Now that January is finally over and we’ve all recovered from the holidays and reacclimated ourselves to the rain, it’s time to get back out into the world! There is a lot going on this month from anniversaries to grand re-openings to just plain great art shows from galleries and artists that work hard to share important ideas and visions with the rest of us. Beloved gallery Nationale has finally opened its doors at their new location off East Burnside, while the equally wonderful Ori celebrates its second birthday with a party and group show. Carnation Contemporary brings work from artist members of Eugene’s Tropical Contemporary to town for a gallery collective crossover event (and vice versa), and PDX Contemporary presents exciting new work from a long-time gallery artist.
If January first is the “soft opening” of the New Year, the beginning of February is like the official Grand Opening of Earth’s next tour around the sun, when things really get going again after the post-holiday doldrums. But these shows and events don’t come out of nowhere, they are the result of careful planning and a lot of hard work that happens all year round. If you want to show your support to the arts workers who make this town great and help them continue their efforts in a sustainable way, consider donating to the projects linked at the end of this article.
Aruni Dharmakirthi: No Flowers in Eden
January 18 – February 18
15 SE 22nd Ave
Nationale has moved around many times in its more than ten years of operation, but this last move was almost certainly the most trying. After miles of red tape and thousands of dollars spent updating this charming storefront location a half block South of Burnside, Nationale is transformed once again, but still radiates the singular personality of inimitable curator May Barruel. The gallery space is larger and the retail side now includes mini-shops offering items from local vendors Mixed Needs and tone poem. The first show in this space might have easily been overshadowed by the circumstances leading up to it — and in fact, the show was delayed by several months as renovations dragged on — but Aruni Dharmakirthi’s subtly sculptural quilted works are captivating enough to be heard over everything else. Her works’ abstracted figures, off-kilter palette, and casually expert decorative detailing add softness and warmth to the white-walled space.
Year of Asé
February 15 – March 22
Opening reception February 15, 6-9pm
4038 N Mississippi Ave
Ori Gallery is two years old, and they are marking the occasion with a group show featuring work from a half-dozen artists and a party/fundraiser on opening night. The gallery’s tight-knit community has come together for celebration of the more than a dozen exhibitions and countless events they have produced to date and to get energized for the future. In their words: Year of Asé is “a thank you to all of our artists, volunteers, interns, patrons and staff. Come make connections and foster strength for the liberation work we have ahead of us!” The public is invited to join the party, which will feature opportunities to donate and a chance to win prizes from local vendors.
February 1 – 23
8371 N Interstate Ave
February 7 – 28
1120 Bailey Hill #11
Carnation Contemporary in Portland and Tropical Contemporary in Eugene pull a Freaky Friday move this month, hosting groups exhibitions of artist members from each other’s gallery. Pink Sheets, at Carnation, features work from members of Tropical focused on the comfort and warmth many of us crave during these winter months. If/Then, at Tropical, features works by Carnation members that share a common theme of the uncertain future versus the anxious present. Both galleries utilize an artist membership model both to share the costs and responsibilities of running an art space and to give artists ownership over their exhibitions. The gallery swap concept is a great way to highlight the hard work and collaborative spirit both of these spaces bring to the Oregon arts landscape, and hopefully will inspire art viewers from Portland and Eugene alike to break out of their usual routines and see what their neighbors are up to.
CORES: Nick Sassoon and Rick Silva
January 23 – February 29
916 NW Flanders
The two artists featured in Holding Contemporary’s CORES, Nick Sassoon and Rick Silva, both make work connecting the digital and the physical in material ways. Rocks figure prominently – think digital animations of geode-like objects whose interiors are trippy LED screens, or an actual rock with an actual LED screen sprouting from an armature buried in the stone. Part of the aim is to evoke the ways in which humans have affected the natural world, even down to geological processes, and it would seem there are few perspectives that oppose anthropocentrism quite as effectively as lithocentrism — the rock’s eye view.
American Hex: Christine Miller and Brittany Vega
February 1 – March 14
2505 SE 11th Ave Suite 106
Christine Miller and Brittany Vega come together in their show, American Hex, to explore the problems and revelations contained within their own eccentric personal collections. Vega’s flag collection grew from her practical experience in the flag industry. The flags on view at Fuller Rosen are shredded and remixed to break down their original significance and question their role as cultural and political tools. Miller’s collection of racist Americana is a more direct statement on the trouble with American-ness and patriotism. These items reflect the racial violence and oppression that infuses so much of the history that has also informed a certain concept of national identity. Miller collects them as ”teaching tools” in the hope that their careful presentation and context might begin to neutralize their power as symbols of bigotry. Miller has published a book to accompany the show titled My Black is the Color of the Sun, in collaboration with the gallery. There will be a release event on February 22.
Skeleton: Adam Sorenson
January 15 – February 29
925 NW Flanders
Portland artist Adam Sorenson gained national attention for his psychedelic neon landscapes ten years ago, and this month he returns to PDX Contemporary with paintings that find something new to say about the fantasy worlds that have become his signature. Like his past work, the pieces in Skeleton are replete with gumdrop-like rocks, cascading waterfalls, and glowing colors. But they are looser, more relaxed, and more painterly. In contrast to his earlier works, a little more is left to the imagination, and it feels like the mysterious places Sorenson conjures have a bit more room to breathe.
Nierika: Santuario Somático: Edgar Fabián Frías
February 2 – March 8
8371 N Interstate Ave
Disjecta curator-in-residence Justin Hoover presents artist Edgar Fabián Frías in the second show of a series titled ungodly: the spiritual medium (Coco Dolle’s PUNKDEISM was the first). Frías is a licensed psychotherapist in addition to their interdisciplinary art practice, and their exhibition Nierika touts itself as an opportunity for viewers to take refuge and undertake a voyage of self-discovery through creative workshops, videos, and objects infused with spirituality inspired by Wixarika traditions of Western Mexico. How this transformative process is meant to unfold is hazy, but pursuit of a goal as utopian as the “binding together” of individuals through facilitation and nurturance of the collective psyche is certainly worth diving headfirst into the unknown.
Show Your Appreciation: Contribute to the Art(ist)s
The Portland Art Museum just announced a $10 million gift from Arlene Schnitzer, and Disjecta was recently awarded $80,000 in funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation. These donations are wonderful for the institutions receiving them and the artists they support, and for Portland’s arts community. But not everybody can be (or show at) the museum. Many of the venues in this month’s listings are artist run, and it’s no small feat to organize exhibitions on a monthly basis while trying to juggle an art practice and the inevitable day jobs and side hustles that come along with the “creative lifestyle.” Here are some small ways you can contribute to the artists and curators who are working hard to make Portland as cool and interesting as everyone expects it to be:
Ink & Drink PDX
Last Wednesdays 7-10pm
Dig a Pony
Ink & Drink is a monthly event held at the Inner Southeast bar Dig a Pony: a dozen artists sit at a big table and draw as spectators look on with beers in hand. Finished drawings are hung in a makeshift salon-style gallery for patrons to purchase and take home (at very reasonable prices!), and 50% of the proceeds benefit rotating local nonprofits and activist organizations. Check their website and Instagram for details about upcoming events.
Holding Contemporary’s Shareholder Program
Holding Contemporary runs on a unique “shareholder” model, in which an investment in the gallery yields quarterly returns, discounts on art, exclusive invitations to special events, and other perks. Buying a share in a gallery may sound unusual, but it’s a great way for the business to attract support in a town whose art market is still developing compared to other cities. The initial investment can be as little as $100, but the impact is significant for the gallery and its artists.
The Nat Turner Project
The organizers of the Nat Turner Project call it a “fugitive gallery space” that aims to give artists of color the literal and metaphorical space to create their work. Their projects include exhibitions and performances, as well as the Drinking Gourd Fellowships, which provide material support to emerging artists of color. Now NTP also has a podcast, called who all gon be there?, and you can support all of their activities by donating to their Patreon. An ongoing contribution entitles donors to benefits like exclusive podcast episodes, a NTP zine, and custom-made buttons. With enough support, the organization hopes to eventually rent exhibition space and pay future artists-in-residence.
Reborn gallery Nationale has raised an impressive amount so far through its grassroots fundraising campaign, but it still has a little ways to go to make up for the high costs of renovating its new space. Owner and curator May Barruel is known for her continued support of young emerging artists, and her gallery is by some measures the quintessential Portland art space. Over the years she has borne much of the cost of running the space herself, and it has been heartwarming to see the community she helped build gather its resources to keep Nationale going.
It would be remiss not to include ourselves! Oregon Artswatch has been covering the state’s arts community and news since 2011. As a nonprofit organization, we rely in part on donations to fund our reporting. If you are enjoying this column, think about contributing a little bit if you can so that we can continue sharing our journalism with you!