Artist Erik Geschke speaks at the Alexander Gallery

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Patrons view Geschke's art

Sculptor Erik Geschke invades your space.

By Gabriel Lucich 

Managing Editor

We are fortunate to study on a campus that is absolutely crawling with art, maybe even infested with it. The current infestation in the Alexander Gallery includes a giant man, a disembodied head and a floor swarming with Muppet eyes.

Erik Geschke, multimedia artist and professor of art at Portland State University, is the artist behind the current showing in the gallery on the Oregon City campus. Geschke’s showing, titled “Selected Works,” is a group of sculptures spanning the last 15 years of his career. 

Geschke brings a postmodern aesthetic to each piece; encompassing architecture, satire, public art, the human condition and commentary on capitalism and the violence and destruction that often accompanies it.

“My first exposure to art growing up was probably my parents,” Geschke said. “They facilitated it with common art supplies, pencils, crayons, paints and other physical supplies. So I had a compulsion to ‘Make,’ from a very young age.”

“I didn’t have any special classes to begin with,” Geschke said, “Once I was a teenager I got really into comics, particularly underground comics like Robert Crumb. Alternative comics had a kind of edgy subject matter. I wasn’t exposed to fine art so much.”

That exposure came in college.

Geschke attended Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. It was small at the time, around 500 students. During his time there he got to know many other artists active in the Seattle art scene. The city exposed him to contemporary sculpture and its practice. 

“I started to see the dimensional possibilities of sculpture,” Geschke said. “Having things within a space, not stuck in boxes, as typically things are kind of in a closed format. I was really drawn to the ability to walk around these sculptures occupying the space, confronting them physically, experiencing the scale. This also got me into the language of materials and their symbolic and cultural meaning.”

During the artist talk Geschke elaborated on his use of material and color in his art.

“Missgeburt,” a nine-foot-tall seated man, is one of the largest pieces in the exhibit. The title of the piece, in German, translates to “deformed, or a monstrosity,” in English. One of the largest pieces he’s crafted, “Missgeburt” is a reference to public sculpture that explores the idea of a giant. “Missgeburt” is a multimedia piece consisting of polymerized gypsum (one of Geschke’s go-to materials), fiberglass, styrofoam, plastic, aluminum framing and fabric.

The seated giant was, in Geschke’s words, “designed with a lack of interaction in mind.” It sits, seemingly oblivious to the world around it, perhaps even sleeping. 

“Arena,” a horde of Muppet eyes on gray felt, was inspired by the eyes from a Big Bird costume. Over two dozen giant eyes made of wood, felt and vinyl, stare back at the viewer, no matter where in the room one happens to be standing. It is easily the most overtly playful work of art in the gallery.

“Untitled (Social Engineering),” is a Buckminster Fuller-inspired geodesic dome assembled from plasticized castings of a matched pair of real human femur bones. ‘Untitled (Social Engineering)’ is Geschke’s commentary on “architecture, human physiology, modernity. Utopic aspirations made of something macabre and destructive.”

Eleven of Geschke’s artworks are installed in the Alexander Gallery at the Niemeyer Center on the Oregon City campus.  Erik Geschke: Selected Works, runs through Friday, Feb 2.

Gabriel Lucich

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