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February 7th, 2007 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

First Thursday, Hail Satan!

Dark metal lights up Sugar Gallery; Damien Hirst celeb death match.

     
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Brooklyn photographer Peter Beste is obsessed with Norwegian dark metal bands—a quasi-Satanic subgenre of heavy metal whose frontmen tend to look like a cross between Gene Simmons of Kiss and Brandon Lee in The Crow. Beste traveled to Norway five years in a row to photograph his idols, and presents the fruits of this labor of love at Sugar. You've gotta love the titles of these photos. Nattefrost of Carpathian Forest shows the eponymous Scandinavian clutching an upside-down crucifix, his arm foreshortened like some Beelzebubian Bacchus. Hoest of Taake shows a shirtless longhair in the Nordic forests, his arm scarified, a mace slung over his shoulder. There is a geeky romanticism to these images, a narcissism and homoeroticism within their preening, dolled-up dark princes, and yet the glamour is superimposed over more sobering undercurrents: Elements of this subculture have been associated with church arsons and neo-Nazi activity. The delicious Byronic cheesiness of these studies makes an effective counterpoint to the movement's genuinely sinister side. 625 NW Everett St., #108, 425-9628. Closes Feb. 28.

At her debut show at Augen, Grace Weston creates miniature sets made out of children's toys and original sculptures, then photographs the sets in opulently saturated color. With their selective focus, the works are little jewels, their preciousness offset by irony. Like Corey Smith, Weston knows how to use a title to add value to the visual. Couples Therapy shows a disembodied eye sitting in a chair, counseling a heart and a brain. Heaven Help Us shows God as a puppeteer, with humans his marionettes. God, appropriately, is portrayed as a clown. A witty, sure-footed debut. 817 SW 2nd Ave., 224-8182. Closes Feb. 21.

Short Subject: Damien Hirst. Is it cool that the Portland Art Museum is showing four of his works, and should everybody go see them? Yes. Is Hirst the most overrated artist of our time, and did he shoot his wad, Orson Welles-style, with his first major successes—formaldehydic sharks, cows and sheep—in the 1990s? Yes. Would his skeleton cabinet at PAM be better displayed in a museum of natural history than a museum of fine art? Yes. Does his brain-slicing painting at PAM unmask him as a spectacularly shoddy figurative painter? Yes. Final question: Would he beat Matthew Barney in a celebrity deathmatch? Hell no. —RICHARD SPEER.


1219 SW Park Ave., 226-2811. Closes April 22.
 
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