F rom the design aesthetic in the pages of XLR8R magazine, to the graphics on skateboard decks, the balloonish, renegade vibe of graffiti art--the fourth element of hiphop--currently permeates pop culture more massively than ever. Naturally, this extends into the fine art world as well, though graff art has been translated to canvas since the beginning of hiphop in the late '70s Bronx. (For proof, see Wild Style, Downtown 81, and Henry Chalfant's graff film Style Wars, re-released May 1 on DVD.)
Writing "true" graffiti in Portland carries rather serious consequences if you get busted. Increasingly, however, the canvas strain of graff art has been showing up in Portland. Not so much in the galleries proper, graff-influenced art has found a home in alternative venues--places frequented by people younger than your average gallery crowd, who are more likely to take graff art seriously.
For instance, Heaven (421 SW 10th) has lately had a wide range of awesome graffiti-influenced paintings and silkscreens. This month they'll feature Chris Biasi and Aden Catalani, part of the Substance Mixed Media Crew, which has been commissioned to paint murals around Oregon.
Since their inception, Compound Gallery (107 NE 5th) has supported artists with roots in graff, though in their May show, the influence isn't overt. Jeff Soto, Daniel Chang, and Ryan Jacob Smith all make colorful, sophisticated pop art with a street feel.
Across the way, the newly opened handmade goods store Motel (NW Couch between 5th and 6th) exhibits Daniel Osborne's Give Receive, which uses graffiti spraypaint techniques to make endearing, intricate stencil art of birds, bats, and chicken-ladies.
Since its opening, New American Casuals (326 SE Morrison) has been hitting the hiphop art pretty hard, with DJs from 360 Vinyl. This month, they exhibit work from writers Rick and Mad Eris.
Graff art and Japanese pop culture go hand in hand (check the rad toy store under the Compound gallery for proof). In Heather Q.'s Tell, she blends street line drawings with a rather adorable weird animal graphic. (Nocturnal, 1800 W Burnside).
Finally, Harputs (139 NW Second) exhibits Urban Refuge, Jim McGinnis' photographs. The image I've seen looks like a collage of an old-skool graff writer superimposed on a wall, and seems rather fresh. JULIANNE SHEPHERD