In an attempt to burst their art world bubble, Portland museums and galleries are turning to a similar solution—hiring someone else to do it for them.
Art institutions are increasingly collaborating with floating curators and artists who are challenging the conventions of art spaces. For its ongoing We. Construct. Marvels. Between. Monuments. series, Portland Art Museum invites curators to challenge the museum's usual scope of programming. Marvels, which opens next week, includes a collaboration with the most recent gallery to disappear from the First Thursday scene, UNA Gallery, which lost its Pearl District space last month after less than two years of giving a platform to underrepresented artists. Recently, Williamson | Knight, which opens Eyes Without a Face this week, collaborated with Don't Shoot PDX for an exhibit that was run by Portlanders who have lost loved ones to police violence and white supremacy.
In this month's art openings, the shift continues. For the first time, Blue Sky sent out an open call for a guest curator to run its May show. Out of a national pool of applicants, it selected Portlander Ashley Stull Meyers. Stull Meyers recently became the director of Marylhurst's Art Gym, but was a freelance curator before that who collaborated with many of Portland's most interesting anti-establishment artists and rule breakers, including the two artists behind Cvllejerx, a pop-up performance art-meets-fashion show, who are taking over flexible art space S1 this weekend.
Here are the five gallery openings we're most excited to see this month.
Ultra Vivid Dreaming
As a result of its open-call curatorial prize, Blue Sky is getting one of its most interesting exhibits this year. Curator Ashley Stull Meyers is bringing together two East Coast photographers who take breathtakingly intimate portraits: New York's Elliott Jerome Brown Jr. and Philadelphia's Shikeith. Though Shikeith's photographs tend to be staged and Brown's are often candid, both create richly colored works that make you feel like you're a part of a deeply private moment. Blue Sky, 128 NW 8th Ave., bluesky.org. Reception 6-9 pm. Through June 3.
Eyes Without a Face
In her essay "Eyes Without A Face," Eileen Isagon Skyers portrays technology as an illusionary comfort that could slip out from underneath us at any moment. "The relationship is one-sided, requiring only that we engage continuously with a luminous, manufactured surface that does not, and could not, reciprocate our empathy," writes the Pacific Northwest College of Art-educated New York artist. The essay traces our desire to fuse the digital world with our own reality, from the trash can icon on your desktop to Siri and AI. But like the essay that it takes its name from, Skyers' multimedia exhibit is intended more as an open-ended inquiry than a forecast of doom. Williamson | Knight, 916 NW Flanders St., williamsonknight.com. Reception 6-8 pm. Through June 2.
Calling Cvllejerx's work a fashion show isn't exactly accurate—it's just the closest thing that its performances resemble. Named after a degendered version of a Spanish word that loosely translates to "street people," Cvllejerx's shows are more like renegade happenings full of people in really cool clothes. Its last show was full of veils made out of gold lace and basketball nets, plus tiaras, butterfly wings and a cape emblazoned with "Here to Stay" in gold letters. This time, Cvllejerx is teaming with designer Park Hyun Gi, who mixes dynastic Korean silhouettes with bondage harnesses and mall-goth chains. S1, 7320 NE Sandy Blvd., facebook.com/cvllejerx.com. 7-10 pm. Through May 5.
Ice Cream Social
For its third exhibit, new gallery Dust to Dust is hoping to create a color-saturated, sugar-coated vision of utopia. Fittingly, it has curated a lineup of artists whose work is as cutesy as it is menacing. That includes Detroit's Shaina Kasztelan, who creates sculptures out of severed My Little Pony heads, Patrick Star prints and plastic skeletons. Cluttered and abrasively colorful, they look like Lisa Frank hellscapes. Dust to Dust, 3636 B N Mississippi Ave., dusttodust.space. Reception 6-8 pm. Through June 17.
You I Everything Else
Most of Alyson Provax's works look essentially the same—out-of-context phrases in typewriter font, animated or printed on card stock. But it's proven to be endlessly fascinating. Her animations are usually just a little too fast to read, illustrating anxiety and creating it, too. It's particularly compelling when Provax reduces the speech patterns of a particular target. A hodgepodge of Donald Trump phrases from a recent series reads like an authoritarian Gertrude Stein: "I think you'll see a lot. You see it already. You're already seeing it. I think you saw it yesterday. You saw that, right." For this exhibit, Provax has spliced together phrases from The Bachelor, which is bound to be fruitfully absurd source material. Wolff Gallery, 2804 SE Ankeny St., wolffgalllery.com. Reception 6-8 pm. Through July 1.