Sunday, February 6, 2011

Orphan Drug: New work from Dunja Jankovic and Derek Bourcier, MK Gallery, PSU campus, Feb 2011

-Matt Hall

Dunja Jankovic’s installation is the first thing you notice when entering “Orphan Drug,” the new show at PSU’s MK Gallery. One wall is covered with a large painting comprising large geometric shapes in red, black and white, with no shading or blending of colors. The remnants of an early painted-over version are clearly visible. I believe this was a deliberate decision to let us, as viewers, experience the process, and maybe a statement of the artist’s intent, as in “this art is not precious.”

In front of the painted wall, about 20 or so balloons hang from the ceiling or float from the floor on fishing line. This use of a common, mundane surface reinforces the impermanent, nonfussy aesthetic of the show. I talked with the artist about the process. She carefully unties and refills the balloons as they start to go flat. She also mentioned having to try three kinds of paint before finding one that wouldn’t flake off as the balloons expanded. All are painted in the same red, black and white color scheme of the wall. Most have similar bold geometric designs, somewhat reminiscent of the Native American art of the Northwest Coast, while others have thin, squiggly marks, almost like a Miró painting. Jankovic has developed her own pleasing visual vocabulary, with repeated motifs but also a restless experimentation. I enjoyed watching visitors bob their heads around and through the spaces between balloons.

A short musical performance accompanies the show, consisting of what seemed like tape loops and samples run through cheap guitar effect pedals. Although I found the performance interesting, I’m not sure how it is supposed to relate to the visual works.

Derek Bourcier’s work occupies the space behind the mural wall. Three ink-jet prints of a lost dog poster hang in frames. Connected to the pictures is a thin tube that slowly pumps water into the frames. Over time the ink runs and distorts the images. Three red towels collect the water as it drips through the frames and onto the floor. Bourcier told me he is influenced by the way posters decay in the Portland rain. His work just barely qualifies as 3-D, but I thought I would write about it here because he has found a way to introduce time and chance as elements in visual art.

Jankovic and Bourcier share a similar lack of concern for permanence and the more fussy aspects of craftsmanship. They both seem to have developed a compelling visual vocabulary. Jankovic through the particular personality of her mark-making and Bourcier through surrendering to chance.

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