The sweet smells of spray fixative and kind bud are in the air again, signaling the matriculation of local art students. One semesterly art school ritual involves convincing your friends that most grandmas and hobos are sexier than your life-drawing models, and another is turning in the inevitable one-page report on whatever show is in the school gallery. PSU students will undoubtedly have the easiest time on this assignment, as artist/huckster Jeff Jahn has turned up all over Portland, shilling the group show Play. Jahn curated this show and included his own work in it, which is about as tacky as throwing yourself a surprise birthday party. Therefore, this article is going out to the students at Oregon College of Arts & Crafts and Reed College. Consider this your cheat sheet:
Film Show at Reed presents a small sampling of ethnically diverse artwork inspired by movie culture. This is the kind of work your art history profs will love, as the show is chock full of theory, and low on sizzle. There's Annu Matthew, who makes fake Bollywood posters critiquing traditional women's roles, and Guillermo Gomez-Peña, who does his usual constructed-cultural-identity-exploitation-satire with horribly low-production videos. The only fun points come from Les Leveque's "Double Spellbound," in which the Hitchcock film is sped up to seven-and-a-half minutes (compare with Douglas Gordon's "24 Hour Psycho" for extra credit); and from Yasumasa Morimura, the diminutive Japanese artist who dresses as his favorite Hollywood glamour queens. The phrases "queer theory," "global media culture," and the word "self" (in quotes, always), should get you through your assignment beautifully.
OCAC serves more of a grab-bag with a show from its thirteen artists-in-residence. Libby Rowe's unbound cloth book covers a lot of territory about sexual politics, media, and visual display (I'm feeding you lines here, kids). Cursive lettering offers a kindergarten-level discussion on the birds and bees, and the facing pages display clinical diagrams of uteruses and spermatozoa. Look closely at the background, though, and you'll see that it's footage from hardcore porn videos. Dana Roth takes gentle swipes at consumer culture with her dresses that flicker with plastic cutouts of Nike swooshes and McDonald's arches. Not terribly original, but well executed. I enjoyed Kathryn Marks' mutilated books that are only crumbling shells of what they once were. Inside the back cover are blood vessels, cells, and synapses in delicate intaglio.
Both shows represent their home institutions well--the tight-lipped academic approach at Reed versus the loose, summer camp-y work at OCAC--but one thread binds them together. Freshmen are going to have to file through the galleries together, taking notes in their sketchpads, trying to figure out the proper academic way to say "this work sucks because..." CHAS BOWIE
The A-B-Cs of PDX DIY A-R-T
In Alphabet Frenzy, a bevy of artists were given a letter of the alphabet to illustrate, leading to 26 unique interpretations. Even though some of it might not be the most professionally executed, it's a testament to how creative these people are--the LIFE and excitement in this show is palpable. Bwana Spoons got "O": "'O' is for Octopus/Off the Wall," it's a quirky, pop-art painting (yet not overly trendy or J-Pop cribbing) of an octopus skateboarder gleaming a poolside. "Z is for Zebra" shows the talent of comic artist/painter Christine Shields, and her sweet, elementary school-style pastel of a zebra. Edith Abeyta's "G is for 28 Gs" is a mobile sculpture of pages from the dictionary, cut up and hanging in waxed squares. Mercury art director Jen Davison's screenprint, "Q is for Quinine," (pictured) scares me, with its faceless, esoteric interpretation of the most mysterious letter. With differing mediums and a heavy underground culture influence, this show represents the craftier soul of the Portland art world. JULIANNE SHEPHERD