Now that Core Sample is behind us, the local art community can finally get some sleep after a hectic season that culminated in this highly impressive suite of independent exhibitions. But before everybody slips into their sun-deprived, intensive studio practices, there is one Core Sample show hanging on for another week: Jeff Jahn's Symbiont/Synthetic. Jahn is an independent critic/curator/artist whose ambition is to incite the Portland art community to greatness. When he sends bulk emails about Symbiont/Synthetic that begin "for starters, it is a dense, ultra-complex show where every piece has a very specific rational for inclusion and placement," it's tempting to gag yourself and never give the guy a second thought. However, Jahn is more than willing to put his money where his mouth is, and his efforts are frequently admirable.
Symbiont/Synthetic, is a group exhibition about the tenuous relationship between man (i.e. fashion, technology, comfort, entertainment, and consumerism) and nature. It's the oldest conflict besides man vs. woman, but it's especially relevant in Portland, a cultured urban center in a sublime wilderness. Some of the work in the show seemed to bluntly illustrate the curatorial theme, while others felt like odd inclusions, but the bulk of the selected pieces were astute and original. The show stealer came from Bruce Conkle, whose droopy, oversized Mickey Mouse wardrobe lightly posed deep questions about our attitude toward unrefined nature. Laura Fritz's Cronenberg-inspired laboratory, last seen at Soundvision, was reworked here with new radish-shaped dung bulbs and swarming larvae. Todd Johnson's lace photograms referred not only to the advent of photography, but also to crystalline patterns and formations. Taking cues from Brancusi and S&M bondage gear, Tim Diggles' sculptures combined metallic thorns, faux-rubber hosing, and casket clamps offset against bark-toned bases. Matthew Picton contributed one of his signature, sprawling translucent bead installations, this one dangled from Slinkies, and Bryan Suereth represented with some pretty sexy, modified banana trees that had been uprooted, painted, and jeweled.
Like many of the exhibitions in Core Sample, Symbiont/Synthetic showcases the deep artistic talent in Portland and contextualizes it in a meaningful, professional setting. CHAS BOWIE