When the galleries aren't hitting, we need to find our visual treats wherever we can, whether it's on the nudie end of Sauvie Island or in those strange and beautiful photographs behind the counter at a neighborhood Thai restaurant. When the end of the month rolls around, it can be tough to quench our aesthetic thirst at the traditional art galleries, which means it's time to start snooping out other walls. Bumming around this week turned up a great group exhibition at Medusa Tattoo, where the Four Horsemen are currently showing.
No, not Ric Flair's Four Horsemen, but a group of misfit illustrators and painters who obviously watch too much Cartoon Network, disdain brushy paintwork, and are obsessed with mutants, robots, and candy colors. Bwana Spoons steals the show in about one hundred different ways, starting with the originality of his imagery (cube-headed loggers, paraplegic skateboarding Cyclopes), to his wicked, abstract backgrounds that reference almost every single trend in contemporary abstraction. "Defeated Beetle in Flight," an entirely successful multi-paneled, cruciform painting, witnesses a hummingbird airlifting a bandaged beetle to safety on a tightly controlled Art-Deco field. Martin Ontiveros is also one hell of an illustrator and painter, with even more of a narrative slant. His robo-dramas are astonishingly brush mark-free tales of robots battling something called the pink asparagus virus. I can't say that I care about his robots, but they are painted so damn well that I can't help but stare. Guy Burwell and Kevin Scalzo are also both pretty good illustrators, but they get completely smoked by Spoons and Ontiveros in this show. Burwell's round, heroic head shots of beaming space boys and girls are slick but not entirely satisfying, and Scalzo uses a lot of pinks and browns to paint hydrocephalic-but-cute characters that fade into the background of the exhibition. Overall, though, this show is a ton of fun and features high-quality samples of "lowbrow" art subjects. Check out this show and Paper, Scissors... ROCK at PNCA in one afternoon and then tell me you didn't enjoy yourself. I dare you. CHAS BOWIE
Confidence Gregory Grenon Laura Russo Gallery, 805 NW 21st Ave 226-2754
It seems probable that once you can start charging $12,000 a painting (and you are still alive), you take less artistic chances than you would if your living didn't depend on it. This is not an argument for the "STARVING ARTIST" archetype in any way, shape, or form--all people deserve to make a living wage from their chosen professions--but if I were to take a guess, most people dropping twelve g's on something for their loft space don't buy art that will make them uncomfortable.
I can't say for sure, but this is perhaps one reason why noted local artist Gregory Grenon's recent works come up a sliver short on the "challenge me" scale. In Confidence, the former printmaker demonstrates his continued affinity for painting women on glass and Plexiglas, which gives the images a cakey, yet smoky effect. Grenon's women are always uncommon and a little awkward, painted with sneers or lopsided frowns, asymmetrical eyes, messy skin--he presents like a fine-art Lynda Barry. The prevailing theme of Confidence is just that: women who stare out from their frames with a modicum of strength. There are ballerinas worthy of Isadora Duncan, modern ladies with breasts exposed through their blouses, swanky chicks with defiant slouches. All are painted with reverence.
Strangely, though, they also look a little beat-up and haggard, thanks to Grenon's color choices, which include bruised yellow and a sickly green. In the most compelling painting, which has a title too long to mention here, the subject is sporting a full-on shiner. She stares out at the viewer, daring them to question her black eye, lips pursed and green eyes defiant against a blood-red backdrop. It's awesome and unsettling. Unfortunately, the majority of the show doesn't live up to this standard; while the subjects all flaunt a daring sass, many of them come off flat--which ultimately makes you question whether Grenon is accessing his darkest parts to paint these ladies who have so much to say, but are stopped just short of speaking. And, for $12,000, they'd better be telling their deepest secrets. JULIANNE SHEPHERD