The Oregonian's John Motley reviewed The Art Gym's exhibition, Paraprosdokians and Rubber Chickens, which runs through December 5, 2014.
April 16 - May 18, 2012
P.O.'d Postcard Show
Mack McFarland, Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen
Many artists work in several veins, often distinguished by medium—painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture—and sometimes by subject matter. What has puzzled me about Joe Macca's output is that he works in ways that are polar opposites—hot/cold, perfect/messy, slow/fast, meditative/mad. This is what led me to propose the exhibition Joe Macca: Two Man Show.
Macca creates paintings that are carefully planned and perfectly executed abstractions that respond to the natural world or, as the artist puts it, that express the "literal and symbolic, ephemeral and transient." In contrast to the pulsating calm or dark interiority of those paintings, the postcards and studio flotsam run the gamut from rude and crass jabs at his fellow artists to mockingly self-aggrandizing promotions of Macca the artist, Macca the man. They are the vehicle for much that annoys him, with particularly barbed attacks reserved for the art world with its hubris and system of winner-take-all.
Accompanying Joe Macca: Two Man Show is the P.O.'d Postcard Show, a small exhibition of postcards and other correspondence by Mack McFarland and Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen. Over the years, I have received many interesting postcards, painted envelopes and objects through the mail. For the P.O.'d Postcard show I was looking for mailed art that commented on society or the artworld or both. McFarland's Ten-foot-pole drawings of politicians and policy makers that he presumably would not touch with a ten-foot-pole fit the bill, as did Gray and Wilson Paulsen's series of mailed posters commenting wryly on contemporary art practice.
— Terri M. Hopkins, Director and Curator, The Art Gym
For the brochure that accompanies this exhibition Paul Montone and I have shared the writing. Montone, who is a member of the faculty at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, writes about the postcards and studio ephemera, and I discuss the paintings.
Montone writes that Macca's postcards and ephemera are part of a "discourse of work relegated to a space somewhere outside the margins—the discourse of the fine arts and its waste, the residue of what's sloughed off in the creation of more privileged forms. In fact, the postcards are often constructed of the stuff we throw away: cardboard from cereal boxes, torn-out advertisements, found photos and letters. They are raw and direct. Their crude manner strips away propriety and decency and points to the detritus of darker, more personal energies."
In contrast, Macca's paintings engage the formal discourse about painting that is staged in art galleries and museums. In that setting, he has engaged issues around abstraction and its relationship to observed nature, symbol, metaphor, technical prowess, and beauty. Most of Macca's oil and acrylic paintings on panel are geometric abstractions that take place within the confines of the square. The square is a restricted playing field with its own logic—the logic of four corners, right angles, symmetry, the implied grid, the implied circle. The artist can choose to play with or against that logic.
Macca has approached his panels in a number of ways. Sometimes he floats small circles of pulsating color on the field and other times he uses concentric circles, in whole or in part. More recently he has divided the square into quadrants and made the paint radiate toward the corners. There are no crisp edges in any of his work, and although the shapes retain their identity as circles or squares, they often have a soft and nearly vaporous quality— something he accomplishes by applying up to fifty layers of paint and varnish.
— Terri M. Hopkins
About the Artist
Joe Macca lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Since 2001, he has had numerous solo exhibitions at PDX Contemporary Art in Portland. His work has also been presented in solo shows at Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco and the New American Art Union in Portland, and has been included in thematic group shows in Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Macca's work has been reviewed in New American Paintings, Artweek, the Oregonian, the Portland Mercury, and PORT.
The Art Gym is publishing a small exhibition catalogue to accompany Joe Macca: Two Man Show. Paul Montone and I are sharing the writing about the two veins of Macca's work. Montone is a faculty member at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Get your copy in The Art Gym, $5, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
Special thanks to Jane Beebe and PDX Contemporary Art for support for the catalogue and exhibition.
This show presents postcards by Mack McFarland and posterworks sent through the mail by the artist team of Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen. I have been fortunate to be on their mailing lists for these mailed series. The exhibition contains art mailed to me and to others, including Greg Ware and Kelly Rauer.
Mack McFarland is represented in the exhibition by several series of postcards, including a number of his 10ft. pole drawings and his new Forever series. McFarland starting making and mailing the 10ft. pole drawings about five years ago. For each postcard in the series he drew images and words onto 4x5 in. postcards, using a mechanical pencil attached to a ten-foot pole. Each card reflected the artist's "disappointment with an issue or subject."
McFarland is using the Forever series to examine the United States government's "use of the word 'forever' in its treaties, laws and policy papers." McFarland writes, "In 235 years the U.S. government has utilized the word 'forever' liberally, from the tax code to treaties with Native Americans. This word has been employed for its own benefit and as history has shown us, in ways less than honest." In 2006 the U.S. Post Office issued the Forever Stamp, which may be used as long as the post office exists. Of course, whether or not that is forever remains to be seen. The artist is designing custom stamps, affixing them to postcards printed with text excerpts from government documents and mailing them to Oregon legislators, Native American tribes and many other parties.
Mack McFarland is an independent artist and curator for the Philip Feldman Gallery at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. He is currently exhibiting work in Portland2012 at Disjecta. The Forever series was funded in part through an Artist Project Grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
A few years ago, I began receiving standard business size envelopes in the mail. They arrived every few weeks and each contained a carefully folded, black and white 11x17-inch poster. In each, two artists—Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen—held up a sign that commented rather wryly on art theory, the art world and the artists' lives and work. Over a three-year period Gray and Paulsen produced and mailed 100 of these posters to various people across the country.
They write, "Drawing on the histories of conceptual art, activism and advertising, this collection of 100 black and white images, each created with a standard composition and hand-painted sign, was made to encourage and participate in, public dialogue. Through the posters we address philosophical questions, comment on political or artistic issues, quote, complain, poke fun and indirectly document our lives. They can be read as a kind of cumulative (and often contradictory) artist's statement."
Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen live and work in Portland, Oregon, where they are represented by PDX Contemporary Art. Their work has been shown and published nationally and internationally. They are currently exhibiting work in Portland2012 at Disjecta and the Northwest Biennial at the Tacoma Art Museum.