Critics’ Picks

View of “The Snake,” 2018.

View of “The Snake,” 2018.


“The Snake”

PICA - The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
15 NE Hancock
June 9–August 4, 2018

In the center of PICA’s large exhibition space is DB Amorin’s site-specific installation a static-flavored shape (“street echoes ’ēheu—and it sure is”), 2018, a scintillating expanse of Pacific salt set aglow by a projection of an abstracted form flipping in space. The footage, which glows cerise but is actually black and white, has been heavily processed through analog filters before being digitally projected and colored by a rosy LED light. At intervals, the entire exhibition dims, and the pulsing field of salt flares like a toppled movie screen.

Nearby, Jessica Diamond exhibits several vertical wall paintings executed in bright commercial colors and black and white. Though hand-lettered and hand-painted, the images possess the graphic simplicity of printshop copies. Each work features an original poem or phrase—“F U I’m 60,” for example—that amplifies Diamond’s outrage over the art world’s misogyny and ageism. Rising up the walls, Diamond’s critical exclamations and sonorous poetry demand to be voiced. In counterpoint, works by Judy Cooke and Kameelah Janan Rasheed generate peripatetic experiences of reading space. Cooke’s trio of abstract works—Slump, Trail, and 3 Floor Forms, all 2018—were created on-site in direct response to the contours of the building. Rasheed, in contrast, designed A Supple Perimeter (activation iv), 2017, a zigzagging wall for her installation of found language and darkly colored materials.

The works in “The Snake” do not evince a tidy set of themes. What they share instead—what they collectively offer in the hands of curator Kristan Kennedy—is an experience of visual polyphony that, like a snake’s movements, interweave in subtle and unpredictable forms.