Mayor's Art Show 2012

Mayor's Art Show

Currently at the Jacobs Gallery at Hult Center is this year's installment of the Mayor’s Art Show, and it is less stuffy than I expected. It is always a little difficult to quantify group exhibitions in the first place, a legitimate variety show of acts. At this one in particular it felt unsurprisingly hard to focus, each piece competing for attention, with their diverse mediums and descriptive wall text snippets suggesting the viewer take just a minute of their time to read. While some might find group shows to be exciting, and in this case I can see and understand the obvious “celebration of Lane County artists,” I prefer contemporary group shows with at least an undercurrent of shared theme, technique, or something other than place of execution. Really, where one piece using the “brutality of the Civil War” via exploding tree imagery is nestled next to a dusty, abstract painting depicting symbolic solar flares, global warming, and “the tsunami,” how can you possibly take the time to appreciate any which one in particular without your attention being directed to its neighbor?

This complaint is less about the art itself and more about the concept of the show in general. I truly believe the art was surprisingly unique, making the show satisfying and worth seeing. While there was a fair share of predictable photography and obvious award-winners, it was the inconspicuous ones that were most interesting. Honestly, I tend to gravitate towards the weirdos of the group anyway, the quiet ones that are a little off or unexpected, clearly different from the run of the mill.

Rebecca Rogers’ oil painting “SOS” was the most immediately interesting and by far most unusual. Two ships are shown, floating silently on an inky sea. The first sits placidly in the foreground, calmly keeping its resting crew safe in the quiet night, the other drifts farther in the background, alight by the orange flames wicking away its sails. There is a clear divide between the two and one senses that Ship A can do nothing for the sake of Ship B. It is painted in an almost childlike way, with exaggerated white dot-stars speckling the sky, but that does not betray its virtue (quite like a Rousseau). It is glossy, dark and quiet, and reminded me of a painting you would find in the attic of a recently acquired house. Not immediately creepy, but uncanny in its truthfulness. Imagine stumbling upon it, almost as if it had snuck up on you. You may find it to be just a little unsettling, but maybe you take a sudden affinity towards it, finding it likable for being so bizarre. You know this painting has secrets. It makes it even better to read the wall text, how her subjects “usually find themselves alone.” There is no pretense to this – the painting feels like an acceptance of lonesomeness.

Other pieces of note were "Spring Snow" by Erik Johnson, a small wax crayon landscape drawing with unorthodox colors, existing somewhere between calming and catastrophic, like the calm after the storm. Jerry Ross's large oil painting, "Portrait of Fiorella" is undeniably pleasant to look at, with its warm pinks and oranges.

Really the best thing to get out of a show like this is finding at least one piece you really feel something towards. These types of group shows remind me of the variety of taste and the correlating arbitrary nature of granting awards to artists in such a setting. The Mayor's Art Show made me think that just because a piece is "good" doesn't mean you have to like it.

gallery hours are tue-fri 12-4 sat 11-3