116 NE Russell, 335-6979
Through Jan 31
With the group print exhibit Five, Disjecta Gallery proprietors continue with their self-appointed mission of presenting artists who operate on the fringes of the Portland scene. Five printmakers: Alex Lilly, Edward King, Cheyenne Sawyer, Steven A. Orlando, and Amy Donelly display recent work. The exhibit is a veritable hodgepodge of artistic intent and printing processes. This circumstance of variety is distracting at points, but there are a few pockets of intrigue to keep the viewer focused.
Alex Lilly leads the pack with a set of Intaglio prints that dig into the nitty gritty of local politics. Lilly initiates a lively discourse by capitalizing on the graphic and symbolic weight of images depicting cops in riot gear. Of course, tackling such subject matter could very easily result in didactic drivel. Yet, Lilly maintains a fine line here, leaving enough breathing room for the viewer. He articulates a band of soot-colored silhouettes. The faceless officers are captured in a variety of action poses, often joined by a firearm sidekick.
The imagery is straightforward, and though his work is technically sound, Lilly reveals himself as more activist than artist. It is this approach that makes his work most authentic and compelling. In addition, Lilly's presentation devices aid his intentions. The frames are constructed from scrap angle-iron, held together with just a breath of spot welding. The plexiglass is scratched and weathered and therefore, does less to protect the imagery than to add to it. Lilly's faceless thugs are given somewhat of an identity or context with the addition of text at the bottom of each print, graphite titles like "White Nights, First Thursday in NE Portland" or "Gentrify NE Portland; Show art."
In a sense, Lilly's work would be better served outside of the gallery forum, in a more expansive, public setting. Within the confines of an art exhibit, Lilly is really preaching to the converted. A strategically placed set of posters in portions of Northeast would add volume to an already loud voice.
The other artists included in Five are far less confrontational, which is a bit of a let down. Cheyenne Sawyer presents a small selection of inkjet prints that work more to advertise the artist's vocation as a tattoo artist than accomplish a conceptual goal. Sawyer's scrapbook of prints reveal his penchant for the usual rock 'n' roll, tattoo imagery--burning wheels, flaming hearts, skulls, etc. Sawyer does break out of this formula a bit with the inclusion of a large, inkjet print on canvas. Against a muddy, dirt-brown background, Sawyer renders a trio of yellow rose buds. The overt sweetness and romanticism of this imagery offers an unfortunately banal backdrop for the exhibit.
Next to the Sawyer's saccharine sweetness, Steven A. Orlando displays a series of Intaglio prints that work to tell the story of a dilapidated, Portland riverscape. Prints titled "Sunken Ship" and "Deterioration" illuminate a tired shoreline. While the technical aspects of Orlando's work is solid, the imagery does little more than produce a sort of melancholic sigh.