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September 13th, 2006 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Opulent Dreamscapes

Brenden Clenaghen alchemizes cow udders and chandeliers into haunting abstractions.

     
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During a month of strong shows, Brenden Clenaghen's Endless Parade at Pulliam Deffenbaugh is the strongest. Because of PICA's decision to effectively compete with First Thursday by kicking TBA off on Sept. 7 (a move that prompted no end of grousing among conflicted art walkers), many people who would normally have seen Clenaghen's show were instead waiting for David Eckard to arrive on the west side of the Willamette River or listening to more than 30 guitars in search of a song in Pioneer Courthouse Square (see review, page 31). A pity, as Endless Parade elegantly evolves Clenaghen's pristine yet sumptuous dreamscapes. Fans of the artist's last solo outing, in 2004, will recognize his signature motifs in the current show: beads of paint arranged in chandelier- or fountain-like patterns, floating among forms that evoke rainclouds or Portuguese men-of-war. But Clenaghen pushes his style beyond these basics, subtly, in refreshing new directions. Chromatically and compositionally, the works are more adventurous: Pastel hues and Crayola reds selectively enliven the largely off-white palette. The show's title image pulses with a gorgeous splotch of red, the paint sensually crinkled via an antagonistic mixing of media. Discorporate numbers among several pieces featuring cloud motifs shot through with multicolored horizontal stripes and sprouting graphite-scrawled whiskers, a nebbishy touch that ties the works nicely in with today's fashionable obsession with drawing. (The technique, so effective in Clenaghen's paintings, does not translate well to his works on paper, which come across as cutesy and forgettable.) Despite these explorations and embellishments, the show's strongest works are black-on-black, some of the panels oval in form and dripping stalactites of dried paint. The works emanate a vampiric seductiveness impossible to resist.

One of the region's most original painters, Clenaghen succeeds in retaining the essence of his instantly recognizable style, while evolving that style just enough to leave collectors wanting more. While evocative of many figurative referents (rain, porcupine quills and, in Follow Blind, cow udders), the paintings ultimately defy such literalism, existing happily—and mysteriously—in demimondes of opulent abstraction.


929 NW Flanders St., 228-6665. Closes Sept. 30.
 
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