At the end of the Revolutionary War, when Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, it's said that the Redcoats pulled out their fifes and cornets and played a song called "The World Turned Upside Down." That near-forgotten ditty could be the anthem of Immaterialized, the impressive group show that inaugurates Disjecta's new exhibition space. The show's standout is an untitled sculpture of a tank, suspended upside down from the rafters. The piece, a collaboration between Portlanders Gordon Barnes and Shelby Davis, dominates the exhibition space, casting an enormous shadow on the wall, and yet this symbol of military might is upended, emasculated, made fake and absurd and powerless. It sums up the premise of the show, ably curated by Igloo Gallery co-founder Damien Gilley.
As Gilley declares on the Plexiglas sheet at the show's entrance: "Our current reality lies in between identifiable categories." Ergo, the entire show riffs on a kind of sleight-of-hand, wherein things are not what they seem. The tank looks heavy but is actually light enough to be suspended using a few wires. Rebecca Steele's Believe Me Don't Believe Me appears a monolithic decorative scroll but reveals itself upon closer inspection as an intricate collage of sliced-and-diced photo prints. Whereis, by the ad-hoc collective Makerlab, would seem a series of composed abstract works on paper, but is actually created by a computer program that tracks volunteers' movements via their cellphones. Gilley makes no bones about curating himself into the show, which is lucky for us: His 1+1=1 is a trompe l'oeiltour de force, made up of faux-wood-patterned contact paper laid out to simulate a 3-D architectural rendering. Watch out or you might wander, Tron-like, into this alternate universe.
In his wall piece and in the show itself, Gilley has established a strong thesis and relentlessly proved it. Immaterialized is spatially invigorating and conceptually tight. If Gilley continues this caliber of curation then he will become a figure to contend with. The new Disjecta space is expansive and welcoming, with a ceiling that vaults up 25 feet. With the recently announced closure of Tilt Gallery among other art venue departures, the Portland art scene needs something to believe in and a reason to believe in it. Could it be that Disjecta's latest rally has provided us with both?
at Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave., disjecta.org. Closes Aug. 3.