern office clips.

    A perfect example of this is

  • picks March 13, 2015

    Rodrigo Valenzuela

    Rodrigo Valenzuela is obsessed with ruins, or more specifically, with the ghosts of decay and displacement that lurk within urban renewal. A Chilean-born immigrant, Valenzuela spent years working under-the-table construction and janitorial jobs while navigating his way through art school and to permanent residency in the US. His large-scale photographs and documentary video works address these experiences both literally, as in Maria TV, 2014, a video exploring the lives of Latina maids, and imaginatively, as in “Hedonic Reversal,” 2014–15. This series of seventeen black-and-white photographs,

  • picks January 17, 2015

    Victoria Haven

    At the heart of Seattle-based artist Victoria Haven’s installation of her “Subtitles” series from 2014 is an intuitive investigation of two linguistic forms: cinematic screenplays and text-message conversations. For the past several years, Haven has been working with the script of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining—inspired, in part, by the movie’s Pacific Northwest sets such as Mount Hood’s Timberline Lodge. In 2013, the artist photographed Kubrick’s model of the film’s hedge maze, then abstracted its forms into a geometric lexicon for “Jump Cuts,“ 2013, a series of ink-on-paper works. Each drawing

  • picks December 05, 2014

    Terry Atkinson

    It’s hard to believe this is British artist Terry Atkinson’s first comprehensive solo exhibition in America, but considering his stubborn opposition to market-driven notions of mastery and his investment in leftist politics, maybe it’s not such a surprise after all. This important show consists of the artist’s graphite drawings and multimedia paintings exploring WWI history, as well as a group of related sculptures incorporating grease.

    Like many of Atkinson’s sculptures incorporating the material, Slat Greaser Trough 2, 1990–2014, was conceived decades ago, but was reconstructed by the venue

  • picks October 20, 2014

    Michael Knutson and Carol Benson

    Portland-based artists Michael Knutson and Carol Benson, both highly accomplished artists working in an abstract vein, happen to be married. Though each artist’s work is quite distinct, this two-person exhibition of recent paintings and wall reliefs highlights their complementary commitments to pattern, meticulous hand process, and eccentric optical phenomena. A former student of Al Held at Yale, Knutson has spent the last thirty years exploring forms of art-historical and vernacular patterning in oil paintings and watercolors that depict elastic spaces composed of warped and spiraling latticed

  • picks June 09, 2014

    Kristan Kennedy

    Kristan Kennedy’s New York solo debut is a tour de force of painterly process. Kennedy works on unstretched, unraveling expanses of raw Belgian linen—soaking, machine washing, scrubbing, and occasionally brushing sumi, dye, and pigment into the tawny, textured material for months at a time. Within their final state, color and form swirl and fade, melting before our eyes into an atmospheric vision punctuated by flimsy skims of gesso and bits of road-crushed aluminum that cling to the surfaces like scabby jewels. The work’s intense dialectic of beauty and repulsion mirrors the artist’s philosophical

  • interviews January 07, 2014

    Ann Hamilton

    In recent years, Ann Hamilton has created environmental installations at the Park Avenue Armory in New York and at the Pulitzer Foundation in Saint Louis. In a recent departure from her site-responsive practice, Hamilton organized “a reading,” a collection of objects and editions at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland, Oregon, providing the occasion for a highly focused examination of her working methods, Conceptualism, and her unique approach to literature, language, space, and materials. The exhibition is on view until January 11, 2014.

    I AM ALWAYS TRYING TO FIND A PROCESS, or a procedure,

  • picks November 11, 2013

    Fernanda D’Agostino

    Portland-based artist Fernanda D’Agostino’s retrospective “The Method of Loci” is a feast of sensory experience and symbolic power. The exhibition’s title references the ancient art of encoding knowledge in imagined architectural space. D’Agostino embodies this dematerialized practice, transforming the interior of the gallery into a labyrinth of darkened chambers and corridors that house interrelated video and sculptures from the 1980s to the present. A brooding, introspective mood pervades in works that explore the presence and cultivation of memory in relation to the artist’s life and to

  • picks October 05, 2013

    Jesse Sugarmann

    California-based artist Jesse Sugarmann’s recent work reimagines the barren, gridded expanses of California City, a planned community built on forty square miles of the Mojave Desert in the 1960s. The city was constructed in response to an anticipated branch of the California Aqueduct, but like so many failed utopias the water never reached the area, and California City now exists as a crumbling site of fifteen thousand inhabitants. For Sugarmann, whose work has long investigated the masculine sensuality of American automobile culture, the city epitomizes the fantastical—and brutal—nature of

  • picks August 30, 2013

    Isaac Layman

    Seattle-based artist Isaac Layman titled his exhibition of recent photographs “Funeral,” suggesting that the quiescent images of objects and spaces in his home are concerned with loss and absence. Funerals honor departure through rituals of remembrance; Layman’s works contemplate the sites and remains of daily life’s most ritualized activities, such as cooking and grooming. In one work, Untitled, 2013, Layman fills our field of vision with an oily piece of aluminum foil bearing traces—shards of pink flesh and diamonds of skin—of the salmon that it had just sheltered in the oven. Like a

  • picks June 25, 2013

    Johan Thurfjell

    Swedish artist Johan Thurfjell is a master of visual deceptions so subtle and charming that they fill his multimedia installations with gusts of poetic longing and reverie. Like the slow progression of a solitary day, the exhibition “From Here” unfolds within three interconnected rooms that guide the viewer from the daylight of the gallery’s entrance to the twilight of its concluding space. The latter is lit only by the aura of dim lights anchored behind a suite of works on paper, whose images are created solely by the gentle application of varnish. Titled with the time of day captured in each