Just got back from seeing Jessica Jackson Hutchins’ exhibit at The Lumber Room on NW 9th, and the Cooley Gallery at Reed College (yes, two venues). The Lumber Room show knocked my socks off. Plus, it is in the Lumber Room, which showed off her pieces with all the gravitas and sheer beauty of the space itself. This portion of the exhibit has been collected by owner Sarah Miller Miegs over the past 20 years, resulting in a certain sensibility and palate that gives the grouping a noticeably cohesive sense. I was struck by the emotional depth and resonance here, especially in the sculptures; robust and chewy at some points (Two Hearts), at other times poignant ("Stylite" and "Whole Mess of Tears") and surprisingly delicate and maternal in "Rope Stanza."
The Cooley gallery pieces were brought together from Hutchins’ galleries in New York and London. They are individually wonderful to look at ("Watches," 'Bored to Death" and "Third Eye" especially), but for me, when everything in the exhibit was taken together, they weren't as compelling a fit as the show on the west side of town – just had a more visceral response to the pieces at the Lumber Room.
The exception was the group of small works in Reed's academic library next to the gallery; these elevated the entire show to new heights. These objects – constructed around beer bottles, beer cartons and pills – seemed to be the stage for the title of the show. Encased in glass, much like archeologically recovered artifacts and surrounded by books such as “The Confessions of St. Augustine,” these pieces were at the heart of the exhibit. "Darkness," "Daily Pills," "Lowlands," "Couple" and "Candy Dish" were well worth the extended time needed to really look at them. As if wrested from burial grounds, they embodied shards of old memories, fragments of ancient states of mind and body offered up out of the muck for some sort of preservation, contemplation, perhaps absolution and maybe, just maybe, redemption.
Go if you can - open until November 8th. The Lumber Room has more limited hours. Portland is fortunate to have this artist here, yet it may be hard to see Hutchins' work unless you are in New York, London, or at her recent show in Rome.