For this month's guide to art openings, we decided to do things a little differently. As usual, we've picked opening receptions that should be priorities on your crawl across First Thursday—a sonic drag show, photos of a matriarchal village in India and pop art about the philosophy of making fun of Hitler.
But this time, we've also included some Eastside galleries with First Friday openings. The idea is to make going to see art as accessible as possible, so if you don't feel like dealing with parking downtown, you can still see shows that are just as intriguing.
Galleries are always free, not just on First Thursday and Friday. But along with wine and fancy snacks, the benefit of receptions is that you're not alone in a quiet gallery. There are more people with whom you can share thoughts, questions or just reactions. It's a far more extroverted mode of viewing art, which can take some pressure off of those who are intimidated by white-walled galleries.
Here are the five gallery openings this week that we're most excited about.
Night Lights: Pepper Pepper
For the past five years, drag queen and performance artist Pepper Pepper has emceed one of the Time Based Arts Festival's most treasured shows, Critical Mascara, which is somewhere between an arty drag show and a giant warehouse party. But Pepper has decide to move on to new artistic pursuits, so this year's Critical Mascara was the last. The new chapter in Pepper's career begins with the show that will kick off Night Lights, an annual series of outdoor, avant-garde video installations. Pepper has described the installation as "a staged feedback loop for participants to practice drag, lip-sync" in order to create "kaleidoscopic transformations." What specifically that means is to be determined, but it sounds pretty awesome. Regional Arts & Culture Council, 411 Northwest Park Ave., opensignalpdx.org. Begins at dusk Thursday, Oct. 5.
Kingdom of Girls and Plato's Dogs
National Geographic photographer Karolin Klüppel spent two years photographing a matriarchal village in India where a family's youngest daughter is their heir and husbands move into their wives' homes instead of the other way around. Kingdom of Girls is Klüppel's photographic essay on the village. When the show opened in New York two years ago, it made headlines in the likes of the Atlantic and the Washington Post, but it's only now that the exhibit has made its way to Portland. Klüppel's work will be exhibited alongside Plato's Dogs, a series of black and white photos of dogs' shadows by veteran Brooklyn photographer Thomas Roma. Blue Sky Gallery, 122 NW 8th Ave., blueskygallery.org. Through Oct. 31. Opening reception 6-9 pm Thursday, Oct. 5.
Drawing Life and How to Laugh at Nazis (According to the NYT and a Book)
Ever since Jim Riswold left his job at Wieden + Kennedy, making fun of Hitler has kind of been his thing. Surviving leukemia inspired Riswold to become an irreverent pop artist—his previous shows at Augen gallery included Hitler figurines bought off eBay and repurposed into childlike toys. It's all part of Riswold's philosophy that the best way to deal with terrible things is to deprive them of their dignity, a philosophy that's detailed in his new memoir, How Hitler Changed My Life. His exhibit celebrates the book's release and will be accompanied by Karen Esler's understated but detailed watercolor portraits. Augen Gallery, 716 NW Davis St., augengallery.com. Through Oct. 28. Opening reception 5-8 pm Thursday, Oct, 5.
The curators at Eutectic Gallery really know how to find some strange, abstract pottery. The gallery's next ceramics exhibit is particularly out there. Instead of bowls or vases, the four artists in Inherent Terrain create works that are purely decorative, which allows them to be a lot weirder. Udine Brod makes statues of sheep wearing smocks and standing on their hind legs, while Sasha Koozel Reibstein's ceramics are totally alien. Amorphous lumps of crystals and what resembles dripped wax, Reibstein's sculptures look like they were harvested from some extra-terrestrial ocean. Eutectic Gallery, 1930 NE Oregon St., eutecticgallery.com. Through Nov. 18. Opening reception 6-9 pm Friday, Oct. 6.
Mike Lee's paintings look like modernist nightmares. The New York artist paints odd blobs that resemble bulbous, boneless people and float in a grayscale void. With large, round torsos, featureless faces and limp arms and legs, they're so eerily smooth they look like they were created by a computer. But what makes them interesting isn't so much Lee's technical precision as the fact that his paintings are just unsettling enough that you're fascinated more than deterred. Stephanie Chefas Projects, 305 SE 3rd Ave. #202, stephaniechefas.com. Through Oct. 28. Opening reception 7-10 pm Friday, Oct. 6.