Division and Discovery

I heralded the beginning of my summer with an excursion along the Maine coast, which landed me in Portland this past weekend. After poking my nose into the tattoo shops along Fore Street, snacking on belgian fries at Duckfat, and biking around Peaks Island, my last stop was the Portland Museum of Art.

portland lobby

Designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in 1983, the Charles Shipman Payson Building is a stately brick-and-granite edifice on the corner of Congress Square. With an instantly iconic front facade, the motif symbol of circles juxtaposed with right angles permeate the interior architecture as well—half-moon windows and lighting fixtures are seen in the galleries and along the many staircase promenades.

portland modern room
Each gallery is illuminated by a mixture of natural and artificial lighting, and domed octagonal clerestories with operable covers control the amount of daylight that shines into the vertical spaces.
portland windows
While ambling through the galleries, I was delighted to discover that the recent works of Frederick Lynch were on display. Born in 1935 and regarded as one of Maine's leading contemporary artists, Lynch experiments with multimedia and geometry to produce works that are intricate studies in abstraction that border the architectural.

Section Drawing of Portland Museum of Art by Mu-Yun Chang
Section Drawing of Portland Museum of Art by Mu-Yun Chang

Divisions, a set of paintings in which the entire collection is rooted, is based on the idea that repeated sectoring of a given area can produce infinite shape variations. "Each shape, possibly unique among 1,500-2,000 adjacent shapes and framed by upwards to 15,000 lines, is initially formed by a more or less 120º angle," he explains in his artist statement. Using the 120 degree angle by hand as the basis of his compositions, Lynch is making inquires into form -- embracing logic, pattern, and mathematical construction that results in a systematic visual effect, yet serendipitous-seeming as well.

Segment 78, by Frederick Lynch
Segment 78, by Frederick Lynch

Segments, on the other hand, is an intriguing series of relief sculptures extrapolated from the Division paintings. Constructed from pine, oil, enamel, glass, plaster, and found objects, these groupings are sort of permutations on the 120 degree motif, after which he transcribed into exquisite line drawings done in traditional pen and ink.

If you're in the Southern Maine area at all this summer, I would highly recommend darting into this museum to bask in the pleasant pockets of daylight and unexpected geometries, both in the building's spaces and hanging on the walls.

Segment Collective 4, by Frederick Lynch
Segment Collective 4, by Frederick Lynch

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