The first Thursday of spring has come and gone again, bringing with it a shower of blossoming trees, a balmy Portland evening, a plethora of outstanding local art and a reunion of the vapidly hip on their native ground, the Pearl District. Maybe we should look into making the Pearl a reservation, rounding up all the assholes stupid enough to pay $500 for a pair of shoes, relocating them into the prefab-loft-hell they so aspire to. They could open casinos to pay for all those Kate Spade handbags and Giorgio Armani cell phone cases. But alas, where would we go to see all the pretty pictures?
Overheard at Motel Gallery, N.W. 5th Ave. and Couch:
What kind of name is Bwana?
It’s his name.
Bwana I’m gonna, me wanna a Sauna.
Jesus, shut up!
I don’t know if I can get enough of Bwana Spoons. And fortunately he’s not going to let me. The local, yet internationally renowned, illustrator, cartoonist, fine artist, zinester, curator, toy maker and Micronaut collector struck again this week in a collaborative instillation with Flower Frankenstein.
Bwana, who curated last month’s Plushtastrophe show at the Basil Howard Gallery, embraces his bird love with this show, moving his work into a sculptural realm with great success. Flower Frankenstein, who I believe is the same Flower Frankenstein who created the brilliant Bikini Cat character, adds a sense of whimsy with what can best be described as droplets.
Bwana is one of those artists that make me so happy; his work radiates a sense of joy missing from the self-conscious works of the majority of his contemporaries. His embrace of the lowbrow, through illustration, toys and fart jokes complements the sophisticated line work, composition and emotional depth of his work.
Over heard at Blue Sky Gallery, 1231 N.W. Hoyt:
Everything in here is black and white.
The images are great but I bet they’d be greater in color.
As a general rule, I’m vehemently opposed to figure photography. From bad Man Ray knockoffs to incidental photo journalism of third world countries to hipster snapshot bullshit (Ryan McGinley, you can burn in hell, you overrated Larry Clark-looking snot! You can’t even work a camera!) – it all just rubs me the wrong way.
And at first glance, Harvey Stein’s photos of Mexico seemed par for the course, but on closer evaluation, his textural works are less about the subject and more about the connectedness of the elements of his landscape. The people in his photos seem almost incidental, another surface in and among the city he’s shooting. His work is very subtle without feeling nostalgic or precious.
Catherine Angel, on the other hand, whose decade and a half project of photographing her daughters is wrought with both nostalgia and preciousness, calls it a precious nostalgia. Her work is toughed as exploring motherhood and youth, and would be better suited to someone’s scrapbook. Her style runs the gambit of things I loathe: from aforementioned Man Ray inspired “abstract portrait” to the aforementioned, and totally unforgivable, snapshot.
To all you photographers, take those snapshots and go to Wal-Mart and buy yourself a pretty book to keep them in. Put the book on a very high shelf and if you ever have the urge to put them in a gallery hit yourself very hard in the head.
Overheard at Lovelake Gallery, 1720 N.W. 18th:
I want to touch them, they’re so textural.
I don’t think they want you touching the paintings.
I didn’t mean really touch them, just figuratively touch them.
Lovelake starts it’s spring season with paintings by Astoria artist Darren Orange. His show, titled “Terra Incognita,” feels like core samples of Robert Rauschenberg’s work from the ’50s put under a microscope and magnified hundreds of times.
Orange uses nontraditional materials like tar and shellac to create landscapes nostalgic of our own Northwestern industrial history. The materials are rescued from landfill, a supposed comment on the delicate balance between man and nature here in the Northwest, one that is constantly being tested. Beyond their ideology, the works stand alone as beautiful, abstract pieces, emotive and rich in color and texture. I almost wish I knew nothing about the artist’s intent; knowing the political agenda is almost detrimental to the overall effect of such an aesthetically tangible show.