Rose City Art

    Here in Portland we have art, and lots of it – so much so that you might need a tour guide.

    One of the best overviews of contemporary Oregon art is currently on display at the Portland Art Museum, a mere three blocks north of the PSU campus. Artists from all over Oregon have been handpicked by curator of Northwest Art Jennifer Gately to appear in the Oregon Biennial. This is the most serious side of the Portland art scene, so grab your thesaurus and be prepared to drop comments about spatial composition, social awareness and the idiosyncrasies of surrealism. Or just look at some cool shit and leave.

    Chandra Bocci’s candy starburst welcomes visitors and gives you an immediate idea of what’s ahead in the museum. Oregon art is often both intelligent and quirky, reminiscent of Fight Club in the way that it seems better the second time around. After realizing that the sculpture could be responsible for a lifetime of cavities, Bocci’s work gains a new dimension of meaning, and might leave you with a desire for a toothbrush.

    Especially interesting are works by David Eckard (Podium, which offers free souvenirs), Holly Andres (Consumables, which asks some very pink personal questions) and Brittany Powell (Donut Shop, which elevates contact paper to iconic status). Do be careful not to trip over Bill Will’s Reconstitution in the process. And do not try to lick the candy. Trust me, museum guards are serious.

    With its new addition and huge outside sculpture, the museum (at 1219 S.W. Park Ave.) is hard to miss, and is open Tuesday through Sunday, with late hours Thursdays and Fridays. Get the one-dollar-off student discount, and your ticket is good all day long.

    To experience the hippest aspects of the Portland art scene, try the First Thursday festivities of the Pearl District. Originally created to welcome new monthly shows to the many galleries of the Pearl, First Thursday has grown like a rabid sea monkey on steroids and now includes parts of Old Town, downtown and even the Southeast.

    First Thursday requires artistic stamina, causal aloofness and a high degree of fashion. It’s all about looking at the new work, while looking at other people looking at the new work, while carefully maintaining a certain “I don’t give a fuck what you’re looking at” attitude. This can be best accomplished while scarfing the free food and drink offered by many of the galleries.

    For well-known and established artists (read: super-pricey), stick to the galleries of the main Pearl District – Elizabeth Leach, Alysia Duckler, and the Lawrence Gallery to name a few. For a younger, slightly edgier perspective try the newer spaces in Old Town, such as the Portland Art Center and Everett Street Lofts (sometimes they even serve PBR). And if you are seeking to incorporate some art into your workout, try to make it to the outlying galleries such as Disjecta, Laura Russo, and the Augen Gallery within a two-hour span.

    Finally, the Alberta Street Last Thursday Extravaganza screams street fair with moving vehicles. Crowded onto the sidewalks, into the storefronts, and onto side parking lots, the independent artists of Portland display their works for one night in a carnival-esque atmosphere. Seriously, there are fire-eaters and marching bands, not to mention drag queens, random dancers and more hand drummers than you could shake a single Def Leppard drumstick at.

    Although it may require a short bus ride (TriMet number eight leaves from Southwest Broadway and Montgomery), Alberta’s Last Thursday is the most truly Portland art experience. It’s an opportunity to meet some of the talented artists that will perhaps show in the 2020 Portland Art Museum Biennial, and have your palm read at the same time. Bring some extra cash and decorate the barren walls of your dorm room.

    Last Thursday happens (guess when?) between 15th and 30th avenues on Alberta, every month, weather permitting. First Thursday happens (guess again?) every damn month. And the Portland Art Museum will probably exist until Mt. Tabor covers Portland with scalding rivers of lava. So plan accordingly, and don’t say that there’s nothing to do.