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David Eckard
The Art Gym at Marylhurst University & Portland: White Box at University of Oregon
Review by TJ Norris

David Eckard extends a sense of invitation to performance art. This pair of exhibitions show objects and outfits to be far more than leftovers.

Continuing through November 12, 2011 (Portland: White Box)
December 11, 2011 (The Art Gym)

In “Deployment” multi-media artist David Eckard reveals (sometimes cheekily) a bit of sly sleight of hand alongside a broader vision encompassing two decades of works in sculpture, painting and performance. He does so without intentionally exposing the invisible threads that tie things down behind-the-scenes. By presenting his “tack wall” of crafted objects, an extravagant potpourri of various and sundry items that at first glance appear to be farm implements or props ready for a staged reading, he engages us with a comforting sense of the informal, with the stuff of daily experience.

Through the years Eckard has extended that sense of open invitation to the arena of public performance. In his performance work the artist has donned various strap-on leather, burnished metal, mirrored and lace implements of costumery (sometimes inferring S/M and human bondage), re-imagined in a complementary context. These works include, for example, “Scribe,” where he would dress in worker coveralls and lay in a sculpted gurney contraption to paint watery circles on city streets, or manicure small patches of lawn greenery into perfect ellipses. “Tournament (Lumens)” is an endurance work where he crawled and dragged himself over the lawns of the same university attired in a single boot and caterpillar-like one-piece made of various brocaded frills. This labor culminated with the artist eventually being harnessed and dropped from a rope into the stamen of an awaiting large-scale, rotating, floral-like sculpture of his own design.

While these charmingly brut works are grand in craftsmanship and conceptual prowess, as a master in the rendering of lines and shadow Eckard truly stands apart in his far less celebrated 2D works. These have matured greatly over the last decade, as the artist retro-fitted a generic sensibility of shock into a deeper tension between surface theatrics and surreality. He sets his stage with mixed media works like “Ardent Tier (Steam)” and “Prairie Viceroy” (both 2010), invoking both sheer pomp and claustrophobia with just a bit of peculiar color (fleshy here, tropical there). The works tease as they vie to be unraveled and exposed, both punctuating and summarizing themes in his more gestural live works. The paintings amount to erasures of process, truncating secrets and making amplified references to both “©ardiff” and the video piece “Prestidigitation: A Folly in Eleven Acts” (2009), where the artist built the stage, props and performed all the poker-faced tricks. A one-man show, indeed!

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