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Laura Fritz
Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Laura Fritz, "Convocation," 2019, wood reflector array and video, 57 x 35 x 35". Courtesy of the artists. Photo: Ben Cort

Continuing through February 23, 2020

A multifariously gothic sensibility pervades Laura Fritz’ exhibition, “APEX,” curator Grace Kook-Anderson’s latest installment in this series showcasing Pacific Northwest artists. The show co-inhabits a neo-Gothic architectural orientation, a gothic-romantic literary-psychological bent, and the equally spooky off-kilter Americana of Grant Wood’s creepy classic, “American Gothic.” Fritz, a mid-career staple of the Pacific Northwest arts community, has masterminded a supremely elegant multimedia installation that integrates perfectionist craftsmanship, minimalist panache, and a knack for transmuting spatial and subtextual ambiguity into angst or even low-grade terror.  

The centerpiece of the exhibition, “Convocation,” is a large pentagonal pendant containing a projector, which casts video depicting unidentified flying objects (actually, flocking swifts) onto the walls and floor that establish a tension between the pendant’s mass and the projections’ ethereality. Elsewhere, the artist transmutes simple materials such as wooden molding, a thin rectangular mirror or high-legged tables into ritualistic objects of unknown purpose. Quotidian household hardware, which might decorate a Grant Wood exterior or interior, are repurposed into furnishings that could serve as props in a dark mass — a sinister connotation suggested by the exclusive use of black paint throughout the exhibition. “Specimen A038” contains a mysterious crystalline object resembling a crab; while “Angular Wall Piece,” with its exaggerated shadows, holds forth in a jauntily asymmetrical placement that underlines Fritz’s preoccupation with subverting traditional architectural tropes. There is something simultaneously pure and perverse about this visually spartan but conceptually voluminous show.

Portland Art Museum

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