Basil Hallward Gallery at Powell's City of Books
1005 W Burnside St, 228-4651
Through Sept 30
With traffic from around the world and hours from 9 am through 11 pm, the Basil Hallward Gallery is one of this city's most accessible art spaces. In their first eight shows, curators Marci Macfarlane and Trent DeBord staged some remarkably indiosyncratic shows, alternating between the world-famous and the virtually unknown.
16x20 condenses this variety into a single show. 20 (actually 21, but who's counting?) local photographers were given total freedom within a limit of 16 polaroid prints. The photos run together, 4 prints high by 84 long, at eye level across the longest wall. The format invites closer inspection, since the lack of obvious breaks leaves you to discern separate artists by style and subject matter.
Mounted on the gallery's luscious wall of muted grey carpet are the familiar (Polaroid mugshots), surreal (deviled eggs double as UFOs, lots of fish, both living and frozen), sexy (a beautiful, naked, pregnant young woman), threatening (jovial, well-armed rural dimwits), and claustrophobic (a rodent-level tour through the cramped corners of someone's home). Some shots are haunting as barely recognizable details or scenes; others are reduced to blurred squares of vivid, alternating colors.
Next time you're in Powell's, visit the Pearl Room to see this striking, simple, and successful show.