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VizArts Monthly: Antidotes for anxiety

A round-up of Portland-area gallery offerings in November.


According to some scientific research, viewing art can help alleviate anxiety and stress. With the news of various scandals, catastrophes, and political gridlock rolling in daily, who couldn’t use a bit of stress relief? But November’s art offerings are more than just a pretty escape. These shows contain visions of a more peaceful world, radical calls for action, reclamations of discarded materials, and sensitive reconsiderations of collective and personal histories. Some are subtle and meditative while others embrace dissonance and forcefulness. A few galleries will also present artist talks or performances on opening nights, which are great ways to soak up some positive art-community vibes. Seeing some (or all) of these shows could make it easier to brave the craziness of our times, and may result in feelings of profound inspiration and motivation. 

Intricate ink drawing of women dressed in patterned gowns with masks and crowns, walking around trees and houses, in black and white with pale blue and gold accents.
Erika Rier, Pageant (photo courtesy Wolff Gallery)

Erika Rier: Pageant
November 1 -December 22
Wolff Gallery
2804 SE Ankeny Ave

Wolff Gallery is closing out the year, and sadly closing for good, with a show from “folk surrealist” Erika Rier. These charming ink drawings feature intricate patterns and baroque compositions whose central subjects, “an army of womxn,” march together in Medieval and Renaissance inspired ceremonies. Rier was a writer before she shifted her focus to visual art, a fact that her illustrative style makes apparent. Wolff Gallery has been showing the work of emerging Portland artists since 2015 and their focus on women artists and underrepresented groups has been a valuable addition to the arts scene. Don’t miss this chance to visit the gallery one last time before it’s gone. 

Impressionistic oil painting of mustard yellow factory building with red train cars in front and green water tower in background, with bright blue sky and trees.
Bill Sharp, Centennial Mills with Train (photo courtesy Waterstone Gallery)

Bill Sharp: Sacred Spaces
November 5 – December 1
Waterstone Gallery
124 NW 9th Ave

Waterstone Gallery debuts work by their newest member, Bill Sharp, this November in a show of contemplative cityscapes in oils. Sharp’s fractured brushwork and saturated colors bring unexpected drama to otherwise quotidian scenes, and reflect his interest in the writings of Beat poet Alan Ginsberg as well as his own search for existential validation in the beauty of the everyday.

Sections of white cloth firehose with black ends, layered and gathered in a bow-shaped formation, mounted on gallery wall.
Brenda Mallory, Firehose Experiment #3 (photo courtesy Upfor Gallery)

Brenda Mallory: Gather Back
November 6 – December 21
Upfor Gallery
929 NW Flanders St

Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation) presents works created during residencies at Bullseye Glass and Sitka Center for the Arts in her first solo show at Upfor. Mallory’s low-relief compositions could be viewed as either paintings or sculptures, and recall the work of Postminimalists like Eva Hesse. But Mallory goes beyond the purely formal, using found and reclaimed materials in complex processes of destruction, recreation, and repetition to invoke larger patterns of natural and social order and upheaval. The results blur the boundary between organic and synthetic, coaxing rich textures and delicate patterns from unexpected elements. 


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Painting in orange and black gouache on off-white paper of newspaper-print sweater design, rendered in tiny dots in a large grid; design reads "newspaper" and "stop war", and contains images of broken bombs adorned with peace signs.
Ellen Lesperance, Stop War 1st Priority, (photo courtesy Adams and Ollman)

Ellen Lesperance: Flowers Wrapped in Newspaper
November 7 – December 21
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 9th Ave

Adams and Ollman’s second exhibition at its new location on the North Park Blocks is a solo show of new paintings and sculpture by Ellen Lesperance. Lesperance is a local artist who has gained international acclaim over the past few years for her gouache-on-paper representations of sweaters worn by second-wave feminist activists. Here she expands upon her repertoire with a number of paintings that depict a unique garment worn by a participant in the Berkshire, England Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp (1981-1999). The original sweater played with the format of newspaper headlines to convey a radical message in yarn, complete with columns of knitted “text” and photos in an imitation of a broadsheet’s front-page layout. Lesperance’s versions translate the stitches of handmade garments into gridded maps of their construction with each dot of color standing in for a knit or purl. The symbolic clash between the traditionally gendered realms of public speech and domestic life encapsulated within the sweater’s design becomes iconic in the artist’s reverent documentations. 

Can of FOCO brand soursop juice with a lit pink tallow candle emerging from the top, on a gallery shelf.
manuel arturo abreu, Herramienta (image courtesy the artist and AA|LA Gallery)

Not Total
November 8 – December 14
Paragon Arts Gallery at PCC Cascade
815 N Killingsworth St

The three artists featured in Not Total are truly radical in their practices – not only do they offer uncompromising analyses of historical narratives and singular visions of future existence, but their work often takes forms that defy easy description within the existing contexts of contemporary art. Rindon Johnson is a multidisciplinary artist who has made videos, VR experiences, and sculptures from cowhide, Vaseline, and mold among other unconventional materials. Jonathan Gonzalez’s improvisational and collaborative choreography aims to bridge the distances between disciplines. manuel arturo abreu tackles the causes and symptoms of systemic injustice using found objects in their sculptures and contemporary art pedagogy in their art-education program called home school. All this may sound like a recipe for a densely intellectual exhibition, and it most likely will be, but judging by the artists’ previous work, it will also be beautiful and deeply poetic. Not Total continues Paragon Arts’ run of fantastic shows by some of Portland’s most exciting emerging artists and curators and should not be missed.

Close-up photograph of scruffy dog's face in profile, looking up as if at trainer.
Sari Carel, Iris (image courtesy Melanie Flood Projects)

Sari Carel: The Coyote Afterschool Program
November 15 – December 21
Melanie Flood Projects
420 SW Washington, #301

This month Melanie Flood presents Israel-born, Brooklyn-based artist Sari Carel’s welcome rethinking of Joseph Beuys’ infamous 1974 work, I Like America and America Likes Me, in which Beuys spent several days locked in a New York gallery with a wild coyote, protected by little more than a blanket and a stick. Carel combines a feminist lens with her own experience as a force-free dog trainer in her video with canine collaborator Iris. The artist will also discuss the project in a talk at c3:initiative on November 14. The pair proceed through a series of actions linked to the lines of a poem, their partnership a counterpoint to the “masculine” mastery over “feminine” nature implied by the original performance. The conceptual underpinnings of the Coyote Afterschool Program seem especially poignant in light of what we now know about the consequences of anthropocentrism.

Photograph of artist performing in gallery, sitting on floor, emerging from cushioned fabric sculpture made of light and dark purple fabrics and yarn that match the artist's dress.
Amanda Triplett performing (photo courtesy Gallery 1122)

Amanda Triplett: Body Is
November 15 – through December
1122 Gallery
1122 SE 88th Ave


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Portland artist Amanda Triplett stitches, folds, and twists fabric into fleshy sculptural objects that resonate in their simultaneous resemblances to what makes up our insides and what we put on our outsides. Her installation and performance works have taken that uncanniness further, as she “molts” her own wearable textile creations in front of her audience. Triplett brings her biologically-inspired fiber art to Montavilla’s 1122 Gallery this November in her second solo exhibition in Portland. 

Photo of artist during performance, looking at viewer from behind wood decorated with  scrap of silver metallic netting and pink yarn, with turquoise squares projected over all.
Performance by curator Vinh Pham (photo courtesy Erickson Gallery)

November 8 – December 20
Erickson Gallery
9 NW 2nd Ave

This multimedia group show features six artists from the local group blacksheepcollective, with works in video, performance, installation, and various other media. The exhibition was curated by Safiyah Maurice and Vinh Pham, members of the Portland State University Artists of Color Collective, and although there are few details as of yet regarding the works on display, it is likely they will be experimental, possibly challenging, and definitely worth seeing. Make sure to catch performances by Olivia Pace and Christian Orellana Bauer at the opening reception, Friday November 8 from 6-8pm. 

Four photographs of parts of a sound art installation: small speakers placed on gallery floor with seedpods inside them, speakers and cassette tape loops hanging on gallery wall, half circles of gray patterned material, a small speaker on a plinth with seed pods inside and a glass cover on top.
Marcus Fischer (photo courtesy Sou’Wester Arts)

Marcus Fischer: Shore/Lines
November 8 – January 12
Sou’Wester Art Trailer Gallery
3728 J Place
Seaview, WA

Although Marcus Fischer’s Shore/Lines isn’t strictly visual art, nor is it technically in Oregon, it still merits a spot on this list thanks to the Sou’Wester Lodge’s intimate connections and valuable contributions to the Portland art scene. Just over the state line from Astoria, Seaview is a sleepy beach town that has become a haven for artists from all over the Pacific Northwest, but Portlanders in particular have been a large factor in building the hip resort’s reputation as a creative retreat. The lodge established a nonprofit organization, dubbed Sou’Wester Arts, in 2017 and now operates a tiny gallery housed in a vintage trailer. This winter’s exhibit features Portland installation artist Marcus Fischer, whose work has been shown around the country (including at the 2019 Whitney Biennial and at Portland’s own Variform Gallery). Fisher creates haunting sound environments from cassette tape loops and unconventional musical sources.  But his work is sculptural as much as it is sonic, and watching the delicate filaments of magnetic tape traverse their elaborate course throughout the room can be a hypnotic experience. 

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