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Conceptually, Guestroom Gallery is one of the more exciting things to happen to Portland art in a very long time. Nestled beneath the Wonder Ballroom, next to “Mark Woolley 2 Electric Bugaloo” on Northeast Russell Street, Guestroom was started by Marilyn Murdoch in January under the pretext that each month a different curator would control the space. The idea is that through a series of curators, gallery-goers will get a feel for the region’s artistic direction.

While good in concept, the inaugural shows have been a little disappointing, but with “Compound Concoction,” Guestroom has finally hit the mark by bringing one of the city’s best curators across the river.

Katsu Tanaka, the force behind the Old Town’s Compound Gallery, has brought a dozen artists to Guestroom, many of whom fans of Compound will recognize and all of whom are active in or heavily influenced by Japan’s eye-popping contemporary scene. For those who are familiar with the international designers and artists, Tanaka’s show will feel like a “greatest hits,” but for those not initiated, “Compound Concoction” is a dynamic look at the way Japanese art has influenced world design and how Katsu Tanaka has been consistently bringing it to us here in the PDX. It’s nice to see Tanaka flexing his shit; his addition to last year’s “Affair at the Jupiter” was without question the most interesting in the hotel, and again here his choice of artists, and the way they compliment one another, is outstanding.

Fresh from his recent “T-Boy” show at Compound, Shin Tanaka’s graffiti-influenced design and paper sculptures continue to engage. His blank, repetitive paper sculpture of hipster dunks and thug action figures prove a perfect canvas for his hyper-designed graf and consumer logos. With design for corporate giants like Adidas side by side with dense everyman’s tags, Tanaka’s work is radical in an almost ironic way. With the market for dunks, hipster vinyl toys and limited-edition collector design, anything so oversaturated right now forces the viewer to reconsider the object value.

Compare that with the naturalist work of Portlander Evan B. Harris – a standby at group shows throughout the city with very good reason. He creates almost precious work, steeped in a stylized mix of nautical, historical and natural references. His work is clearly Portland – the muted palette, esoteric references and generally sweet and benign subjects are a common thread among the cities twee-est painters. What sets Harris apart, however, is his intelligence and intuitive movement. His work feels natural and honest, the subtlest details being so well composed it makes sense that so much of the city is biting his shit.

Side by side with Harris and Tanaka are the psychedelic sci-fi landscapes of Erik Sandburg, the organic “garbage head” flow of Akira Wakui, the subversive cuteness of VERSE, and the loose abstraction of Anyuu Rizumu. The range of influence and style in “Compound Concoction” is really quite jarring. Even as a big fan of Katsu Tanaka’s Compound Gallery I don’t think that by visiting month to month it’s so easy to see how dynamic his choices in artists are. Seeing a catalog of work side by side like this makes one realize that while Tanaka’s artists share a common passion and locale, there are worlds between them.


“Compound Concoction” is on display through May 31 at Guestroom Gallery, 128 N.E. Russell St