Critics’ Picks

Storm Tharp, Groton House, 2010, ink, fabric dye, and colored pencil on paper, 58 x 42 1/2”.

Storm Tharp, Groton House, 2010, ink, fabric dye, and colored pencil on paper, 58 x 42 1/2”.

Portland

Storm Tharp

PDX CONTEMPORARY ART
925 NW Flanders Street
June 1–August 14, 2010

In the enigmatically titled “Hercules,” Portland-based artist and 2010 Whitney Biennial participant Storm Tharp presents his latest works on paper that run wild through the history of art, literature, and culture. The exhibition features large, deeply psychological portraits of notable and anonymous personages as well as pairs of ethereal, monochromatic washes that perfume the senses. Abstract Painter with Peony (all works 2010), for example, features the delicate hues of a flower’s unfurling petals (set before a stoic likeness of Ad Reinhardt), colors that reappear in the atmospheric monochromes of the two-panel piece Vreeland. In another portrait, Reinhardt is depicted behind a small pot, arms crossed. The pot’s overlapping shadows echo the bends and furrows of the figure’s visage. In other portraits, such as Realness, figures collapse into pools of color across the bright light of paper. The works feel romantically entangled in philosophical endeavor.

Tharp catalyzes mastery against accident in the seepage and layering of ink and gouache, which he’ll sometimes subdue amid scrims and expanses of marks, as in the portrait Groton House or Reinhardt’s suits in the works mentioned above. At the vibrating core of Tharp’s unparalleled vision flows water––messenger of an invisible humanity. Tharp’s subjects argue for a conceptual space beyond irony’s cutting edge, predicated on the very precariousness of representation. Shape-shifting before the viewer, the works cohere into a symbolic world, rich with metaphor and patterned on the idiosyncrasies of human nature as forms of aesthetic avowal.