HOW ABOUT WE PLAY A GAME at PNCA? Every time you see neon colors, equilateral triangles, or mountains/volcanoes, you can either take a drink, eat a cube of gouda, or punch me. Actually, the surgeon general forbids this game; it's too hazardous to our health. Better just hit the highlights:
Photographer Nica Aquino's debut solo exhibition puts a blurry black-and-white mirror to our city that, though recently shot, seems to predate the yuppie invasion. Aquino's gritty perspective is as socioeconomic as it is visual, and her flagship image of an Ethiopian family in Gresham would read like a snapshot if it didn't explore a unique area of interest and access. Similarly civics-first is Critical Art Ensemble's "Acceptable Losses," a giant info-graphic about US suicide rates that sprawls across the walls of the Feldman Gallery. The simple black text on white cardstock makes an impact merely with messages like "Suicide is the leading cause of death by injury in the United States."
Wyatt Benoit's "La Moustache" dresses a nude, shaved pudendum in a series of rigid, bristly, mustache-shaped merkins, effectively turning a woman's bush into a poser's thorny topiary. Beyond mere shock and novelty, this unflinching series has broader applications about privacy, creativity, and wildness giving way to presentation and premeditation. (Hooray or boo-hoo for the overgroomed hoo-hoo and all that it metaphorically implies?) Meanwhile in the MFA Gallery, Stephanie Brachmann's "Gather" is born from an unusual craft process: rolling multiple fabrics together into cylinders, stuffing them into a pant-leg or shirt-sleeve, severing a garment's limbs, then bundling the stumps to show off their clean-cut, multicolored ends. It's like soft-sculpture sushi-making, or a bloodless chainsaw massacre. And many of the colors are neon. (Okay, you can punch me once, then let's go.)
It's somewhat boring to look at a series of near-identical close-up photos of window blinds (PDX Contemporary), but it's more extraordinary that somewhere in Portland, Evan La Londe apparently lives in the giant camera-obscura in which these simple images are captured. This neo-Quasimodo's devotion to a giant mechanism may be the real art project here, rather than the samey, shadowy images his process produces.
Pulling together wayward threads of mechanism, humanism, and norm-challenging nudity, the Museum of Contemporary Craft features David Eckard's dubiously-usable machine/sculptures and a video of the artist wearing nothing but a loincloth on his bits and a set of shelves at his hips, spouting beat-poetry about his survivor guilt over fallen brethren from Chicago social-justice movements. "I may not deserve this; the work wasn't done," says the wistful metalworker, chafing under his mortal coil.