Dreaming in grids

I always get nervous when someone I know, whom I’ve discussed art and the nature of art with over and over again, shows their own work. It’s difficult to see someone’s show objectively when you think you know their values, and know what drives them conceptually. The urge to try to find context within the work itself is almost impossible to avoid.

Eva Lake is one of those people for me. Between her stint here at the Vanguard, her show “Artstar radio” on KPSU, her time running the hugely underappreciated Lovelake gallery, and millions of other gigs throughout town, Eva has become synonymous with Portland art for me. So you can imagine how the idea of seeing, much less reviewing her new show, Viva Chrome at the Augen Gallery (817 S.W. Second Ave.) without seeing Eva in each painting would be paralyzing for me.

Fortunately, upon actually entering the gallery I realized that the only traits the works shared with their creator is an overall sense of thoughtful fullness. These works, much like Eva’s own ideas and theories, were complete in conception as well as execution.

The paintings – consisting of a series of alternating patterns of faded grids – are at once mechanical and expressive. The work is actually work, the lines are clean, sharp and perfunctory. The artist’s intention and drive is there, but her hand stroke is surprisingly almost absent. For all this, the pieces could run a very real risk of being painfully dry, however Eva’s success comes from her ability to use color to transcend the boundaries she’s created for herself.

Within the confines of her meticulous grids lies color in its most expressive form. The emotional range communicated between the golden optimism of “Sun King” and the chilly calm of “Lavender Field” is amazing. The works range so vastly that seeing them all together in the sterile Augen Gallery was emotionally jarring. I was particularly fond of the fiery (and aptly titled) “Red One” and the dreamy nostalgia of “Lovelake.” In comparison, the subdued “Starry Night” and “Deep Dive” seem kind of dry.

Leaving the show I felt initially relieved, having avoided any internal conjecture about finding Eva’s fingerprint in every stroke, but was suddenly seized by the fact that it wasn’t the individual work where she was hiding, but the show itself. I avoided finding her ideas and philosophies in every piece, but was drawn into an emotional landscape completely individual.

Vive Chrome runs through April 27 at Augen Gallery, 817 S.W. 2nd Ave. Open Monday – Saturday 10:30 – 5:30