At a typical art gallery, validation might come in the form of a glowing review of a show or the praise of a noted aesthete. For Jason Brown, the greatest endorsement he has received as curator of the atypical arts venue at Goodfoot Pub Lounge came from an even tougher group of critics: disgruntled pool sharks.
"We get a lot of regular pool players who come in, and we don't allow pool during the art openings," the heavily bearded 32-year-old says. "So it used to piss off the pool players. They'd come in and go, 'Aw, fuck, it's an art opening again.' But then over the years, all of a sudden it's like, they come in, they have their pool sticks and see there's no pool, and they go, 'Huh. Maybe I'll grab a beer and check it out.' So there's this evolution where the art that's coming here has become accessible to people who probably couldn't have cared less about it in the past."
It isn't, frankly, a very surprising evolution. Although Brown, who also manages and sometimes bartends at the funk club, uses the phrase "outsider art" to describe the material he is usually drawn to, it only partially applies to the stuff he displays at the Goodfoot: While it helps distinguish the vibrantly unbound pieces often hanging on the walls of the two-story Southeast nightspot from the hemmed-in, university-trained work he purposely avoids, the art isn't nearly as alienating as the term implies. In fact, the place frequently houses paintings by some of the most visceral, eye-gripping artists in Portland—a dozen of whom are featured in The Pack, Vol. 1, a selection of works by those who've helped define the space's aesthetic over the past nine years. So it was only a matter of time, really, before the pool, not art, aficionados put down their cues and began paying attention.
"Unlike a downtown gallery, the Goodfoot has a working-man's class about it," says artist Chris Haberman, who has done five shows there and wrote the foreword for The Pack. "[It's] a tangible place with rich and comprehensible art that markets to everyone in the city, from lawyers to construction workers—they are all in there—and to me, that's pretty perfect for Portland."
A refugee of a small and generally artless Idaho town, Brown moved to Portland more than a decade ago. He was involved with the Goodfoot from the ground floor; from the beginning, he and the owners were determined to make it not just another sports bar. "We didn't want any TVs in here, we didn't want any video crap," he says. "We just wanted conversation pieces, and artwork seems to be the easiest thing for that." When the larger upstairs area opened in 2001, Brown began curating monthly exhibits and annual shows such as Vinyl Killers, featuring paintings made exclusively on vinyl records; The Art of Musical Maintenance rock poster exhibit; and I Am Therefore I Think, an open-ended presentation of art dealing with social issues both geopolitical and mundane.
Along the way, Brown met and connected with local artists who share his "outsider" sensibility. The Pack is a kinetic, visually thrilling and stylistically varied collection—flowing from Haberman's found folk art to Icky A.'s politically charged illustrations to Brown's own surrealist paintings—threaded together by what Brown says is his only prerequisite: palpable passion.
"I'm a visual person; I like to see their art," he says. "I don't care where they've shown and where they went to school. I don't have a lot of prerequisites outside of that. That's the big one: that you can see there's a drive in the artwork."
Goodfoot curator Jason Brown details a handful of his favorite works featured in The Pack.
1. Chris Haberman, Bargirl 54
Jason Brown says: "He's pure and honest. He gets his ideas down quick. He's a great storyteller on the canvas, and one of the most prolific artists in town."
2. EMEK, MARSians
"I like his attention to detail and vivid imagination, as well as his interest in using new materials and trying new things."
3. Michael Fields, Walk Towards the Sun
"He is very obsessive-compulsive with his line work and attention to detail. He works at it and has evolved over the years through his drive to create."
4. Icky A., Bring the War
"I like his interest in using his artistic abilities for social change. He uses simple, generally flat characters and settings to have a subtle influence rather than shoving messages down your throat."
5. Jesse Reno, There Is Strength in Understanding Spirits
"He is another very honest painter, and a great storyteller. He allows the canvas to evolve into what it becomes rather than having any kind of premonitions about where it will go. He is a very prolific artist with a lot of drive."
6. Tripper Dungan, Guitarista
"He is a very honest painter also. He creates a world that is inviting and without prejudice."
An opening party for the release of
and its accompanying art show takes place at the Goodfoot, 2845 SE Stark St., 239-9292. 5-11 pm Thursday, July 30. Free. Art show closes Aug. 25. Buy a copy of
at the Goodfoot ($30 opening party price, $40 regular price). Order online at thegoodfoot.com/gallery for $35 before July 30; regular online price $50.