Hit the Pacific Northwest: Victoria Haven at Greg Kucera & PDX Contemporary

ABOVE: Victoria Haven, NORTH X NORTHWEST MYSTIC (Gore-Tex® version), 2010 | Gore-Tex®, silver marking film, thread, 24 x 27.5 inches. Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle. BELOW: North x Northwest Sampler, 2010 | Ink and pen on paper, 14 x 14.75 inches. Courtesy PDX Contemporary Art, Portland.

Seattle-based artist Victoria Haven’s two current exhibitions, Hit the North (47° 60'N) at Greg Kucera Gallery and Hit the North (45° 52'N) at PDX Contemporary Art, dramatically defy expectations. In contrast to the grids and geometric forms characteristic of the artist’s work in recent years, the art in both Hit the North shows enters new territory by merging figures and abstracted forms with text and cultural references. Ranging widely in mediums, from sumi ink and aluminum to western red cedar and Gore-tex, the exhibitions coalesce into a single body of work through references to themes widely affiliated with the Pacific Northwest: the region’s outdoor features, weather and music scene.  —Erin Langner and Kelli Rule


ABOVE: THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (after DFL), 2010 | Western red cedar, 22 x 23 x 12 inches. BELOW: EXPERTS ONLY (black), 2010 | Acrylic on panel, 18 x 18 inches. Images courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle.

Among the new works at Greg Kucera Gallery, a series of small acrylic paintings titled EXPERTS ONLY subtly mark Haven’s return to the medium for the first time in fourteen years. Of the two paintings on view in Hit the North (47° 60'N), EXPERTS ONLY (black) most elegantly bridges the artist’s previous work to her more recent, text-based images through its representation of a double black diamond. Similar to abstracted imagery Haven has been known for over the past decade, a focus on form and space dominates the visual impression of this piece, while its title references the Northwest’s outdoor culture.

The double black diamond symbol in skiing communicates a message to its viewer that is both universal and personal; the terrain beyond the sign is understood by all to be challenging, but also provides an experience unique to the individual who embarks upon it.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, 2010, Ink on paper, 60 X 70 inches. Image courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle.

The tension between the universal and the personal of EXPERTS ONLY becomes both more figurative and more pronounced in other new works, culminating in the large scale ink drawing THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, a raw, emotional piece that most aptly demonstrates Haven’s dynamic range and fearless approach to the artistic process.  —Erin Langner, Seattle contributor


ABOVE: The Decline of Western Civilization (rainy day project), 2011 | Cast aluminum in two pieces with patina, edition of 3, 2.5 x 2.75 x 3 inches. BELOW: Northwest Field Recording (OR) 12"/B side, 2010 | Ink on paper, 21.75 x 21.25 inches.

At mid-day, the windows of PDX Contemporary invite a cool, muted light—apropos of Portland late winter.  The works on view here are gray and reductive. The majority are from Haven's Northwest Field Recording series, concentric rings of text painted with ink either on paper or directly on the wall. The words are place names specific to Oregon, and each piece is thematic. They are also poetic. Northwest Field Recording (OR) 12"/Bside, for example, is made up of place names like "Grindstone Lakes", "Poison Point", "Separation Creek", and "Devil's Pulpit". In the center, Haven gives the reader a resolution, courage for the forewarned: "Defiance Mountain".

Northwest Field Recording (OR) 7"/B side, 2010 | Ink on paper, 15.75 x 15.25 inches. Images courtesy PDX Contemporary Art, Portland.

According to Haven, both the words and the shape of the text are meant to evoke a parallel between two of her greatest loves: rock music and the great outdoors. As such, the concentric patterns of the Northwest Field Recording works are meant to mimic the grooves of a record. Knowing the deep influence of nature, they also read as growth rings of trees, a record of a different sort.

The Recording series is supported by selected sketches, including Untitled (108), a sketch of two lone evergreens. It's a distillation of the great forests of the Northwest and, like great music, it makes the grandiose feel personal. —Kelli Rule, Portland contributor

ABOVE: Untitled (108), 2011 | Ink on paper, 10.75 x 9.5 inches. BELOW: North by Northwest, 2010 | Colored pencil on gampi paper, 27 x 27.5 inches. Images courtesy PDX Contemporary Art, Portland.

Victoria Haven was featured in editions #6 and #49 of New American Paintings. Her solo exhibition at Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle, Hit the North (47° 60'N), will be on view through February 19. Hit the North (45° 52'N), her solo show at PDX Contemporary Art, Portland, will be on view through February 26.

Erin Langner is a writer based in Seattle and is Adult Public Programs Coordinator at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).

Kelli Rule is a writer based in Portland.

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