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June 13th, 2007 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

First Thursday in review: Art-chitecture?

Did you hear the one about the architect, the painter and the curator?

     
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The symbiotic relationship between fine art and architecture stretches back millennia, but recently I'm reminded of Piet Mondrian, whose geometric études influenced individual architects and entire schools of architecture. The rectilinear layout of traditional blueprints ally themselves with geometric abstraction, as is the case with local architect Brad Cloepfil's studies for realized and unrealized projects at Jane Beebe's PDX. With a roster of well-known buildings under his belt, including the Wieden & Kennedy headquarters here in town, the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Arts & Design in New York, Cloepfil has earned his rep as an innovative spatial thinker. Still, it leaves one cold to see these arid studies presented qua art in a gallery. There is a dryness to the viewing experience that brings up questions about the functionality of the architectural discipline versus the purely aesthetic impulse of fine art.

What, for example, differentiates Cloepfil's charcoal drawings from the paintings of G. Lewis Clevenger (represented by Pulliam Deffenbaugh), who admits he was influenced by mid-century architecture and design? Perhaps it is the formalist implacability of Cloepfil's works that makes these questions so perplexing—and more than a trifle boring. 925 NW Flanders St., 222-0063. Closes June 30.

The relationship between architect and artist yields to a different relationship—that of artist and curator—in New American Art Union's The Hook Up. Jesse Hayward is best known as a painter who aims to transcend the properties of his chosen medium. He has been both successful (his extravagant, glycerolic slopfest at now-defunct Haze Gallery in 2004) and unsuccessful (his cringe-worthy, grad-school flunk-out at the 2006 Oregon Biennial). Now, with a superb show at NAAU, he dons the hat of curator, and it fits him well. Highlights of the well-conceived and nicely laid-out show include Stephanie Robison's popcorn kettle gone awry, Sean Healy's elegantly whimsical Neighborly and Jeff Jahn's oversized sculptural creepy-crawlie. The show's lowlight is yet another of the sphere/hemisphere wall pieces that Jacqueline Ehlis has been churning out for the past five years. Ehlis is a gifted artist—one of the best in the region—but if she puts out one more of these tiresome ping-pong glitterballs, I'm going to take a cyanide pill. 922 SE Ankeny St., 231-8294. Closes June 30.

 
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