"Hi. My name is Paige Powell. I sell ads for Interview. Call me: 971-279-7110." So reads text haphazardly stickered inside a white box lined floor-to-ceiling with photographs. Eighties music provides a backbeat to a collection of color and black-and-white images of that era's stars of the New York art scene, with only a sheet of plastic keeping you from scuffing Jean-Michel Basquiat's face with an untoward sneaker.

An untoward sneaker over Paige Powells photographs.
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  • An untoward sneaker over Paige Powell's photographs.

Paige Powell's The Ride, up now at the Portland Art Museum, is a show that gleefully breaks those rules religiously observed by stuffier exhibitions. You really can stand on Basquiat, Keith Haring, et al., though it will probably make you feel weird and intrusive to do so. Meanwhile, there's a disco ball and a strip of neon in lieu of crown molding on the ceiling. Across the room, the same repeated image of Basquiat watching TV takes up an entire wall, the repetition suggestive of an overgrown contact sheet. Single-channel digital projections fill the photographed TV screens with Powell's video work, featuring the likes of Haring and Andy Warhol.

Taken as a whole, the setup's effect is something like a jewel-box writ huge, the collaged walls of a teenage bedroom designed by a grown woman taking a backward glance—which is, in a sense, exactly what it is. Originally from Oregon, Powell left the Northwest for New York in 1980, and began a career at Interview magazine, where she eventually became associate publisher, befriended Warhol, dated Basquiat, and toted a camera through the New York art world, first documenting it in stills, and then becoming an early adopter of video.