Swine before pearls

Ahhh …Spring is in the air. The days get longer, shorts getshorter and you find yourself with a sense of elated intoxicationbefore the sun even goes down.

And the art! Oh, the art. If spring is a time for love, then theart is a reflection of that: the shows this month are aglow withtrembling excitement of the new season. And as I find myself,wandering through the flowering trees, with the glimmer of springdew in my eyes, I realized people still say the stupidest goddamnthings.

Overheard at the Motel Gallery, 19 N.W. FifthAve.

“I don’t know why they would buy that thing.”
“Really! Why buy the Mercedes when the Lexus SUV is just asgood?”
“It’s just wasteful!”

“Girl Boy Girl” at Motel this month features the work of MarthaRich (girl), Joseph Hart (boy) and Rachel Salomon (girl), in anillustration show of wonderfully complimentary styles.

Martha Rich works in the sort of kitsch vernacular, popular witheveryone from the tattoo lowbrows at Juxtapose Magazine to theindie-pop crowd, her work tending towards the latter. With rich,full, colors and nostalgic personal themes, her work has the feelof a social diary at times, embodying the secret thoughts shared bysidewalks and corner drugstores.

Joseph Hart’s work, which has been featured everywhere from TheNew York Times to Arkitip magazine, however, feels a littleotherworldly, like an outsider take on Alice Coltrane. His paintedcollages, with stiff, layered images, were my favorites of theshows, skirting the line between urban historics and primitive artwithout the obnoxious knowing glances so often found in art sosteeped in irony.

Rachel Salomon’s pieces seemed the most accessible of the three,dependent on sophisticated silhouettes and flowering trees thatwould be just as at home on chic handbags as a gallery wall. Herillustrations have found their way onto “Penguin Classic” editionsof some of Iris Murdoch’s works as well as the cover of LA Weekly.Her work owes as much to new wave cinema and Asian traditions as itdoes to the illustrative and advertising art of the 1960s and ’70s.Her vibrant palette and “moment in the life of” figures createhonest and evocative scenes.

Overheard at the Lovelake Gallery, 1720 N.W. LovejoySt. #107:

“He’s a skateboarder.”
“Who, him?”
“Yeah, the artist.”
“That can’t be, he’s wearing a suit.”

Paul Fujita has been a figure in the Portland skateboard andgraffiti scene for as long as I’ve been here, and this collectionof his assembled pieces and altered books is a testament to anartist whose work has matured and flourished without losing sightits disobedient roots. And I’m not just talking about the fact hisassemblages are made up of skateboard pieces or that he is one ofthe founding members of the Zeitgeist Gallery.

His work has taken on a complex narrative, piecing togetherexpressionist strokes found images and drawing in an eerie andhonest iconic portrayal of his thoughts and history. The pieces arethoughtfully formed and enticing with multiple surfaces and hiddenimages in a personal and symbolic landscape.

Overheard at the Nue Gallery, Everett Station Lofts, 625 N.W.Everett St.

“I wish I spoke Russian.”
“They only talk about how they hate Americans.”
“Not all Russians hate Americans!”
“I meant the posters – Jesus!”

The centerpiece of the May Day Show at Nue Gallery is acollection of Soviet propaganda posters so amazing I could barelybring myself to leave. This combined with the floating sounds ofRussian folk and propaganda radio songs created an environment amillion miles from the gore and guts consumerism of the PearlDistrict.

The posters, a survey of decades of cold war propaganda, areamazing not only because you’re seeing the confrontation from a newlight, but because the works are so urbane and stylized. Sure,there are the standard caricatures of U.S. military men armed withcapitalist hatred and nuclear bombs. But then there are amazingaesthetic pieces full of sophisticated illustrations that would bejust as fitting on a classic Blue Note or Prestige-era Miles Davisalbum as extolling the virtue of Soviet cleanliness.

Perhaps the capitalist system is flawed, I thought. Perhaps aMarxist system would allow us to see the value of community,chastity and hard work. But then at the prompting of my companion,my idealism dissolved as quickly as it appeared. He reminded me itwas Thirsty Thursday at the Portland Beavers game, and that we hadto hurry if wanted get all fucked up on cheap beer before theseventh inning stretch.

Ideals aside, $2 Bud is still $2 Bud.