Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Odyssey

Malcolm McLaren’s take on Homer’s voyage

Published in the Weekly Volcano, March 5, 2009
Pictured: untitled drawing by Malcolm McLaren

There’s a machine gun on the wall at mineral. It’s made of bread, seed and salt; it’s in a glass-fronted display case with wire mesh, and it looks like some bizarre archeological find as if machine guns existed in the time of Homer’s Odyssey.

That’s my imagination at work and probably not the artist’s intent, but it is part of Malcom McLaren’s exhibition of drawings, paintings and sculpture based on Homer’s epic tale, The Odyssey.

As described in a press release, McLaren’s art “focuses on women, on travelers of the past and present. The sea dark thoughts of these emanations keep sailors awake at night and the homeward-bound faithful.” There is a giant moose rack with jewelry hanging from the horns, many distorted and in some cases disturbing drawings of men and women, a painting of little gold houses on what appears to be burnt burlap, a strange totemic sculpture standing in one corner, and lots of little drawings of moose-like animals. I don’t remember a moose in The Odyssey. I do remember a not-very-bright Cyclops and sexy sirens luring sailors to their death, none of which are to be found in this exhibition. There is a ship, however, a very dark and abstract sailing vessel that appears to have been made out of wood (none of the pieces have labels with titles or media).

Rather than focusing on the more obvious images from Homer’s voyage, McLaren has chosen to focus on what may have been going through the minds of the sailors during their long voyage home. There are a lot of naked people, male and female, indicating perhaps that the sailors were haunted by sexual yearnings. Many of the images are also dark and foreboding, which would certainly make sense because they were in constant danger.

To me, the best works in the show are the little ink and wash drawings of figures, a drawing of a moose, and one abstract with two rounded objects that look something like pineapples delicately balanced side-by-side. The moose is seen in profile with long legs and very few details to the body and face, and it reflects in a marvelously interesting way in the jewelry case that stands in front of it. (Also displayed, as always at mineral, is Lisa Kinoshita’s very inventive jewelry.)

The figure drawings are done mostly with a flat, pink wash and free-flowing contour lines — details such as eyes, mouths, breasts and genitals sketchily indicated with a few hastily-drawn marks. These drawings are like Rodin figure studies distorted and reduced to a bare minimum of detail. They also display a line quality reminiscent of Henri Matisse. There is tremendous energy and passion in these drawings. Some of the other drawings — such as the chiseled, dark and brooding face pictured here — lose that energy and look overly labored.

It’s a fascinating little show with a lot to see in a small space.

[mineral, noon-5 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and by appointment, 301 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.250.7745,]

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