at the Art Gym, Marylhurst University, 17600 Pacific Hwy., through May 14
S omething wonderful happened in the American art world in the late 1950s and early '60s: humor and satire were allowed to enter the dialogue that had previously been dominated by topics such as Emmanuel Kant, the collective subconscious, and the purity of art. Pioneers like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg worked sly dada mischief into their works, which paved the way for the comic and culture-inspired movement of Pop, whose shadow we work in today. It is too easy to forget that 50 years ago, no artist could ever be taken seriously for making art about wigs or hair-care products. Key to the Koop, a collection of satirical and humorous contemporary prints from the Schnitzer collection, includes an artist whose career was built on work about African American hair-care products (Ellen Gallagher), lithographs of wigs printed softly on felt (Lorna Simpson), and yet another set of garish hand-painted linocuts lampooning women's coiffure obsession (Gene Gentry McMahon).
The ghosts of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein linger on, both directly and in homage. A joyous 1990 print from Lichtenstein is a vibrant mélange of patterns, waves, diagonal stripes, dots, and bands of color executed in signature late Lichten-style. The subject matter is Peewee, brethren of Popeye and Olive Oyl, his head thrown back in a wail that picks up where Munch left off. Enrique Chagoya picks the skeleton of Warhol with The Enlightened Savage, in which the familiar Campbell soup cans are renamed Cannibull's Soup. The flavors are now Curator's Liver, Cream of Dealer, and Art Historian Alphabet. Next, please.
Damien "Is He Still Here?" Hirst shows up with some vacant riffs on the pharmaceutical industry. Can't afford Jeff Koons' Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculpture or Inflatable Flower and Bunny? (Of course you can't). His shiny, spotless photolithos of the pieces look like the next best thing for the frugal millionaire collector. The one-man genre/industry that is William Wegman puts in a few appearances, but only the sleek Armed Chair is a knockout.
Although we feel that the Art Gym serves the Portland scene best by mounting handsome exhibitions by regional artists, if they were to continue to throw us these Henry Gallery-worthy shows of blue chip artists, we wouldn't complain a bit. CHAS BOWIE