Critics’ Picks

Willem Oorebeek, Vertical Club ,1994-present, lithograph on Japanese paper on sheetrock, dimensions variable.

Willem Oorebeek, Vertical Club ,1994-present, lithograph on Japanese paper on sheetrock, dimensions variable.

Portland

Willem Oorebeek

Yale Union (YU)
800 SE 10th Avenue
May 30–July 19, 2015

Funneled into a serpentine corridor of temporary walls hung with black-and-white printed imagery, visitors immediately confront their own images reflected in the dot-matrix-like patterns of Willem Oorebeek’s DIMEX ROOM, “VERSAILLES,” 2015. This hall of mirrors constructed from black rubber mats covered in glass panes announces the exhibition as a machine for the processing and circulation of images. Among these are the members of his Vertical Club, 1994–present, large-scale lithograph prints of standing figures snatched from the pages of magazines, arranged facing the viewer. These life-size enlargements wave, smile, or otherwise solicit the gaze of the beholder in absurd displays of familiarity. Some of the images are reproduced from a catalogue of the artist's own work, where they are overlaid with interpretative texts ranging from displays of art-historical erudition to glib trend-forecasting platitudes.

The exhibition design provides little room to roam, instead steering one to works depicting figures or sites of authority such as the Tower of Babel, Sigmund Freud’s couch, and local communist leaders in China. Each receives Oorebeek’s “BLACKOUT” treatment for a series of works from 1999–present, in which found printed materials are overprinted and obscured with black lithographic ink, pushing the mass-produced images to the threshold of illegibility. Still, the raking light in the gallery reveals the obscured pictures. Like paper daguerreotypes, they almost flicker. These not-quite-iconoclastic abstractions are another kind of upright, solitary figure (or “monolith,” in the artist’s punning terminology) that here serve as objects of identification, desire, and power, probing print media as a persistent matrix of our era. But Oorebeek does all this with something of the jester’s cant, as he dances between the modernist twin peaks of mechanical reproduction and monochrome.