Mise-en-Scéne at Elizabeth Leach

John Sansini, Francisco and Louie, oil on canvas, 72" x 60", 2008

I'll admit, with all the hubbub over Portland's annual Trek In The Park (trust me, it's huge), I was lured into Elizabeth Leach Gallery by Luke Butler's stunning little trio of Trek characters (which we spotted earlier this year while shooting video at Art Los Angeles Contemporary), which show Bones, Kirk, and Spock, in that order, frozen in anguish on seas of gray. Butler is attracted to Trek and more specifically, Kirk, calling the Captain “a model of vulnerability," and of Shatner, the man, "His vulnerabilities are on the surface for all to see." What's great, too, is that Butler's fallen heroes - though Trek they be - aren't silly, and they don't aspire to kitsch - they're too well-painted, and too inspiring of pathos. Butler's most well-known works are the Star Trek pieces, but his work at large too deals with masculinity and vulnerability. (Google him and check out the nude president collages.)

There are more heroes in the group show: John Sansini's "Francisco and Louie" is a love letter to big, bold painting - the oil is rich and swirly and begs to be touched. According to the gallery, Sonsini hires day-laborers who are typically tapped for manual labor, mainly building projects or landscaping, and pays them hourly to model. The subjects, with their Thomas Hart Benton hands and head-on gaze, rule the room.

More after the jump!  Kelli Rule, Portland contributor

Luke Butler. From the top: Captain XXXDoctor IV, and Spock III. All 2011, acrylic on canvas, 17 x 22 inches. Courtesy Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland.

Mise-en-Scène, the title of the show, is a term largely used in theater or film to describe elements of visual style. It can describe anything that appears within (in this case) the frame, that's used to visually articulate mood. Typically, practicality or realism is ignored in the setting. The artworks and artists featured here, who mostly place figures in empty or under-articulated backgrounds, attempt, by the use of mood, to gain "some slight insight into humankind’s shared internal life". The pieces which shine in the show suggest a theme of the marginalized (Francisco and Louie) or the vulnerable (Kirk) hero.

Mise-en-Scéne is on view at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, through July 16th.

Kelli Rule is a writer based in Portland.

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