Wonderfully executed if poorly publicized by former PICA visual arts curator Stuart Horodner, AFFAIR at the Jupiter Hotel brought Portland's art scenesters out of the woodwork last Friday night and did not disappoint them.
Boasting more than 30 participating galleries from Portland and beyond, AFFAIR filled the courtyard and second-story rooms of the minimalist-chic Jupiter Hotel with an embarrassment of aesthetic riches. Local galleries held their own against out-of-towners, and the general vibe glowed quasi-L.A., except for the bar, which offered nearly undrinkable wine and no cocktails, and the très lame 9 pm closing time, which stretched to an only slightly less lame 10 pm drop-dead closing, at which point the DJ packed up his sound system and disappeared, leaving guests, in the absence of a suitable after-party, to disperse variously to nearby Farm or Union Jack's, or across the river to Fez.
An event of this scale and cool should have started at 9 and ended when the cocks crowed. AFFAIR felt like First Thursday condensed into a motorcourt, which is a good thing, actually, with an agreeable mix of the city's three main art cliques in attendance: the old guard (Laura Russo types), the post-mods (the Camella Raymond crew) and the new romantics (à la Justin Oswald).
Standout artwork included Jaq Chartier's raspberries-and-cream abstractions in the Liz Leach room, Diane Althoff's color-field photograms at Alysia Duckler, and Jess Holzworth's perverse mytho-sexual collages at New York gallery Modern Culture. Pulliam Deffenbaugh's Anna Fidler translated her colorful, semi-abstract shapes into a too-cute animation loop, while PDX's Ellen George hung a whimsically pink polymer-clay installation from the ceiling. An even more engaging installation came courtesy Motel's Jessie Rose Vala, who used corduroy, netting and chicken wire to create a tree in whose limbs a short film enacted the artist's own transformation, Daphne-like, into the same tree.
Fresh Up Club from Austin offered refreshing, lowbrow art, while Caren Golden Fine Art from New York presented Ryan Humphrey's fluorescent paintings, glittering with sparkly glass dust from crushed RC Cola bottles. The James Harris Gallery from Seattle offered a better drawing show (by Keith Tilford) than any Portland venue has produced in ages. Multimedia wunderkind Daniel Kaven gets the Gesamtkunst award for turning one of Gallery 500's two rooms into an immersive vignette, equal parts photography, painting, collage, film and installation, all centered on a fictitious May-September tryst between Brazen Bean cocktail waitress Renée Bielawski and former Satyricon proprietor George Touhouliotis. The digital film played on the room's TV as the collages (based on photos taken in the room several weeks beforehand) hung on the walls, while the room's post-coital details imparted vérité: rumpled bedsheets, cold cream on the bathroom sink, bubblebath in the tub, and clothes strewn about (his Armani jacket and slacks, her high heels and pink thong).
All in all, a most engaging endeavor. Congratulations to Horodner for masterminding and pulling off an event that, quibbles aside, framed Portland's strengths with considerable panache in a national context. It was an AFFAIR to remember and, hopefully, to be repeated.
800 E Burnside St.Friday, Oct. 1.