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July 25th, 2007 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Glittery Mirrors and Party People

Artists explore gender and the Gay '90s.

     
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The wonderful, awful thing about conceptual art is that it can be poorly executed but still make its point. Much of the work up this month at Launchpad is amateur and unfinished-looking but still stimulates thought about the show's theme of sexual and gender identity. The group show encompasses work by artists in three local queer- or queer-friendly groups: QuArt, Outside In and SMYRC. Visually, the most engaging piece is Kjerstin Rossi's chandelierlike installation made of water-filled condoms. Formally, the most elegant works are the gender-bending self-portraits of Lynee Tutterrow. Thematically, though, the most challenging work in the show is the sloppiest in execution: Jenevive Tatiana's Excess is a suite of white gessoed canvases that are plain and flat in the center but bordered with glitter. If you squint and blur your vision, you'll overlook the clumsy fabrication and see a group of fabulously framed mirrors, which paradoxically reflect nothing back. What does this say about gender identity? Perhaps that pre-fab subcultures and stereotypes—male/female/trannie or straight/gay/bi—provide only a framework, not the content of an identity. A framework, no matter how glittery, cannot fill in the particulars. That responsibility is the individual's alone. 534 SE Oak St., 971-227-0072. Closes July 31.

Taking artsy pictures of your friends is fun if you have fun friends and a dynamic photographic eye. Krista K. Wheeler had both bases covered in the mid-1990s, as evidenced by the time capsule of her show this month at Ogle. In the manner of photographie vérité, Wheeler's photos abound with 24-hour party people and costumes and hairspray and women (and men) in tights en route to concerts and clubs and raves. Scott with Comet captures the electricity of anticipation at the outset of a raging night on the town. Notably, the show's most effective work is the one that is most formal and least on-the-fly: Self-portrait with Pink Pumps. Taken through a bathroom mirror, the picture shows the artist's leg resting provocatively on a clawfoot tub. The off-center composition, the conceit of the mirror, and the black-and-white parquet tiles in the background impart a Vermeerlike rigor and elegance where you would least expect it. These photos may be tame compared to similarly themed work by New York wunderkind Ryan McGinley or local boy Corey Smith, but that is part of their—and their era's—charm. Who could have imagined at the time that the '90s would seem quaint in retrospect? 310 NW Broadway, 227-4333. Closes July 28. .

 
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