The First Thursday art walk always fills downtown with a wealth of artwork and a stream of patrons touring the variety of galleries splayed across the Pearl. But Portland’s art world never sleeps, and each part of the city offers a similar night of art happenings on separate days throughout a given month. This month, the Vanguard made its way out to a collection of First Friday exhibitions in search of work produced by Portland State students and alumni.
The First Thursday art walk always fills downtown with a wealth of artwork and a stream of patrons touring the variety of galleries splayed across the Pearl.
But Portland’s art world never sleeps, and each part of the city offers a similar night of art happenings on separate days throughout a given month.
This month, the Vanguard made its way out to a collection of First Friday exhibitions in search of work produced by Portland State students and alumni.
First we made our way out to Northeast Alberta Street, where the Appendix Project Space crouches in an alley between 26th and 27th avenues. There, a trio of working artists serve as monthly hosts to emerging art in the area, all in a garage converted into a gallery space.
“We initially moved in to be a part of Alberta’s Last Thursday event,” said Appendix co-director and area artist Zack Davis. Davis runs the space with co-directors Travis Fitzgerald and Alex Dolan.
“It’s been really awesome for several years, though we’ve moved away from showing on Thursdays,” Davis said. “It was great for a long time, though—we really synergized with it.”
Appendix, which has been operating for nearly five years, currently displays the work of recent Portland State graduate and prolific artist Chase Biado.
Biado’s solo show, titled “Chase Biado in Time,” features a collection of conceptually driven sculptural displays along with a pair of out-of-focus digital prints and an audio piece.
“He graduated from PSU pretty recently, but Chase has been putting on a lot of really strong conceptual, sculptural shows,” Davis said. “It seemed like a natural fit.”
In the center of the space stood a work composed of three wine glasses atop a wood plank separated by two mirrors. Biado filled the center glass with a pink-hued energy drink and left the others empty.
The result is a visually arresting optical illusion as the onlooker moves around the piece, which is titled Still Life. From various perspectives, the glasses would appear to exchange contents, or appear at once full and empty.
Another sculptural work, Calendar, features a twisting, snakelike base topped with birthday candles, which sag against the work in various stages of consumption. The dying candles invoke the withering entropy of the aging process, while the interconnected ends of the plaster base recall the infinite experience of an ongoing cycle.
Davis noted that Appendix lacks a specific guiding philosophy in their choice of art, but that sculpture seems to trump wall-mounted works, given the limits of the garage space.
“I would say we lean toward conceptual sculpture,” he said. “Almost every time, we have some sort of object occupying the space.”
From Appendix, it was a short ride to North Killingsworth Street, where another of PSU’s art students had a new show on display. Eve Jakabosky, a painter aspiring to the university’s bachelor of fine arts degree, filled the walls of the area’s lively Red E Cafe with a torrent of work.
Her large-scale paintings range from monochromatic works in peaceful blacks to heavily layered pieces with a nearly sculptural tactile presence. Often, she contrasts her dark works with gold foil, bringing a halo over contemplative pieces such as her piece After Fra Angelico.
Other works describe a lighter world, like the highly textural depiction of a kitten hanging from a rope, pawing for attention, in the playful Fondue Kitten, or the disarming, scooter-bound old lady in Early March and 10 Pizzas.
In these works, color almost recedes into the background, becoming secondary to the topographical planes built onto the panels by the bold layering of materials.
Jakabosky, who also helps curate the space at Alberta’s Vita Cafe, noted that her work has taken an intense turn, particularly after studying under PSU instructors Susan Harlan and Tia Factor.
“I sacrifice a lot of my social life for my work,” she said. “I’m surprised I still have friends to show up for the event!”
Jakabosky also pointed to the contrast between some of her works, explaining that she took to light-hearted works as an escape from the moodiness invoked by her darker paintings.
“I tend to have kind of a dual personality, where I’m kind of lighthearted at times, but use heavier subject matter at others,” Jakabosky explained. “Humor is also very important, and I love working on the processing of jokes between friends.”
Red E owners Keith Miller and Mindy Farley glowed with appreciation for Jakabosky’s efforts and use of the space. The owners, who have operated the cafe since 2009, place a premium on giving artists a platform to exhibit for the community.
“We’re really impressed,” Farley said as she gestured to a large-scale work depicting two women caught in a cloud of abstract, windswept swirls. “Eve has made great use of the space, and took advantage of really moving things around.”
Miller explained that the cafe is open to any art form, though they tend to select artists who can best fill the large space. He also noted the limits to sculptural media created by the commercial needs of the coffee shop. Still, he expressed the pair’s interest in showing all forms of art.
“It completely runs the gamut,” he said. “Often we’ll have paintings, but we’ve also had photography and wall-mounted sculptures. Mainly we go for large-scale works to fill the space.”
We ended our night closer to downtown, at the Southeast-based Recess space. This collection of artist studios crowned by a second-floor gallery is run by PSU graduates, including J.P. Huckins and Chloe Womack, and Reed graduate Tori Abernathy.
Recess, an emerging space known for experimental, contemporary shows and lively open studio events, opened the month with their show “Help Wanted, Apply Inside.” The exhibition features a collection of resumes gathered from artists and other workers across the city through an open-call process.
“It’s interesting to look at the resume,” said Abernathy, who envisioned the project. “It’s sort of a self-portrait. We can look at the content, but it’s also interesting when you think of this shift toward the creative economy and away from an industrialized or production-based workforce. Now even the aesthetic of the resume itself can be important.”
The resumes in the show cover a fairly broad swathe of backgrounds. Individual resumes come from fellow emerging artists like Biado, as well as well-established artists and instructors, such as PSU social practice professor and Open Engagement Coordinator Jen Delos Reyes.
But the artists’ resumes share a common thread, with each boasting a background offering different particulars but similar themes regarding shows and works performed.
“The open call is a format I’m interested in,” Abernathy said. “It’s interesting that we only have a certain amount of people that we can reach out to, and [it’s interesting] to trace the common themes in the resumes of different individuals, some of whom don’t even know each other. You start to see overlapping consistencies.”
The exhibition opening ran concurrent with an open studio event. Attendees explored the studios of in-house artists such as Jenny Vu, Maggie Craig, Chloe Kendall and Ashley Burke.
The art ranged from paintings to jewelry to illustration and video. For the late hours, the operators lowered the gallery lights and opened the space for a disc jockey and dance party.
Digital multimedia artist Paul Clay pointed to a digital print on his wall that featured himself in a burning bra, juxtaposed with the infamous George W. Bush “Mission Accomplished” photo op.
“We were talking about bra-burning,” said Clay, who often engages with serious subjects in a poignant, yet often humorous, manner. “Essentially, bra-burning is a myth that was overexposed to scare the public away from feminism. I was also thinking about the dangers of a preemptive declaration of the success of feminism.”
Friday was a night of effective exhibitions, and a sure sign of the continued efforts of students and alumni alike.
Recess Co-Director J.P. Huckins also noted the progress made by the artists on the space itself.
“It’s been pretty active, with a really good group,” he said. “The space looks better than it ever has.”