TWO TIMES THIS YEAR we'll get a solar eclipse. And three times, First Friday will come before First Thursday. Who am I to refute the stars? This month, Friday beat Thursday to the punch and therefore to the page.
As I wandered into the general nimbus around the Doug Fir, One Grand Gallery was busily hanging Jordan Domont's watercolor animal menagerie The Years to replace its long-running Black Flag poster show. Suffice to say, pink elephants have got nothing on these horse, rat, and ox heads in incongruously tropical hues, casting technicolor auras and dripping tracers. A departure from the illustrator's portfolio of celebrity portraits, this zodiac of fanciful beasts is a real trip.
Similarly psychedelic (though more unsettling) visions emanate from Sarah Mikenis' Haunted by These American Dreams at the Jupiter Hotel's gallery. The presiding image—a giant, almost goddess-like portrait of Kim Kardashian set against a velvety black star field and hovering above a bloody, fleshy snarl of breasts, limbs, and vulvas—sets the tone for more symbols of decadence, exploitation, seduction, and revulsion. On other canvases, there are patches of leopard-print-offset red lips, gold leaf, and various pieces of real and metaphorical meat. If they weren't rendered with such skill and consciousness, these works would be nauseating; as well done as they are, they're oddly compelling.
I seem to remember the retail enclave at E Burnside and 8th hosting some hopping First Fridays, with drink-clutching hipsters spilling into the halls—but this month's installment was quite subdued. Between shuttered shops, Nationale showed pastel sweater knit-inspired pointillism and anticipated a "chill" turnout.Meanwhile, the Black Box Gallery seemed to be having an insider powwow as a staffer asked owner Todd Johnson, "How do you promote your space?" "Rigorously!" he half-joked between sips of wine. The Black Box's group photo show Portraits: Image and Identity is all over the place in terms of color palette and subject matter. There's a cluster of babushkas, a fashion model, a trumpeter, a clown, an old woman wincing at a smartphone, an adolescent boy in smudged lipstick being caressed by a first-person POV hand—What... the ...? The artists' diversity is more evident here than the curator's intention.
Beyond the bounds of Lower Burnside (which yuppie interlopers have as yet failed to re-dub "LoBu"), Eastside galleries scatter out in all directions from Sandy to Sellwood and it stops being an "arts walk," per se; you have to pick and choose. Contemp-art monolith YU was closed, its arched windows dark as caves. Design collective ADX, however, glowed with excitement. In a novel exhibition titled Wood Versus Man with Chainsaw, a small crowd watched in awe as Aurora, Oregon woodworker Toby J. carved a "15-minute relief bear" inside a giant tree stump, giving the cute new cub twinkling cap nuts for eyes. But this tree wasn't even the night's biggest transformation.
Under new management since January and now ambitiously dubbed "Portland Art Gallery" (not to be confused with PAM?), the former Boom Bap space on SE 6th and Stark swelled with live cello music and brimmed with complimentary wine and cheese. White marble sculptures by artist/curator Jason Jones now adorn the entryway, smoky sepia wet-plate photos line the east wall, and tension fabric sculptures and other works by self-professed Ari Georges protégé Michael Neilson get their own room in back. For its offbeat location, the place is feeling pretty upscale. Painter Jeff Diteman, who just joined the gallery collective, confided, "I'm really excited about this place, because it has more of an angle toward craft, not just concept." (Translation? Unlike certain abstract conceits, realism isn't something you can fake). Diteman, who some may know as a former bandmember of Ah Holly Fam'ly, is showing a series of photorealistic oil portraits of other Portland musicians—Kathy Foster, Brian Mumford, et al. Hmm. Considering similar recent works by Alexander Rokoff, there seems to be a growing impulse to immortalize our local rock stars in oils. How long before all the venues become portrait galleries?