Critics’ Picks

Blair Saxon-Hill, Brooch, 2015, canvas, hydrocal, paper towel, newsprint, pom-pom, late twentieth-century painting, dye, paper, pigmented cement, New York Magazine page, leather twine, wood and chord, paper-coated wire, copper washers, Rosco Supersaturated Scenic Paint, shellac, ink, gouache, pigmented cement, clamp, 14 x 11 1/4 x 6 1/2".

Portland

Blair Saxon-Hill

Fourteen30 Contemporary
1501 SW Market Street
April 17 - May 17

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 Form, Content and Human Interpersonal Relationships (Preparations), 2015. Here, an old embroidered handkerchief forms the collar around an image of a scribal hand taken from a historic photogravure. Behind the fabric, a dark, misshapen painting forms a kind of shadow relief, and both the cloth and the painting are attached to the frame by clips and thumbtacks. These precarious connectors complete the impression of impermanence, as though the artist might come in and undo or reposition them at a moment’s notice. Other works in the exhibition explore similar materials without the anchor of a frame. Take Brooch, 2015, for instance, in which a strange assortment of cast-off twine, wood, wire, and paper towel are wadded into clump that is held together with a hardware clamp. The materials list for the piece is long and detailed, which affirms Saxon-Hill’s process as a kind of postconsumer archeology or taxonomy of the sheer diversity of materials at hand these days.