Rachel Sumpter: “Tiger Ballad”
Motel Gallery 19 N.W. Fifth Ave.
Rachel Sumpter’s “Tiger Ballad” is a warm, almost precious blend of dreamy symbolism and emotional pauses. The small gouache and ink drawings feature images that draw heavily from a romanticized version of Inuit aesthetics. Pictures of long-legged Eskimo girls, epic whaling and plush fur share a world of silent musicians, paused conversations, and quiet mornings. Think of it as northern twee, beautiful and simple, but almost too sweet. The icy theme and cool palette create cold works pleasingly transposed against the warm tones of found paper.
Sumpter, who is the perfect artist for Motel’s roster, is an easy and appropriate segue from the works of Carson Ellis or Jen Corace whose equally dainty and fine works also border the land of preciousness. It’s as if a whole new genre of illustrators have embraced the kitschy Keane-esque mid-century and transcended its irony to create new, and occasionally halting works of melancholy cuteness – which could be a terrible thing if the work wasn’t so goddamn good.
“Ted Katz: Selections from Sketchbooks”
Guestroom Gallery 128 N.E. Russell St.
Guestroom makes its debut on the Portland scene today with a series of drawings and sketches from the past 50 years of Ted Katz’s work. More exciting than Katz’s loose and occasionally obnoxiously expressionistic work is the introduction of Guestroom. Owned by Katayama Framings’ Marilyn Murdoch, the gallery is going to feature a different curator each month creating (hopefully) an ongoing and constantly shifting and dynamic series of specific shows. As well Guestroom is housed next to the Mark Wooley Gallery in the Wonder Ballroom, creating what we can hope at worst will become a new mecca for Beavertonians in SUV’s looking for unchallenging art.
“Early Northwest Artists”
Laura Russo Gallery 805 N.W. 21st Ave.
Interesting in a natural history sort of way, “Early Northwest Artists” features a small collection of works by mid-century artists working in the region. The works run the gambit of the era, wallowing in the expressionistic, impressionist, and post-cubist exercises so popular during the era. If you’re looking for great mid-century works, you’d do better viewing the art museum’s Greenberg Collection, but it’s interesting to see the who and how of Portland 50-plus years ago.
Michael Bise: “Joey and Melissa”
Small A Projects 1430 S.E. Third Ave.
Small A continues its run of stylish and vaguely irreverent shows with a series of drawings by Michael Bise depicting the emotionally raw and sometimes graphic relationship between a young suburban couple and their child. The works are at times equally crushing and inspiring owing much the adolescent style of their execution – cartoonish, textured graphite drawings full of awkward perspectives and inconsistent fields akin to Jeffery Brown’s brilliant graphic novel “Clumsy.”
Victoria Haven: “The Lucky Ones”
PDX Contemporary Art 925 N.W. Flanders St.
Victoria Haven explores, through a combination of mediums and papers, geometric shifts in space and the decisions that define them. While high-minded and engaging as a whole show, mulling over the choices an artist makes and the way they define the work, the pieces individually come off a little flat. Seeing broad strokes created with ink and tape hanging next to delicate watercolor clusters however accomplishes Haven’s goal, leaving the viewer to contemplate the ramifications of each choice and each stroke in art.
“Blast From the Future”
Compound Gallery 107 N.W. Fifth Ave.
Another cooler-than-you group show from the fine people at Compound, “Blast From the Future” features robots, cyborgs and science fiction in-between, re-imagined by a stylish, and disparate group of artists. From the stylized cuteness of Apak and Martin Ontiveros to the hotrod inspired edginess of Justin Nitz, Compound again proves that even subjects as tired as robots can make for an engaging show if curated properly.