Volume feels different—more cavernous and self-directed, less tour-guidey—than most Jeff Jahn-curated shows. Perhaps that's because the show's theme is space and the way Portland artists are redefining it. Jahn wisely steps aside and lets the artists establish the show's contours, but there's another player here as well: the gallery space itself. WorkSound is a rambling expanse, a succession of wide-open rectangles offset by intimate nooks and corners. It lends itself to sculptural installations, which are perhaps the weakest link in Portland solo and group shows, and which are the trickiest to pull off without seeming hackneyed. This show succeeds in this tightrope walk, however. Among the planes and partitions that define Volume's layout in WorkSound's football field-meets-labyrinth layout, many surprises are to be found.
Stephen Funk's virtuosic faux-fur rhapsody of eagles, birthday cakes and cherubs sprawls from the floor to the wall to the ceiling, while Stephen Slappe's four-channel video installation counterposes snippets from well-known vampire movies. In his Tron-like architectural fake-out, Damien Gilley creates an ultra-nifty perspective rendering of Portland's Ira Keller Fountain. Under blacklight, the piece's fluorescent tape glows green, updating trompe l'oeil with Mister Roboto panache. Joe Thurston warps his abstract wood panels into a cylinder and hangs it diagonally, and Stephanie Robison (last seen at the Marylhurst Art Gym) invites the viewer through a gateway of white biomorphic forms, which sprout periscopelike mirrors. Railing against the condo-ization of Portland, Salvatore Reda has constructed a mock condo building and ritualistically burned it to the ground, recording the mock arson in his video installation, intimately involved from the beginning. The most elegant work in the show is Ellen George and Jerry Mayer's Filigree: a delicate sculpture protruding from the wall in steel wire and plastic, casting a bat- or butterflylike shadow on the wall. Diminutive and decidedly low-tech, it nevertheless creates a stir—which is what all the artists in Volume are doing in Portland.
Volume at WorkSound, 820 SE Alder St. Closes Sept. 23.