Maybe the winter decided to stay a little bit longer, but the spring of art cannot wait. It was another First Thursday Art Walk in Pearl District. We were delighted to walk on a cool and dry night and enjoy seeing art, people, and the city.
Our first stop was at Waterstone Gallery. There are whales in the room. Yes, that is the title and the works of the solo show by musician and artist Tony Furtado. Furtado approaches whales in an unexpected way: He first reduces the form into organic (mostly curvy or circular) patterns in clay, fires into ceramics, and then glues different sections together before he applies layers of resin, plaster and metal coating meticulously like a real glaze. That rusty and hollowed look creates an illusion of welding metalwork in an industrial setting. As each whale tries to defy gravity and swim in the air, the distressed surface speaks of the inevitable impact of human activities.
As we turned around the corner, we stopped by Laura Vincent Gallery, with a solo show by Kenneth Marunowski, titled “Idea and Impulse.” It was truly an experience to get lost in those large works– ephemeral smudges morph into daring impasto, and quiet passages of muted tone only intensify the deafening celebration of bright hues. Eric asked me if the various mark-making supplied motions or emotions to me. I said both, as that is what I felt in the triptych piece “Rite of Spring.” Despite the abstract expressionist roots, the body of work is almost sweet to a fault. The gusty gestural strokes and the abandon in the dripping seem to be completely absolved in the background. Maybe the nature of the Pacific Northwest is here to blame.
Our next stop is Froelick Gallery, featuring drawings and prints by Japanese artist Takahiko Hayashi. Most of the prints are etched with chine collé. In “The Wind filled with Roots – Over the Recollection,” the distinct stunning red color blocks hover above the rich and soft textural surface of an earthy tone. For a print of its size, it strikes me with its monumentality and meditative quality, as Eric commented – very zen.
Pacific Northwest College of Art has always been a popular stop. This time, we went to the third floor for the first time to see the exhibition “ Expressions of Color”. I was moved by Adia Gibbs’ work “Ancestry Series #1.” The arrangement of this assemblage piece, in terms of material, shape, texture, and negative space captivates my eyes in search of connections and meanings. The objects, ranging from spoons, and plates to bottles, are humble everyday items, but deeply personal. It takes the courage to show one’s roots, more so if they are mundane. It is likely to be a fabricated personal story, but the work still resonates because of the common experience shared across generations and even races. Eric pointed out that the digital images are transferred into the plates which look antique. The reversal of transforming digital technology into vintage, tangible products gives me hope – maybe not everything will be virtual one day, especially our shared memory.
Our last stop is at the Blackfish Gallery. To celebrate their recent move into the new location, the 33-artist co-op has a group show, giving each of its members an opportunity to showcase just one piece. I talked to Qiheng Liu when I was about to leave. His work, titled “A Serious Joke,” was from 2018, one year after he moved to Portland. I have recently come to enjoy Qiheng’s portrait work – representational, mysterious, with a sense of humor bordering surrealism. In this work created a few years back, he was not afraid of making incongruous statements, packing abstraction, realism, minimalism, and surrealism all in one shot. The result was interesting. Here and there, I see a little bit of Basquiat or Miro. That is serious.