Wookies and Horse Heads: The Gallery Openings We’re Most Excited To See This Week

Your guide to July's First Thursday receptions and recent gallery openings.

First Thursday is equally a celebration of Portland arts spaces as well as a reminder of their precariousness. This week, arts collective and inclusive dance night YGB (young, gifted, black) is celebrating its two-year anniversary with an impressive lineup of portrait photographers. Before downsizing in the fall, Nationale is holding a retrospective of its nine years as a gallery. But thankfully, in a twist on the all-too-frequent tale of Portland galleries closing, Nationale is downsizing, not disappearing entirely. Still, their lineup seems like it's as much a testament to the gallery's resilience (their new space will be their fifth venue) as it is a reminder of what we'd miss if we lost them.

There's also plenty of weird shit to check out—exhibits with everything from glass ponies to moldy flowers and one that's dedicated entirely to Wookie photography. Here are the five we're most excited to see.

Since opening in 2008, Nationale has been a staple of the Portland art scene. But after a few more shows in their current space, the gallery will downsize later this year. The farewell show to its Division Street space is a retrospective of works that the gallery has displayed over the years from a massive lineup of local artists. Nationale, 3360 SE Division, 503-477-9786, nationale.us. Through July 31.

Further West
Portland artist Mako Miyamoto has a strange obsession: Wookies. In his photography series, he takes pictures of people amid West Coast pastiche—in old-school laundromats, in parking garages and carrying cross bows and baseball bats, playing tennis, petting horses while wearing flower crowns. Except his subjects all wear Wookie masks. Once you get over the ridiculousness, the photos are actually quiet beautiful—they're saturated with color and somehow melancholy. His solo exhibit will reveal the origin story of the Wookies and tales of their westward expansion. Stephanie Chefas Projects, 305 SE 3rd Ave., #202, stephaniechefas.com. July 7-29.

Your Clothing Is Animal Hair, Your purple Is Fish Blood
Alisa Bones' expressionist paintings look like they're struggling to be contained. It's not that they're chaotic—they're fairly minimal—but the blocks of color and texture interrupt one another on the collage-like canvas, and smudges escape from the boundaries of spray painted shapes. Williamson|Knight, 916 NW Flanders, williamsonknight.com. Through July 29.

Bullseye's bizarre exhibit of decorative art is an oneiric scene. The works are loosely linked by the idea of changes—which looks as broad as it sounds. Taken as a whole, it feels like some strange, baroque dreamscape. There's Emily Nachison's glass horse heads displayed like aristocratic busts, Ligia Bouton's watercolor of Victorian people standing next to giant bird cages and Kate Clements' tank of rotting flowers. Bullseye Projects, 300 NW 13th Ave., 503-227-0222, bullseyeprojects.com. Through September 30.

YBG: Two Year Retrospective
In the summer of 2015, arts collective YGB hosted its first hip-hop dance night intended to create a space that was pro-black, pro-queer and pro-femme. After two years of doing just that, it's celebrating with an exhibit of photography by Portland artists. YGB will display all its past flyers by artist Alexander Wright, whose album artwork is an integral part of the local hip-hop scene. Plus, there will be portraits by a wide range of photographers, like Miss Lopez's joyous but subtle portraits in which the landscape seems to be an extension of the subject, and Anthony Taylor's vibrant, striking works. UNA Gallery, 328 NW Broadway, 858-610-4269, ygbportland.com. 6 pm Thursday, July 6.