Gavin Shettler Gallery
When I'm not being an art putz at galleries with a little notepad in my back pocket, I'm a different kind of putz with a notepad--a waiter in polyester pants at a restaurant where I hope never to see any of you art people. Last Thursday night, my occupational worlds collided at Dim Sum, the latest project by the Red76 art group. The four-night art show, which featured the work of "well over 100 artists from around the world," was held at Gavin Shettler Gallery, which was transformed into a cozy bistro for the show. Upon entering, we were greeted by a host with a fake moustache, who showed us to our seats at a large round table with several other guests. "Do you know what you two would like to order this evening?" our waiter asked without batting an eye. I stammered and flipped my menu over, looking for clues on how to behave, so our waiter suggested "an assortment for the table." We were shortly presented with a sampling of artist's books and zines, as well as a portfolio of photographs by Sam Gould. After a few minutes, our waiter came back with a gray plastic bus tub to clear things away, and asked if there was anything on the menu that we cared to see. I told him that I wasn't particularly in the mood for printed matter that evening; what kind of objects did he have? He brought out a very generous and satisfying course of object entrees that were passed around among all the guests. Paige Saez's contribution was a sack of stuffed animal parts--dislocated arms and heads rolling about that viewers were invited to reconstruct, literally, with the enclosed needle and thread she provided. My favorite objet was by Chandra Bocci. An unassuming cardboard box contained a deck of cards that served as an introduction to her large-scale assemblages. Bocci thinly slices up commercial cardboard packaging from cereal boxes and cases of beer, for instance, and intricately assembles swirling masses of nests and fields from these colorful strips.
As with every meal, my favorite part was dessert. Everybody at Dim Sum put down what they were doing to see Steve McDougall's video, "Hunter Dawson"--a faux blanket audition tape for some dolt trying to get on "Road Rules, Survivor, whatever you got." Watching Dawson, who stocks those free postcards at bars and restaurants, drive around Portland while giving his philosophy of life (plenty of "Boo-ya"s!) was pound-on-the-table funny, and dead on target. When it was time to leave, I asked if I could bring one of the program/handout things home because my note-taking skills are pretty bad, and without missing a beat, my waiter told me "I'm sorry sir, but we don't have any to-go menus at this time." It was a perfect reply and topped off a great experiment that kept me actively engaged in art for nearly a full hour. And excellent service, to boot. CHAS BOWIE
As part of last week's PDX Film Fest, Vanessa Renwick and Bill Daniel organized "Beamsplitters," an exhibition of installation works incorporating projected imagery. Impressively occupying the cavernous Machineworks warehouse, Beamsplitters featured seven diverse installations, including a piece by none other than Tony Oursler himself. Oursler may be the contemporary spiritual godfather of the group, as he revitalized the sculptural aspects of video projection in the '80s and '90s, with psychologically loaded eyeballs and human faces projected onto spheres and life-size puppets. One of his signature eyeball pieces lent a definite authority to the show.
Another standout was Bill Daniel's "The Girl on the Train in the Moon," a two-screen meditation on tramps, freedom, travel, and trainhopping. The piece was set up like a hobo camp, except that viewers were huddled around a flickering screen rather than a warm fire. Another round screen hung in the air like a distant moon. Thad Povey won a lot of hearts with "Wrapped Around the Screw," a collection of glass bottles with footage of ships at sea projected into each one. There was a great psychedelic floor-to-ceiling piece by Philys Cooper, in which a semi-sphere was placed on the ground, and videos of spinning lights and bouncing needle charts appeared to spin the piece out of control. Above it was a dangling collection of large, wafer-like screens that swayed so that images slipped by and never stayed long enough to be fully realized. I felt like the work at this show was easily good enough to be exhibited at PICA or any other "serious" art venue, but seeing this selection of quiet, intense art in a dank, cold warehouse on a rainy night was a perfectly somber and moving experience. CHAS BOWIE