Portland Phoenix Review. 3/2/11.


Nicholas Shroeder

"Whether fibrous, viscous, or constantly moving, the bodies of work prepared by Blake Hiltunen add a living quality to the exhibition, integrating time as a working concept rather than a topic of study. This is most clearly present in "Fountain," a mechanical installation where black ink streams down the face of a raw canvas (framed and mounted on sheet rock) and collects into a reservoir below, where a pump cycles it back again. The tiny Victorian frame in "Mirror Relic" is so corroded with calcium carbonate that it resembles a coral trophy, its white, mossy fields forming fractals over the glass, while "Attrition (Interior) II," a sinewy tower of vitreous black resin mounted on a pedestal, accomplishes a similar sensation of decay.

Hiltunen's wax works are as impressive as they are grotesque. In "For God and Glory" (many of his pieces have similarly epic titles), a fount of reddish, petroleum-based wax protrudes from a seemingly floating, eye-level wooden frame and collects in a solidified puddle on the floor. Installed in the middle of the room and human-sized, the piece has an overwhelming presence: a wax statue wearing a frame as its crown. In "Under Her Majesty's Summer Gown," an ornate canvas and wood frame is swamped in a thick beeswax mould. Behind it, a curtain of yellow wax collects in vertical folds, forming pockets of shadows. As in "For God and Glory," the wax recalls Joseph Beuys's seminal work with animal fat, and comes charged with a slightly sexualized physicality.
Audacious or monstrous though they may be, Hiltunen's visual works are particularly interesting for being self-contained. The exhibition's theme can be evoked by envisioning the slow, methodical process required to craft each piece, but essentially, his visual works are not grouped by a particular concept. And while his titles seem prodigious, they seem to remove some of the gravity from the pieces themselves, helping them to stand refreshingly on their own."