PNCA, 1241 NW Johnson, 226-4391
Looking for good art this week? I know I am, and there actually seems to be a lot of it going around. For the hard-to-please viewer, check out After, the PNCA alumni exhibit. This show speaks volumes about the high caliber of artists who pass through PNCA. I don't envy curator Nan Curtis's position one bit--all throughout the opening I heard the names of people who "should" have been in the show. No doubt there was more than one alumnus who wasn't included and showed up to sneer at some old schoolmate's piece. They'd have a hard argument to make with me, though, because this show had some exceptionally strong, varied pieces to offer.
The roster was a mix of artists whose work I had seen plenty of, and a good lot who were new to me. The first is Rachel Denny, whose work I know from Mark Woolley Gallery. She works with photography and sculptural assemblage to create intimate works of longing and loss. Pieces of hers may include found photographs, silicone-filled boxes, dead flowers, unmailed letters, or a ladies' formal glove. It was also nice to revisit Erinn Kennedy's work. Her flat-toned, minimally mod paintings of beads looked great this summer at Pulliam Deffenbaugh, and their kitschy abstract geometry contain just enough adolescent narrative to keep it from being totally saccharine. Erik Stoik's untitled accordion fold book is an unbelievably well drafted scene of the apocalypse that I haven't been able to shake. The dead bodies, lynchings, animal corpses, and burning buildings were presented either in a distant background, or a hard, claustrophobic foreground that left little breathing room for the viewer. Also eerily effective was Vicki Wilson's corner installation of a life-sized plaster woman whose tensed hands belied the predicament she was in. On her head, clutching a fistful of her hair was a snarling squirrel, fighting off a swarm of giant insects descending from the ceiling. The artist's use of bubblegum blue and green Astroturf only elevated the piece's surrealness.
And speaking of surreal-- I've got to give it up for my new favorite artist of the month: Paul Green! Not too often does a piece of art elicit a "Holy Shit," then laughter, then an "Oh my God," but that's the precise effect his three paintings had on me. First off, this guy can paint you and I under the table. He can render flowers, skin, far-off villages, and gestures with uncanny precision, and he uses these skills to produce over-the-top freaky images. In "Chapter XII: Catalina," this large man reclines against a cliff, with flower petals strewn across his leg. He gazes into the eyes of a topless woman who returns his affection. She strokes his boner while he caresses her muskrat tail! In another painting, a man with the face of David Bowie and the legs of a mule guides the arm of a nude young boy who is drawing a uterus in the dirt with a pointed walking stick. What else can I say? Go see these paintings. Go see the whole show. If there's not something there you like, then you've got problems. CHAS BOWIE
Blue Sky, 1231 NW Hoyt, 225-0210
We know there's a lot of crap out there, and a lot of plastic, and a lot of junk food, and god-awful decorations, and hideous ways of trimming shrubs and selling cheap products, but sometimes, sometimes when I'm least aware of it, I can truly love these blots on the landscape. The wood-paneled relics of the late 20th Century were just too omnipresent for me to write off entirely. Kevin Wildermuth's photogrids at Blue Sky remind me of this again and again. Wildermuth digitally squares up 32 of his snapshots per piece of art--they are made up of grab shots of water fountains, French fries, neckties, flip flops, and gumballs. His eye is drawn to the comically banal, the unnatural colors of display and sales, and the simply absurd. Looking at Wildermuth's photographs is like taking a tour of a foreign planet--the jumbles and jumbles of information can be overwhelming. On top of that, I think Wildermuth, who lives in Seattle, does something funny to his colors in Photoshop, because from across a room, these things pop out like spilled Sno-cones, but up close, everything looks suspiciously normal. Some of this ground has been tread before, by David Byrne most notably, and to a lesser extent Martin Parr, but I'm a sucker for it, and I think that's real good company to keep. If someone were to ask me what America looked like at the turn of the millennium, I can't think of any photographs that would better illustrate how delightfully and gruesomely grand we were. CHAS BOWIE