A couple of weekends ago, we drove down to Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., from Portland to see a little show curated by TJ Norris, ‘.meta’, at the college art gallery, which is one medium-sized room. I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. When I got back to Portland, I didn’t talk to anyone about the show because I didn’t know how to talk about it. Which means I didn’t post about it because I definitely had no idea how to write about it.
It’s very possible that I still don’t or that I’m dead wrong, and yet I’ve been worrying the exhibition off and on since then, a little like a stubborn granule of food caught between my molars. Well, maybe not so irritating as that.
The food metaphor isn’t entirely out of place, though. Norris’s notes for the exhibition start this way: “Over the past three years I’ve developed exhibitions from digested bits and pieces of found ideas.” [emphasis added] Digested. Bits and pieces. Digested by whom? By Norris, which is important to remember, I think, because ‘.meta’ asks us to do a little digesting of our own. I return to the notes:
“As a group exhibition of work, diverse artists were sought, who each confront the stoicism of incomplete thoughts or the sly double entendre of the head on. Here exists this sense of longing, of awkward limbo, like a deer caught in headlights. In ‘.meta’ you will find work that is wry, socially political and even somewhat ambiguous at first. Perhaps an offering of clues musing about why we exist in the universe at all, complete with our mortal faults.”
This is where I headed down the “wrong” path, I think. I started trying to read the eleven artworks in the show as specific examples of artmaking that thinks about the origins of things, including itself, which is the implication of “meta”. This isn’t new. A lot of the most significant art made in the 20th century commented on itself, its origins, the meaning of art, and maybe the meaning of Everything. (By “most significant” I simply mean: central to the ideas of people who make, think and write about art. Art analysts.)
Continue reading Art Scatter gets meta in McMinnville