[WWeek Pick] Scapes/bulges
You might have the urge to pull down Emily Bixler's sculptures off the wall. Using substantial and utilitarian materials like sailing rope, and creating forms from wood and horsehair bristles that evoke hand tools, Bixler's sculptures scream to be held and put to use. But the wood that might otherwise serve as a handle boasts a raw wood edge and a luminous finish. And the rope that could be used to hitch or heave or pull has been wrapped with cotton thread, obscuring its original purpose while retaining the braided undulations of its form, now purely decorative. Don't be fooled into thinking that you have to go to a gallery to see well-curated art; this month, the best sculpture show in town is at a coffee shop. Stumptown Coffee Roasters, 4525 SE Division St., 503-230-7702. Through June 8.
Tooth & Claw
The front gallery of Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art is teeming with life. Cross sections of tree trucks hang on the far wall. Large steel carbon chains wait to be stepped over. A dark form on a white canvas could be a taproot or a dendrite. Artist and designer Brian Borrello uses wholly unnatural materials like fiberglass, epoxy and motor oil to create a series of sculptures and paintings that represent the building blocks of life and make a powerful statement about man's relationship to and effect on the natural world. Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art, 2219 NW Raleigh St., 503-544-3449. Through June 18.
White Box is devoting its three galleries to three different video shows from artists Peter Campus, Julia Oldham and Suzanne Opton. Oldham uses four projections screens to create an immersive environment in which she takes us through a black hole and back out again. Peter Campus' work is meditative in contrast: Two videos of boats tethered to docks depict such little movement that one of them appears, at first, to be a still photograph. But stand in front of it awhile and you will see the subtle movement of the water and the shifting of rope lines, reminding us that video can be quietly observational. Opton films factory workers in India performing the rote "empty gestures" of their jobs—knob turning, lever pulling—in a captivating video about how well our bodies remember. White Box, 24 NW 1st Ave., 503-412-3689. Through June 4.
Ty Ennis' series of grayscale paintings are rough and loose. Images of a heron, a cowboy in shadow and a man skinning a deer are rendered with few assertive brush strokes, conveying worlds with little gesture. With Stupid Man, Ennis set out to make a body of work that would return him to an earlier time—when he first started painting—with fewer materials, expectations and obligations. The simplicity, joy and freedom of that time are evident in the work, folded in with autobiographical references to his life as a new father (think Looney Tunes characters). He successfully uses the visual language and techniques of youth to question the expectations and obligations of adulthood. Nationale, 3360 SE Division St., 503-477-9786. Through June 18.
Land Ohne Eltern (Country Without Parents)
Due to economic hardship, it is a common practice for parents in the Republic of Moldova (formerly part of the Soviet Union) to leave their children behind while they seek work in other countries. Photographer Andrea Diefenbach follows some of these parents abroad to document their hard labor. Her series Land Ohne Eltern gives us both sides of the heartbreaking story, by showing images of parents alongside intimate portraits of the children back in Moldova who are being raised by family, friends or, in some cases, no one. Blue Sky Gallery, 122 NW 8th Ave., 503-225-0210. Through July 3.
[WWeek Pick] Reactive Matters
This might be the first time you see a photo show in which one of the photographers never touched a camera. Newspace's thoughtful exhibition, Reactive Matters, features the work of three photographers about the effect of nuclear energy on our environment. Shimpei Takeda exposes photo-sensitive paper to soil samples from Fukushima, capturing latent images of radioactivity that look like the night sky—his camera nowhere in sight. Abbey Hepner photographs nuclear waste facilities using a vanished processing technique involving uranium that lends an acid-orange cast to her images. Jeremy Bolen buried his film near nuclear reactors before unearthing it to document the surrounding landscapes. The work of these three artists is a powerful testament to conceptual photography. Newspace Center for Photography, 1632 SE 10th Ave., 503-963-1935. Through July 23.
Or Fact a Formal Treatment
Artist Robert Schlegel and his son Rob Schlegel, a poet, collaborated on a series of visual and textual works on paper. Using dictionary pages as his canvas, the elder Schlegel drew acrylic and charcoal figures against a wordy background that his son scoured for the building blocks of his poems. The resulting work, shown as limited-edition archival prints, shows form interrupted by language and language obscured by form, causing us to look at both more critically and with greater curiosity. Roll-Up Photo Studio + Gallery, 1715 SE Spokane St., 503-267-5835. Through June 30.
Printmaker Alyson Provax is interested in "how we approach that which we do not know." In Out There, Wolff Gallery's second exhibition, Provax uses monotype, collage and the experimental letterpress techniques she is known for to explore the mysteries of the universe. In one piece, the artist prints the phrase "I felt the sound more than heard it," and repeats it diagonally across the paper, like a mechanical glitch that conveys the faded echo of someone's story about a UFO encounter. Wolff Gallery, 618 NW Glisan St., Suite R1, 971-413-1340. Through July 3.