Interior Margins at lumber room, Portland

Interior Margins at lumber room, Portland

Léonie Guyer, Constellation (no. 1–7), 2010 (detail).
Permanent installation, lumber room.
November 11, 2011

Judy Cooke, Léonie Guyer, Victoria Haven, Midori Hirose, Linda Hutchins, Kristan Kennedy, Michelle Ross, Blair Saxon-Hill, Lynne Woods Turner, Nell Warren, and Heather Watkins

November 12, 2011–January 30, 2012

lumber room
419 NW 9th
Portland, Oregon 97209
Viewing hours:
11AM–6PM, Thursday through Saturday

Interior Margins was born around a dinner table in May of 2010, when eight women artists gathered to converse about painting and abstraction with lumber room founder Sarah Miller Meigs and Reed College curator Stephanie Snyder, within the lumber room’s inaugural installation by San Francisco artist Léonie Guyer. The ideas discussed that evening catalyzed the desire for a further exhibition, one bringing together the work of an intergenerational group of Northwest women artists who are transforming the diverse legacies and practices of abstraction for a new era.

In Pacific North America, the fertile tendrils of a functional, symbolic, and spiritual abstraction have existed for millennia in First Nations and Native American art and culture, exerting a profound influence on the aesthetic sensibilities of the western United States. The ceiling of San Francisco’s Mission Dolores, founded in 1776, was (and is to this day) painted with a magnificent abstract Ohlone Indian design; the spectral, zigzagging bands are reminiscent of Bay Area psychedelic abstraction, and the work of contemporary California artists such as Laurie Reid, Sarah Cain, Ruth Laskey and Chris Johanson.

The art of indigenous cultures exerted a profound life-long influence on the Northwest’s first great abstractionists Morris Graves and Mark Tobey. As the post-war period unfolded, Northwest artists and poets journeyed west to Japan and the Pacific Islands to study other metaphysical forms of abstraction through calligraphy, textiles, and eastern philosophy, or through the celestial properties of glass. East Coast artists such as Agnes Martin and Georgia O’Keefe sought the earth-bound spirituality and stark expansiveness of the west as a gestational environment in which to envision and practice new forms of abstraction.

Painterly abstraction in the Northwest, and the west in general (not terribly unlike the first great European abstract movements catalyzed by El Lissitsky and Kazimir Malevich) was born out of a desire to liberate self-consciousness from representation—to create a new vision of the self within a shifting, expansive field of interiority—a free radical, unfettered from machine logic and religious norms.

As art historian Briony Fer has elucidated, abstraction—as an evolution of modernist methodologies—must be continually contested; abstraction necessitates a continual revolution of perspective and material exploration. There is no one abstraction, but we intuit, as sure as day, the pull towards an unapparent logic of interiority, a fantasy of knowledge that abstraction’s “unspoken desires and anxieties” summon from within.

The eleven artists in Interior Margins, North Pacific American artists by birth or relocation—and all by investment—enact the female body and the work of art toward abstraction’s interior visions, swelling forms that appear pressurized to the body’s proportions and the surfaces and fabrics that both adorn and reflect its symbolic potential, its mannerisms, while the Northwest’s wet, forested clime continues to assert its aqueous pull within the practices of Northwest abstractionists.

Interior Margins is curated by Stephanie Snyder, John and Anne Hauberg Curator and Director, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, in collaboration with lumber room founder Sarah Miller Meigs.

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November 11, 2011

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