Curiously enough, cover songs are pretty much verboten in the art world. (Actually, that's not entirely true. Yasumasa Morimura created an entire career by meticulously recasting himself in iconic artworks by Cindy Sherman and Frida Kahlo, but that was more of an academic postmodern requisite that somebody had to do so we could close the door on the 20th century. Then, about 10 years ago, aging L.A. badasses Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley recreated several of Vito Acconci's legendary 1970s performances, hamming them up with professional actors and cheesy Hollywood conceits.) By and large, the role of the artist is assumed to be Creator and Innovator--even though derivativeness is as commonplace as cheap wine at receptions. But at some point the Art Mafia decided that cover songs are no-nos, and that was it.

And this is right where Brad Adkins picks up the conversation. As part of PICA's 10-year anniversary show, Landmark, Adkins decided to recreate a piece that Belgian artist Francis Alys performed in Portland seven years ago. For an early PICA-curated show that was held at PNCA, Alys exhibited, in classical, Conceptualist fashion, a few empty paintcans. They were reliquaries of private performances the artist had previously embarked on--solitary walks through the then-desolate Pearl District with a punctured paint can dripping a Hansel and Gretel-like colored trail of his route.

So Brad decided he'd re-do the performance. (It's easy to understand why. The piece's whimsical, concept-driven nature is right up Adkins' alley.) Last Saturday, however, the Portland artist's re-performance found about 25 people--mostly a flock of art students who happened by--walking the boutique- and condo-lined streets of the Pearl District with Adkins as their ultra-passive shepherd. Brad didn't even handle the paint can himself, letting other participants determine the route and share the yellow enamel paint-dripping duties. The whole thing lasted about 15 minutes--a few blocks here and there, a tiny drizzle of paint marking the path, as well as a few pairs of sneakers.

Adkins' and Alys' pieces could hardly have been more different. In the '90s version, viewers were left entirely to imagine the artist's walk or hunt down the residual path of his street-painting. In Adkins' spin-off, the conceptual became an experiential community gathering, a casual saunter with artistic undertones, leaving behind only post-graffiti urban paintings and questions about the nature of cover songs.

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