SURELY YOU'VE HAD some unpredictable friends and strange neighbors. Undoubtedly you've stood at the doors of their dorms, studios, or crime lairs, uncertain what you'd find on the other side. Well, sometimes gallery-going is more fun when you think of it like this: just going around, seeing what the neighbors are up to.
If the Elizabeth Leach Gallery (417 NW 9th) were, say, a crumbling bungalow, Ann Hamilton might usher you into A Reading looking sleepless and absently sporting one brown paper glove. "I've organized my books!" she'd say, meaning she's sliced paperbacks into chunks and collaged those into clusters. "I've mapped all the concepts!" she'd crow over circular diagrams where a few discernible words (truth, beauty, Jesus) hem a scribbly middle. Hundreds of lines of text are re-typeset on a scroll, vertically aligning the word "the" all the way down. THE! Think about it.
If Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen's A Series of Rectangles were in a brick tenement instead of PDX Contemporary (925 NW Flanders), a scroll similar to Hamilton's but made of towels would tumble out a third-story window into a dumpster below, announcing "WE ALREADY QUIT." A nearby brick pile reads, "Double negatives have a blunt allure." As they buzz you in, the pair says, "Watch your step; we're organizing our stuff." On a clean white surface are carefully arranged garden tools, fruits, a toy clown, even knives and guns. They've taken snapshots of everything and made some pencil drawings, noting all metaphors for their records.
In the adjacent space, Tad Savinar calls, "Wanna see my bronzes?" On a row of narrow, ornate white shelves, he's got a tiny tree perched on a life-sized spoon; a crowd of miniature people tied together by real-scale rope; and a wee segment of the Steel Bridge being doused in bronze liquid from a bronze bucket. He's also got architectural models and watercolors. Across the hall at Upfor, arcade sounds scream through the room as three random grownups and a kid operate control stations at MSHR's Liquid Hand, a floor-level layout of flashing light sticks, driftwood chunks, and arabesque calligraphy cutouts.
PNCA's Feldman Gallery (1241 NW Johnson) could be a row of studios, each door ajar to show a tilted drafting table and crumpled doodles on the floor. Walking by, you snoop on Ross MacDonald's naïve comicbook style on graph paper; John Hersey's cyclop-topuses; Catherine Lazure's fabric folk-art; Marcellus Hall's emails haggling with magazine editors; Philippe Lardy's tropical retro acrylics; Jack A. Molloy's intricate insects; Bill Russell's woodcut-esque inks; Vivienne Flesher's distressingly adolescent "Lolita" drawing; and Ward Schumaker's gestural body graphics.
Hang on... where are those bumping beats and bellowed insults coming from? It's Rob Walmart, a guerilla band/beat poetry provocation by poet Tom Blood in a white step van parked out front. "Liz Leach! Kristan Kennedy!" Blood yells as masked cohorts play cowbell, synth, and horn. "All the heavies! All the heads!" Somebody call the block captain; shit's about to go down.