AFTER SPENDING NINE YEARS in Portland refining his curatorial eye, Mike McGonigal is leaving for the post-industrial pastures of Detroit, and he's taking YETI magazine with him.
Specializing in the rare and unclassifiable, an issue of YETI might include an interview with African American sci-fi pioneer Octavia Butler, a conversation between authors Kevin Sampsell and Sam Lipsyte, a nonfiction account of the 1980s New York City open-mic hotspot ABC No Rio, and so on. Each issue includes a music compilation ranging from K Records opiatic campfire folk to indie-rock touchstones, all-but-forgotten experimental and punk acts to rare and unreleased gospel recordings. Like I said: unclassifiable.
"I've never had much time for either people who think there's much of an actual line between high- and low-brow art, or genre purists who argue that nirvana can only be achieved through a strict adherence to certain unwavering if unwritten rules," writes McGonigal, addressing the sort of counterculture buckshot that's come out of YETI over the years.
Before McGonigal leaves Portland, he's firing one last salvo across the bow: Uncontrollable Urge, a retrospective of 30-plus artists who've contributed to the pages of YETI, hosted and co-curated by the Portland Museum of Modern Art (located in the basement of Mississippi Records).
Like the magazine, Uncontrollable Urge evades classification, though the terms "outsider art" and "folk art" seem like a decent place to start. Take, for example, contributing artists such as the Philadelphia Wireman, or sculptor Lonnie Holley.
The Philadelphia Wireman is an anonymous artist whose work was discovered abandoned outside a Philadelphia home in 1982. About 1,200 individual sculptures are attributed to the name, all of which are composed of found objects wrapped in tumbleweed-like cocoons of wire. While Lonnie Holley's identity is well known, he shares in the outsider, assemblage-art tradition: His sculptures and wall-based works can appear like elementals forming from industrial refuse—human-like shapes emerge from broken electronic devices and bizarre bouquets of cabling and raw wire.
But it's not all underdog and outsider stories in Uncontrollable Urge. You can expect work from deceased jack-of-all-mediums Bruce Conner, Brooklyn's fantastic psychedelic painter Fred Tomaselli, crazy-ass Parisian illustrative duo Hippolyte Hentgen (seriously, Google them), plus a sizable handful of Portland-based artists like Eric Mast, Jen Olesen, Ilyas Ahmed, and others.
For a show that isn't yet up at the time of this writing, I feel very confident in saying, "Check that shit out." And if you do, make sure to thank Mr. McGonigal for being a total cultural badass, and wish him and YETI a smooth transition to their new home in Detroit.