Welcome to January 2020! Let’s ease into it at a relaxed pace, shall we? Most of Portland is still emerging from the haze of the holiday season, and the events calendar is correspondingly mellow. Many downtown galleries are hosting this month’s opening receptions on the first Saturday of the month instead of the traditional First Thursday, likely in order to get a bit of distance from the aftermath of New Year’s Eve. A couple of group shows offer festival-inspired atmosphere and even mystical divination. The month also promises an abundance of work from local emerging artists along with some weird and beautiful shows at Northwest neighborhood galleries; there are plenty of reasons to venture across the bridge or down the hill. Or, if you’re loath to leave your cozy blankets, we have some great online projects for you to check out as well!
Absence of Myth: Iyvone Khoo and Pinar Yoldas
January 4 – February 29
Public opening: Saturday, January 4, 5 – 7pm (artists present)
First Thursday reception: February 6, 6 – 8pm
929 NW Flanders St
Possibly the most unusual show opening in Portland at the start of this new decade is Upfor’s Absence of Myth which brings together works made by two artists in a variety of media that question humankind’s responsibility to the Earth as we step forward into the uncertain future. London-based Iyvone Khoo’s psychedelic photography and assemblage-style sculpture make use of marine plastic waste that regularly washes up on beaches across the globe. She combines this manmade flotsam with images of bioluminescent plankton, a not-so-subtle reminder that we share the planet with many others. Turkish-American artist Pinar Yoldas gets speculative with her cute and creepy “designer babies.” The babies are 3D printed figurines that represent possible evolutionary paths for the human species, an ironic commentary on the foolishness of humans’ age-old desire to control nature. Absence of Myth isn’t exactly uplifting, but it’s not entirely pessimistic either — Khoo and Yoldas both combine the sharp observational eye of science with a poetic, open-minded empathy that even could pass for hopefulness.
Brave, Beautiful Outlaws: Donna Gottschalk
January 2 – February 2
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave
In the context of today’s kaleidoscope of sexual and gender identities, the word “lesbian” might seem almost conservative by comparison. But openly identifying as a lesbian was once a radical action that was often met with bigotry and even violence. Artist Donna Gottschalk was among the early members of the Gay Liberation Front in New York City in the late 1960s and later helped found lesbian separatist communities on the West Coast, all the while documenting her compatriots in intimate black and white photos. Blue Sky hosts this traveling exhibition commemorating those who, in Gottschalk’s words, “insisted on being, whatever the consequences.”
Johanna Jackson and Milano Chow
January 4 – February 1
Opening reception: Saturday, January 4, 6-8pm
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave
Johanna Jackson works across a wide range of media including (but not limited to) painted ceramics, watercolors on paper and tin, knitted sweaters, hooked rugs, and, once, even a shriveled carved apple. No matter the medium, evidence of her idiosyncratic hand is consistently apparent. Jackson’s work, featured this month at Adams and Ollman in a show titled Some Transitional Objects From My Extended Phenotype, is wobbly and lumpy. The colors are sun bleached and muddied. She shows little regard for the mystique or virtuosity that is so often prized in art but her humble objects possess a powerful presence that makes them feel like self-made creatures or like dreams that have sneaked into our reality. Milano Chow’s work is on view in the gallery’s small adjoining room. It offers complementary surreality achieved through very different means, meticulous trompe l’oeil drawings that depict ornate architectural facades in graphite, ink, and photo transfer in delicate shades of gray. The combination of technical detail and atmospheric ambiguity is captivating, and unlike anything else being shown in Portland right now.
Golden Night Market
January 6 – 31
Opening Reception and Night Market: January 8, 5 – 7pm
1825 SW Broadway
Curator Thién Mùi Easland brings together seven Portland artists to share work inspired by their own personal experience and cultural heritage. The show is loosely organized around the theme of a colorful night market akin to those Easland enjoyed in childhood. The group includes artists like Daniel Sandoval, who paints psychedelic graffiti-influenced dreamscapes and Christian Orellana-Bauer, whose past video works have addressed big issues in contemporary politics and small moments of self-discovery. The show promises “light, color, and culture,” which sounds like a perfect way to brighten up a gray January day.
January 16 – February 10
Opening reception: Thursday, January 16, 7 – 9pm
3636 N Mississippi
Womxn House on Mississippi Ave is also hosting a group show offering good vibes and positive community to start this shiny new decade off right. 20/20 will be a “tarot themed vision quest” featuring eleven artists and live tarot readings by Emily Carsten and J’ena SanCartier (make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time via the gallery’s website). Artists like Elizabeth Malaska, Pace Taylor, and Isis Fisher contribute work to this mystical exhibition. Whether or not you believe in divination, it’s always fun to have your fortune told and being surrounded by beautiful art makes it even more appealing.
The Hibernation Options
Winter in Portland is notorious for keeping folks inside — it’s tough to work up the motivation to hop on your bike to an art show across town when it gets dark at 4:00 PM and the entire soggy city is slowly growing a layer of moss. Are you one of the many still in hibernation mode? Don’t worry, you can enjoy local art from the comfort of your own couch! Check out these pajama-friendly options for days when your brain needs stimulation but your body just won’t budge.
Yale Union Laundry Strike
Long before Yale Union went by “YU” for short and was filled with contemporary conceptual art, it was a busy commercial laundry called Yale Laundry. The laundry, like most textile-related businesses of the day, was not a pleasant place to work — indoor temperatures regularly rose over 100 degrees, soiled linens transmitted infectious disease, and scalding hot presses caused frequent injuries. To add insult to injury, the mostly female workers made the equivalent of just over three dollars per hour for their suffering. A months-long strike began in September 1919, and led to unionization and other industry-wide repercussions throughout the city. To commemorate the centennial of this act of worker solidarity, Yale Union has unveiled a new website with an interactive timeline and lots of historical resources that document the strike and contextualize it within the larger history of the often racialized and gendered textile industry. The Laundry Strike website is easy to navigate and endlessly interesting, and is a great example of an arts institution looking to its own inherited history for socially and politically significant narratives.
The Inside Show at CRCI
The first two episodes of Columbia River Creative Initiative’s The Inside Show are available on Youtube, along with clips of some of the individual skits that comprise this offbeat variety show. The Inside Show includes features on microwave cookery, hair braiding demos, party tricks, and a deadpan fashion show, all of which were written and performed by inmates at the Columbia River Correctional Institute, where the series is filmed. The show is funny and charming, and impressively watchable considering the technical and logistical constraints of working inside a minimum security prison. My favorite segment was David “Ohio” Phipps’ painting lesson, in which he teaches two of his fellow artists to render a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in poster paints. You can find out more about the CRCI program, which operates in conjunction with Portland State University’s Social Practice Department, on their website, or you can just enjoy the show for what it is — a unique comedy series starring a diverse group of people having a goofy good time.
Want to party without actually going to a party? Spoiler Room is here for you! This recurring DJ night gets live-taped and edited as it happens, and the results are posted online so you can boogie vicariously through past attendees. The aesthetics are a melange of low-tech nostalgia, with VJs wielding 90s era handheld camcorders and playing terrific hour-long mixes of upbeat techno. Project episodes in your living room for an at-home club experience, or just set up your phone on the kitchen counter while you do the dishes. Either way, you will be basking in the positive energy of dozens of party people, and perhaps you’ll even be inspired to get out of the house and join in.