In the Old World there was candlelight, there were velvets and silks and halls of mirrors bedecked with gilded sconces and chandeliers. Today, alas, there is only glitter, and you find it at the mall, on cellphone cases and hair bands, in kiosks and Claire's. Methinks we have regressed, but painter Blakely Dadson isn't so sure. In All That Glitters..., his bravura solo-show debut in Portland, Dadson revels in the cheapening of glamour in which all of us who listen to 50 Cent and watch reruns of The Hills are complicit.
His suite of five paintings celebrates the tacky ostentation of hip-hop bling, nowhere more pointedly than in Black Gold, with its row of six chunky Jesus necklaces, which sport pavé diamonds along the crowns of thorns. A riot of rainbow hues drips from the jewelry, terminating in a line of multicolored glitter along the floor beneath the painting, a garish coup de grâce. Canal Street Mist extrapolates this motif even more absurdly, the pink rhinestone Jesus eyes beaming pink death rays at unseen targets. To the artist's credit, he tempers these extravaganzas with subtleties. Dark, lumpy forms and thangka-style clouds in the backgrounds and along the sides of the compositions allow the gaudier elements context and room to pop.
Now for some caveats and props. The work is overpriced. Dadson's résumé is short—this is his first solo show in Portland and his first solo show, period, in five years, yet he is asking as much as $15,000 for a painting. Other artists of national reputation, such as Andréa Stanislav, are working with glitter in more nuanced ways at more reasonable price points. Despite this, All That Glitters... was all the buzz on First Thursday. Chambers was more packed than I've ever seen it, the din of gallery-goers punctuated by a near-constant pop of champagne corks, making for the most glamorous Portland opening I can recall since the caviar-sprinkled unveiling of Guestroom Gallery back in 2006. Chambers owner Wid Chambers is a laid-back, rich-hippie kinda guy, but his gallery is kicking it up a notch now that it's just a block away from PDX, Pulliam and Elizabeth Leach. This opening had the feel of a coming-out party for both Dadson and Chambers, both of whom seem well-equipped to deliver oodles of style and substance as the year continues.
Blakely Dadson at Chambers, 916 NW Flanders St., 227-9398. Closes April 24.