This curatorial mission leads to a fun game for museum-goers where you fill in the blank, "This piece was selected as being uniquely West Coast becauseÉ" The game is easier than you think, but why not brush up beforehand with this helpful study guide? To look intelligent, remember to say, "This is obviously in here becauseÉ"
"É.it's about wannabe stardom, rock-star culture, and celebrity worship." You can say this in front of Tim Lee's video where he raps all three Beastie Boys parts, Michele O'Mara's reenactment of a 1970 Liz Taylor interview, Trisha Donnelly's friends doing rock-star poses on a trampoline, Althea Thauberger's pre-teen girls in their own music videos, and Stephen Shearer's collage of thousands of men posing with guitars that he culled from the internet.
"Éit deals with border issues, marginalization, and multiculturalism." Brian Jungen's Native American-influenced masks that he crafts from Air Jordans are an obvious inclusion in this category. Others include the boring photos of Tijuana social climbers, Ken Lum's chilling signs from minority-owned businesses, and the Torolab Urban Survival Lab outfit for fashionable norteños.
"Éit's all about man encroaching on the wilderness, dude." Portlander Michael Brophy's clear-cutting vistas get a nod here, and the same goes for Kota Ezawa's digital animation of suburbia, Liz Magor's fantastic tree trunk/homeless shelter, and Mark Mumford's photo mural admonishing the ocean to "hold still."
Most of the other pieces fall under "hippie-dippie community stuff and idealism" or "general media culture." When visiting Baja to Vancouver, try not to be a total smart-ass, though, because most of the work is lively and engaging, even if much of it does overlap thematically. The buzz on opening weekend was that Portland is the place to be, so be respectful in front of the artists representing Stumptown: Michael Brophy; Matt McCormick and his Subliminal Art of Graffiti Removal, and Learning to Love You More; the collaboration between Harrell Fletcher, Miranda July, and the rest of the world via Internet. And just remember, if you get to a piece in the show that you can't sum up in front of your friends, just chuckle softly and say, "That is so West Coast." CHAS BOWIE
When I first moved to the Northwest, I briefly fell under the lure of Bigfoot Romanticism. I rented documentaries, read about sightings, and entertained the idea of going undercover with an elite, un-ironic team of Sasquatch seekers. Little did I know at the time that here in Portland, Bruce Conkle was imagining himself as the Hairy One and envisioning how he would decorate his hibernation chill pad. Sasquatch Feng Shui, a lighthearted installation at the Portland Building, reveals Conkle's vision of Bigfoot's living room.
A chair and ottoman sit facing a cheesy diorama of snowy mountains and fir trees where the fireplace would normally go. A stuffed bear's head is mounted above the mantle--not a real taxidermy grizzly, but one of the stuffed animal/mascot variety. Conkle's terrific bearskin rug, which was seen in last year's Play at PSU, is here, but due to space constraints, had to be spread out on the wall. Like the mounted head, it's another cartoony, non-threatening play on the traditional bearskin rug. An atrocious revolving chandelier tops off the installation, punctuated with stuffed squirrels made from sweat socks and fake logs that look like tubular bear crap. It includes a howling albino monkey with a pierced tongue and would look fantastic in any living room in Portland. As a whole, though, the show itself is rather unfulfilling. When artists enter the arena of set design, they're stepping into a mass media venue typically dominated by teams of production assistants and mega bucks. After the eye-popping interiors of Pee Wee's Playhouse, or even the crude animatronics of Chuck E. Cheese, lesser efforts conjure associations of community theater, or even worse, high school dances. CHAS BOWIE