The idea that everything is impermanent lasts in the group art show at PICA, The Lasting Concept.
The first piece of The Lasting Concept exhibit at PICA’s headquarters downtown is Bill Hayden’s and Sam Pulitzer’s “Street Side Dressing,” vinyl lettering on the front windows, reading “what’s up civilians?” and legible only to those looking up from SW 10th avenue. The last piece, going by the physical layout of the exhibit, sticks to the back window of the third floor space, opposite the front windows. It’s a poem on a single piece of paper adhered to the window with a piece of scotch tape entitled “A skants” by Jimmie Durham. It’s a sparse presentation, just page and text and the paper is thin. When I was there a week ago it was just before sunset on a clear evening, and the words easily disappeared as the low sun’s light blinded through the page. But this does not come off as an oversight or a hindrance; viewing this piece intentionally includes the light, and the tendency to glance sideways to look out the window to the city.
I bring this up because the beginning and end of this exhibit are not clearly delineated, so that the gallery space doesn’t house the art in any traditional way. It challenges that set-up by viewing things in isolation, because the outside is let in, or as in the case of “Street Side Dressing,” we’re led to believe the clearest way to view this piece is from the street. The curation between these two pieces feels wild inside the quiet office space of PICA, which the exhibit slips in and out of, filling the room with itself while also not getting in the way at all.
The moment you walk off the elevator you are within Chris Meier’s “Untitled,” a bamboo and aluminum structure, which stands like the skeleton of a long hut. While walking the exhibit, you wander in and out of it’s elusive shelter. The exhibit’s other pieces are poetry, sculpture, painting and audio. The unspecific criteria, and presence of many mediums make it about ideas, not the actual pieces. What I mean here (although the thought is not fully formed yet either, still an impression) is that whatever the form or piece was, it didn’t matter so much but the ideas behind it made me really curious about these people. By the end, I wasn’t appreciating or even aware of craft or style so much as the humor, moods and personality of the artists.
The provided map is a helpful guide to the exhibit. It would be easy to miss pieces if not; for instance, the backdrop by Gaylen Gerber hanging on two walls and titled, “Backdrop/The Lasting Concept” would have gone unnoticed. You’ll see what I mean when you go. It dresses the wall in monotony from top to bottom, where it hangs. There are two tequila bottles on a stand in the middle, which look like they could just be the remnants of a party or wet bar for PICA employees. It is “THUS AND SO” by Yuki Kimura.
Nevine Mahmoud’s single black ball sits on a platform, the curve of the ceramic sphere is pleasing to look at for some reason in this context, there is something soft about it. It’s unmovable but it looks like it could roll at any moment.
The black ball sits in front of a poetry piece. “The Lasting Concept” is literally a poetic exhibit, with this inclusion of 17 poems or excerpts, from nearly ten poets, including Anne Sexton and George Oppen. Some of them read so that when you get to the last line there is no memory of the first line, the poem fades right away. In others, the words and phrases are piles of imagery and thoughts, stacked on top of one another, staying with you like a heavy meal.
I wonder what The Lasting Concept magazine would have been like. This show was originally an idea for an art publication, born in a conversation between Rob Halverson (this exhibit’s curator), Kristan Kennedy and Bob Nickas. The magazine never came to be but telling from this physical manifestation of the idea, I envision something awesomely strange, a multidisciplinary creation. I let my imagination get carried away a little here, but I see a magazine with some pages permanently crumpled, others blank, made of different materials. The binding would be string for some issues, safety pins for others. There would be poetry, words and images spreading across pages with no preface. No page numbers.
I ended up back at the front desk where there were headphones to listen to the wind-like sounds of the “exhibit’s soundtrack” by Stefan Tcherepnin. It was just me in there by then and a woman working at a desk. Headphones on, there was a sudden a loud noise, a real shoulder-jolting pop. I thought for a second it was in the soundtrack, but then I saw the woman at the desk react too. One of the bike tubes from the back of the gallery, a fixture in Gareth James’ “Monument of a Park for Dysmorphophobes, For Jeff Nelson” made of bamboo, bike tubes and a bike pump, blew. “The exhibit is alive” the PICA employee said. Yes, it feels alive.
The Lasting Concept is open until April 1st. Check the links below for gallery hours.