We typically don't review art shows that hang in coffee shops, boutiques, or bars. It's not because we think art has to be validated by Pearl District spaces where the employees look at you dirty if you try to peek at what's hanging in the back office. It's only because coffee shops, boutiques, and bars almost never throw exhibitions as fresh and exciting as Maximum Warriors, which hangs all month at Yes, a trendy clothing store on E Burnside.
Someone asked me what Maximum Warriors was like, and the most succinct answer was, "You know what E*Rock's drawings look like? It's eight artists doing work like that." That's a positively reductivist answer, but it's apt, and the curator took flagrant steps to create a show where all the works gel together into one hyperkinetic, psycho-chromatic whole.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. "What do E*Rock's drawings, and by extension, the rest of these drawings look like?" you might be asking. I'm glad you asked. They start with the Magic Marker and end with goopy, dizzying, and faux-juvenile throwbacks to Aerosmith, skulls with bloodshot eyes, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In between, quasi-amphetaminic obsession takes over the doodle, and tiny mazes, blobs, cloudscapes, and dripping wax buildups are rendered with incredible focus and precision. While all of the drawings revel in lighthearted silliness, most are drafted with hands tuned to the psychedelic and pulsating. There's a level of single-minded tedium in lots of the fine detail here that refers not only to outsider art, but also to loopy, squelchy electronic music.
If the show is a joy to see, it's largely because it looks like such a joy to create. Much of the work in Maximum Warriors appears to have been created for the sheer thrill of putting ink to paper. That's hardly a recipe for success, but here it pays off handily. Spotting this fledgling trend (psychekitschdoodle?) is reminiscent of seeing some of the Mission District renaissance pieces for the first time, or stumbling into the Fresh Up Club's room at the Affair at the Jupiter Hotel a few years ago. This work will be scooped up by "real" art galleries soon enough, but why wait until then to discover it? CHAS BOWIE