Visual Review 

First Thursday approaches, and by the looks of it, there's something out there for both the little angel on your left shoulder and the devil on your right. A few exhibitions opening this month promise to cater to your intellectual, ascetic side, and another group looks to serve your ignoble impulses.

To begin with the more distinguished activities, head to the empty lot at the corner of SW Third and Taylor to check out Charles Goldman's E-Z Maze (Right Angle), a temporary public sculpture sponsored by heavyweights PICA and RACC. From the looks of his web site, Goldman has done a lot of quirky and tender projects, such as Mixtapes, in which he photographs the spinning vinyl of songs he would record for a friend, and gives them a "photo" of the mix tape rather than a cassette, and Portrait Project, where he asks strangers on the street to draw his portrait, then displays the results in the same city. It's hard to guess, though, where the fun or magic lies in E-Z Maze--a chainlink fence and perma-hedge corridor that "provides all of the benefit of your basic labyrinth--without all of the hassle." Maybe in person this one corner, open-air hallway has the sublime effect of walking through a Serra or seeing a Christo in situ, but I think the point is that it doesn't, so I wonder where the payoff lies.

I have the same question about Talking it Through, the new show by Charm Bracelet's Christopher Buckingham that opens at the Basil Hallward Gallery (aka Powell's). Talking it Through consists of over 100 coffee cups collected by the artist's mother over the years. This has all the trappings of kitschy, readymade cuteness, which is sometimes good for a few chuckles, but rarely anything else. Evidently the artist's mother has some stories to tell about her collection, which could either be the show's saving grace or the equivalent of listening to your mother-in-law explain how every single ornament on the Christmas tree came into her life.

If you check these shows out and have had your daily dose of post-minimalist, pre-fab conceptualism, and you're like me, you're ready to get your freak on. And there are some shows that have got you covered there as well. Erotic Neurotic, opening at the Black Crow Gallery features the work of fourteen members of the Oregon Women's Caucus for Art. The press release for the show suggests four leads for a feature story on the show. See if you can guess which one prompted me to preview the exhibit. Was it:

a) profiles of the artists involved, and thematic issues dealt with in "Erotic Neurotic"

b) how the caucus has nurtured new artists and provided seminars and workshops

c) how the OWCA has grown steadily over the past two years, or

d) the decision to have Sasha, an exotic dancer, perform at the show's opening on February 6!

The tricky part is appearing interested in all four pressing concerns during the opening reception.

And finally, for you real pervs out there, check out the Erotic Surrealist Art of Partick Finney at Gallery Bink, Portland's number one lowbrow-and-proud-of-it gallery. First off, I don't think the work is particularly erotic or surrealist, although plenty other adjectives would apply, like apocalyptic, juvenile, sexual, and comedic. Finney is a printmaker and an incredible draftsman whose prints always seem to feature at least one or two big dicks, usually attached to policemen, truck drivers, or infants in baby carriages. Some of his scenes of urban sexual chaos would make R. Crumb blush, but their strength lies in the artist's fastidious attention to detail, amazing rendering capabilities, and most of all his sense of composition. It's not unusual to see the narratives in these hellish fantasies unfold in the reflection from a pair of Ray Bans or the backseat of a moving vehicle. This show is definitely not for the easily offended or faint of heart, but it looks like one of the most arresting bodies of work I've seen from the "born to be lowbrow" camp. CHAS BOWIE

E-Z Maze (Right Angle) by Charles Goldman--SW Third & Taylor, through Spring 2003

Talking it Through by Christopher Buckingham at Basil Hayward Gallery, Powell's 1005 W Burnside, Feb 6-28

Erotic Neurotic at Black Crow Gallery, 2368 NW Thurman, Feb 6-Mar 4

The Erotic Surrealist Art of Patrick Finney at Gallery Bink 1416 E Burnside, Feb 1-28

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