Michael L. Wilson has made a metaphoric jump across the Willamette River, evolving his painting from a lowbrow, Last Thursday sensibility to an elegant First Thursday polish. Caustic: 3rd Definition , his current show at Rake , is his furthest departure yet from the illustrationlike frog creatures and homunculi that once characterized his work. That subject matter was always a distraction from his technique, a visual language of bisected lines and Venn diagram-like intersections atop matte finishes. Wisely, Wilson has gradually reined in his cheesier impulses but continued his uneasy duet between organic flow and geometric structure. Salon is the dominant image in the current body of work, a delicious ode to rhomboids and circles in royal blue, yellow and gray. Separation of the Falls shows a more typical interaction between snaking, vinelike lines and unforgiving Euclidean rigor, while Orientation veers toward Peter Halley with its computer-circuit imagery. Rake, a scrappy incubator of a gallery, which (hard to believe) will be 3 years old in December, has done well by Wilson, whose cool minimalism would not be out of place at more prominent galleries such as PDX, Quality Pictures or Chambers. 325 NW 6th Ave., 914-6391. Closes Sept. 28.
Timothy Scott Dalbow also treads the tenuous ground between representation and abstraction. Best known for his gloppy renderings of local bridges, he always struck me as a painter who would do well to drop his architectural obsessions and plunge into pure abstraction. After seeing Oubliette and Chasing Ghosts at New American Art Union , I am changing my tune. With these beach scenes of bathing beauties, executed with effortless spontaneity and conspicuous testosteronic chutzpah, Dalbow outs himself as a new-millennia de Kooning, riffing on the eternal feminine. Gash-happy and unabashedly objectifying, the works revel in gesture and surface in a go-for-broke fashion seldom seen in these parts. 922 SE Ankeny St., 231-8294. Closes Sept. 30.
People in the local glass scene know Ted Sawyer as the white-coated, endearingly geeky director of research and education at Bullseye Glass , but in his current show at Bullseye, he reveals the tiger hiding inside that clinical garb. Sawyer’s kiln-formed glass panels display an exuberant chromatic vibe and painterly approach to the medium that are a sheer joy to behold. In his Come Back series, he finesses glass to suggest impetuous drips and corrosive materials; in Phase I , he inscribes three yellow claw marks upon a background of preternatural blue. It is rare to see work that manages both subtlety and drama, but Sawyer dispatches the challenge with moxie and style. 300 NW 13th Ave., 227-0222. Closes Sept. 29.