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January 27th, 2010 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Jenene Nagy At Disjecta

Portland’s Christo goes big.

     
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JENENE NAGY’S TIDAL AT DISJECTA
IMAGE: Tatiana Wills

“Hello, my name is Jenene Nagy, and I’m here to invade your personal space.” That’s the subtext of this ambitious artist’s vertiginous, stomach-churning tsunami of an installation, Tidal. It’s on the floor, it climbs the walls, it dangles from rafters, it wells up like a wave, displacing your equilibrium as it advances Nagy’s obsession with getting art out of the frame and into your face. When you walk into the gallery, you’re greeted by lines of fluorescent lights on either side of a wide corridor, leading you inward like an airplane landing strip. The tactic builds suspense until the gallery opens up to your left and, voilà, the big reveal—and I do mean big. Massive, magenta-painted drywall planes float above 2-by-4 support beams. These broad sheets suggest geographic forms: an island, a peninsula, a subcontinent colliding with a continent. As if shoved upward by tectonic forces, these plates climb the wall, all 35 feet wide and 20 feet high of it—and they don’t stop there. At the rafters they jut forward over your head, the formerly contiguous parts shattering into shards suspended by more 2-by-4s, floating like crystals from a psychedelic chandelier.

While the planes’ surfaces are smooth, their edges are rough. Nagy makes no effort to conceal the support beams, either. She lets you see the mechanics behind the illusion, as if guiding you on a tour of a film studio back lot, where Old West saloons turn out to be flimsy façades. This is the Nagy style as developed in recent years, most notably her APEX at Portland Art Museum and False Flat at Linfield College. Tidal is her biggest statement so far, and short of mounting an installation in the Rose Garden, it would seem there’s not a helluva lot more she could do to advance this particular aesthetic. Then again, people were saying that about Christo and Jeanne-Claude back in the 1970s, and they kept wrapping islands, buildings and parks for 30 more years. Regardless of where Nagy takes her work from here, the current show fills the cavernous Disjecta gallery with an explosion of moxie, upending our conceptions of “wall art,” architecture and space itself.


SEE: Jenene Nagy shows Tidal at Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave., 286-9449. Closes Feb. 28.
 
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