WHEN YOU LOOK at Jessica Jackson Hutchins' work, you might catch your breath: it's raw, a little gross, and never precious. She traffics in ideas of domesticity and gender with an honesty and lack of pretense, using ceramics and found objects—think ceramic vessels and papier-mâché piled on top of a couch—almost to the point of collapse.
It's been some time since Hutchins has had a solo show in Portland (although she was featured in the 2014 Portland Biennial). After living in Germany with her kids and husband (musician Stephen Malkmus), Hutchins' work has risen to international acclaim. She had the honor of having her projects in the 2013 Venice Biennale as well as the 2010 Whitney Biennial, a major benchmark of success in the contemporary art world. She's back in Portland now, and it's exciting to see her pieces in a new exhibition, Confessions, open through November 8, with pieces at both Lumber Room and Reed College's Cooley Gallery.
Hutchins' art is assemblage in the Robert Rauschenberg tradition, but it's also post-minimalism, with an Eva Hesse style. Hutchins takes symbols of comfort—cushy couches, kitchen tables—and covers them with collage, pasting on newspaper clippings or photos, and piling on plaster. It's refreshing to see an artist subvert domestic crafts from cutesy to the grotesque (especially in Portland, where adorable crafts dominate). It's similar to the work of artist Lynda Benglis, who twists and contorts fabric, then douses it with color and glitter. And in its awkward forms and absurdity, Hutchins' work also recalls Abstract Expressionist painter Philip Guston.
The Lumber Room is one of the best venues in Portland, yet it's likely unfamiliar to many: The exhibition schedule is spotty, and the gallery itself relatively unmarked. But with its beautiful loft light, hardwood floors throughout, and sophisticated taste, all put together by patron and collector Sarah Miller Meigs, visiting is always a treat. This, combined with the thoughtfulness of Stephanie Snyder's curation at the Cooley Gallery, makes Confessions a much-anticipated show. With such visceral work, you'll need to see it in person.