HAS "NORMCORE" come to Portland galleries? Charles A. Hartman Fine Art hints as much this month for First Thursday with Michael Kenna's France, which, thanks to the way the works are matted and framed, goes far beyond tasteful, well into bland.
Small black-and-white squares of Parisian scenery (Eiffel Tower, parks, and landmarks) float within larger white mats and black-edged frames innocuous enough for any waiting room or office. More wide white mats undermine the watery textures and dynamic swimmers of Blue Sky's Swim by Francine Fleischer, and Corey Lunn's pensive, delicate cat and dog portraits ("Lou," "Wendy," and "Bobcat") in a worthwhile group show at PDX Contemporary. But, hey, what's in a frame? My aunt thinks a wide white mat offsets images nicely and goes with her cream-colored sofa. But I say it's a wash.
Now for all things constructed and compiled: At Augen, James Florschutz's Wedges+ makes his point(s) with salvaged-wood, wall-mounted pieces that fan out into rays from a pointy end, resembling the tip of a pencil, the end of an ice cream cone, the prow of a boat. Interspersed are rougher, less premeditated pieces of clung-together matter doused in white, plus primary-painted pieces with faux levers that imply toy-like function. But the pièce de résistance is "Monument," a four-sided scrap-wood obelisk some 12 feet high, confettied with colorful chips of scavenged formica and linoleum. What are we worshipping? Perhaps a scrappy spirit of ingenuity.
Meanwhile, at Upfor, "high-tech mystic" Brenna Murphy presents Central~Lattice Tool Array, an installation replete with her signature slick lucite lattice shapes that evoke tribal tattoos or early '90s surf graphics, embellishing pseudo-ramps and tracks in a giant proto-train set/pinball machine layout on the floor. Museum of Contemporary Craft takes a (somewhat) more pragmatic approach, continuing a long stint of ShowPDX: A Decade of Portland Furniture Design. For the last decade, a style best described by my buddy Nate as "bio-modern industrial" has clearly reigned, striving for clean lines over comfort, pining for Danish mod and insisting on equal parts metal, glass, and natural wood to maximize feng shui. It's great stuff to look at—sculptural as much as functional. But this next decade, can we lift the longstanding ban on cushions? Spoil lines to save spines.
Finally, it's hard to walk around Northwest Portland without noticing storefronts in flux and the resultant pop-ups and fly-by-nights. Last month, the former Backspace was adrift in crumpled fliers and tumbleweeds, and a nearby hole in the wall hosted a pop-up videogame. Now in the DeSoto Building, there's a gaping papered-over space begging for brief habitation. And at NW 9th and Flanders, a pop-up features Tomasz Misztal's spooky semi-deconstructed figure studies. I think I saw the ghost of Jacob Marley in there. I definitely glimpsed the specter of rapid turnover.