On view at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art: “The Many Places We Are” is a two-artist exhibition that explores the concept of emotional travel and the bonds that are developed as you move through a physical space. Amanda Marie and X-O, artists who have traveled extensively together, explore the concept by combining their signature art styles.
May 9–Aug 9, 2015
At the opening reception for The Many Places We Are, artist X-O told me a story. He and his son Addison agreed to make a drawing together with a line down the middle and one half of the paper allotted to each.
X-O’s marks accidently edged over the dividing line; he drew on his son’s paper territory. Addison looked at his dad with grave seriousness and said, “Dad. I don’t like that.” X-O offered an apology, “Oh wow, I’m sorry. I didn’t do it on purpose.” Addison once again stated flatly, “Dad. I really do not like that.” X-O sincerely apologized again and resumed drawing. Son then drew several knives with all points stabbing at the dad marks.
Artistic collaboration is dynamic and generative, when it works. “Don’t draw on my half” is easier said than done because you cannot calibrate collaboration. There is no precise proportional or emotional divide. There is only, hopefully, the satisfying feeling that the intention and the improvisation fell solidly into place. I felt exactly that, as I entered X-O and Amanda Marie’s site-specific installation at the JSMA.
The two artists spent less than a month in Eugene, Oregon, leaving behind their museum exhibit and also a collaborative mural on the Watershed Building at 3rd and Mill Streets. Look for it as you cross the Ferry Street Bridge. The mural project was made possible by the building owners, Three Muses Group, and Amy Isler Gibson, founder of The Gallery at the Watershed.
X-O is also known as Hyland Mather, the founder and director of Andenken Gallery in Amsterdam. In that role, he has heralded the importance of Street Art in contemporary culture and helped to bring the art of Amanda Marie to world attention. He met JSMA director Jill Hartz at SCOPE art fair in Miami, where he was representing a solo show of Amanda’s work. Jill Hartz invited X-O to submit a two-artist proposal after she saw his work online.
Working in Stencilism, Amanda Marie creates large-scale murals, street art and works on paper. The images tell non-linear tales; a nostalgic and sturdy girl child inhabits an iconography of identity and place. The artist’s rich stencil catalogue repeats in varying scales and compositions. We spot milk trucks and ghosts, characters with heads of alligators, wolves and trees. Our eyes open a little wider to take it in, like a child listening to a new story and not caring if all is understood.
X-O creates found-object assemblages. For this project he enthusiastically combed through University of Oregon Campus Recycling and Lane Community College Surplus Center. The museum provided the two artists with helpers, resources, tools and studio space. X-O describes his work in terms like, “making stuff from junk” “junkbergs” and “shape piles”, but his knowledge of contemporary art shines through when he describes Amanda’s work. His conversation sparks with genuine “this is so cool” references to current artists and authors. Openness is a marked characteristic of his personality and process. (Watch X-O describe the exhibit on the JSMA YouTube channel)
“Playing and fun are not the same thing, though when we grow up we may forget that and find ourselves mixing up playing with happiness. There can be a kind of amnesia about the seriousness of playing, especially when we played by ourselves.” –Lynda Barry
Seriousness of play – playing together and playing as individual makers – is the share-out of this exhibit. Amanda Marie and X-O left behind evidence of their multi-level relationship; they are artist and gallerist, traveling companions, a couple living in different countries, a union of interests and fluid forces in solidarity.
The images and objects seriously play together in this space for the moment, you know they won’t be staying long, they will move on with a whiff of spray paint and the echoes of a duet.
by Vicki Krohn Amorose