Jeezum crow. I feel as though I've written more than I've seen. I attempted to write my thoughts as I went along, from gallery to gallery, in the hopes that my summarization process wouldn't take as long. No fucking luck there. Ah well...
Carcinoma Angels? Check.
Nubile strippers? Check.
Here we go.
A departure from where I normally start my gallery crawl. The Lawrence Gallery is located in the actual Pearl District, which is the birthplace of the First Thursday gatherings. Between Park and about 15th, and Couch and Lovejoy, is Portland's Pearl District. Once a warehouse district, the area was gentrified, bringing in artists and providing them with work/gallery space. You wouldn't guess it to see it now. The Lawrence exemplifies what has happened to the art in this area. And it's not pleasant.
I am immediately aware that I'm in a vastly different breed of gallery. The $5000 & up price-tags on the paintings here are my first clue. Why then am I here? For a friend. Barry Mack (painter) and I were in a course together at the university. He had mentioned via email earlier this week that he was showing at the Lawrence, and I could hardly pass up an opportunity to support his latest endeavors.
The Lawrence, now that I think about it, is laid out like a furniture showroom. The showcase pieces in the front, brand-names, broadest appeal. There's a young (attractive) woman playing classical piano on a baby grand in the middle of the first room. Judas Priest... there's even a CD rack, so that you might purchase music to look at art by. Then there's the licensed, No Minors, fully staffed wine bar in the back. This place isn't about art. It's about money. I actively search out Barry's work, so that I can get the Hell out of here.
In the secondary, smaller room, about four of Barry's pieces are hung. Plus I managed to find a few others in the overstock area. Barry's work is, to me, very abstract and wildly impressionistic. Rich in color, combining both form and intangible elements. Barry is one of the more esoteric thinkers I know, as well as one of the more accomplished artists. It's great that he's being shown, but his work seems out of place here. His pieces are such deep, soulful expressions of who he is and how he sees the world. To have such dramatic pieces hanging among such commercial pieces is a stark representation of what happens when Money becomes the driving force behind your Art.
Other than Barry's art, the best thing about the gallery is the pianist they've hired for the evening: Brittany St. Clair. Lovely pianist. Lovely woman. (www.brittanystclair.com)
To hammer the point home about this being a commercial art mall, I pass a section of the gallery devoted to paintings by cats. CATS. Fuck and This. Time to move on.
An interjection: This has got to be one of the few cities where it's just as difficult to find parking for your BICYCLE as it is your car. Judas Priest...
I'll be damned. The Kilted Man is showing at the Box. Kirk Woods, whom I met on the street last fall and who renewed my interest in First Thursday, is sitting out side the gallery being... well, being Kirk. (For more on Kirk, see "Follow the Kilted Man" from August '03.) The pieces inside are nothing I've not seen before. Functional shadowbox sculptures. Disassembled working radios reworked into collaged/mixed media shadowboxes. Which he's practically giving away. His top price on one of these pieces is $150. He explained to me that he's embarking on a new series of pieces involving large canvases and sculptural forms. His older pieces therefore need to go. All items priced to sell. Because he MUST satisfy his muse. We make a bit of small talk before I move on. He tells me to bring a portfolio by so that he can get me a show. The Universe, it seems, is telling me to move from my comfortable role of Observer to that of Do-er. Yay.
Oh good. The Fairy is back to 'edgy' art. Thank [insert deity of choice].
WOW. Now THIS is the SHIT. Chanwut Hothai, from Thailand, is Fairy's featured painter. I'm amazed and enamored. His work is like classical Asian art with modernistic edge. Chan's work is truly brilliant. Of note is "Girl in the Looking Glass", which is dedicated to his wife. While the description doesn't indicate whether or not his wife is living or dead, the haunting sadness within the painting certainly gives credence to the latter. I make a note to email the gallery owner... Stephanie? Kimberly? Fuck. I know it ends in "ee"... to find out 1) more about Chan; and 2) when she'll be showing again.
Speak of the Devil. I've just bumped into Barry Mack. I let him know I've seen his work, will be posting about on line. I'll make sure to call him next week.
Real quick entry for Zeitgeist: Art on Vinyl is this month's show. Paintings on records, from all over the globe. Something to be said for art-by-mail. Clever pop culture art. Favorite piece featured Kermit the Frog as Che Guevarra in the piece "Che Frog." Heh.
Don't think I've mentioned Compound before. Compound is the upper floor gallery-space of a Japanese toy/movie/clothing/media store called Just Be Toys in Chinatown. Tonight's show features three artists: Aya Kakeda (Brooklyn NY), Daniel Lim and Erik Sandberg (Los Angeles CA). Admittedly, I need to revisit this show. The art, in short, was awesome, but I didn't get to really take it in like I like to. While I'm looking at one of Lim's pieces and taking notes, a young Asian couple ask me what I'm doing. I explain myself as best I can, without sounding like a loon (no such luck). They say that I should write about this show, be it good or bad. Then they introduce themselves as Aya and Daniel. Oops, I think. I'm busted.
Aya excuses herself and talks with one of the show organizers. I sit and talk with Daniel about the show, where he's from and what inspires him to create the art that he does. Then we just chat about whatever for few minutes. He gives me a little background on the other artist, not in attendance.
Like I said, I'm going to go back to get a better look at their work. But I can at least give you a little glimpse.
Aya's pieces are reminiscent of Peter Bagge and Jon K., stylistically. More bizarre, more fantastical. The notion that comes to mind is Children's Illustrations Gone Horribly Wrong. Some of the more amusing/demented pieces involve Santas, whose torsos are cages full of children.
Daniel's work blend both Asian and American pop culture themes.(When I mentioned that to him, he responded with "Yeah. That's exactly what I was thinking about." Right. Artists... I swear.) His skill is very strong, very tight. His style inventive. Some of his pieces were large cutout forms of Japanese Giant Robots, with Americana murals painted on them. Very cool.
Erik's work... well, I'll have to get back to you on that.
That's all for now folks. I'm going to spend the rest of the evening admiring these lovely ladies up-close. Besides, these dollars are burning holes in my pockets.
Good night from PDX Proper.