For the past four years, the Affair at the Jupiter Hotel has been one of the most enjoyable events on Portland's visual-arts calendar. Organized by former PICA visual-arts curator Stuart Horodner and Small A Projects founder Laurel Gitlen, the event mixes local and out-of-town galleries, each art space with its own room surrounding the Jupiter's West Burnside courtyard, which is now covered with an enormous (and muy tacky) tarp. The general quality of art this year was less exciting than in previous outings, with fewer installations, digital videos and sculptures. More than a few attendees were overheard grousing that admission on Friday night was $50 a head, for a viewing that ended at 9 pm with no lesser-priced after-party for the benefit of the hoi polloi. However, all the gallerists I spoke with after opening night reported that they had made respectable or more-than-respectable sales—and selling art is, after all, the point.
Affair highlights included Daniel Johnson's Untitled (Rat) at Chicago's 65GRAND. It was a demonstration of jolie laide (that French expression for "pretty-ugly") if ever there were one: impeccably composed, beautifully lit; a gorgeous tribute to the photo's eponymous dead rat. Israeli glass artist Dafna Kaffeman's works at Bullseye look like sea anemones, glamorously colored in pink, yellow and orange. Modern Culture featured white-hot photos of Blondie and Iggy Pop by New York photographer Roberta Bayley, while PDX Gallery made full use of its room, placing a James Lavadour work in the loo. Laura Russo lined up her stars—Mel Katz, Lucinda Parker and Tom Cramer—San Francisco's Gallery 415 proved that an art space specializing in Latin American art need not stoop to garish, quasi-quaint folklorica. Pentimenti Gallery's Judy Gelles offered an intriguing comparison of beach cottages in Melbourne, Australia, and Melbourne, Fla., but perhaps the strongest showing out of any gallery was Portland's own Pulliam Deffenbaugh, which rocked the house with some brand new and smokin'-hot works by Brenden Clenaghen, Anna Fidler and Matthew Picton.
A special treat dropped out of the blue in the form of the rogue Rocks Box space, whose founder, Patrick Rock, was not invited to be part of the Affair proper but mounted a salon des refusés in a different quadrant of the motel. Rock displayed an intriguing, if lowbrow, assortment of outlawed Chinese art smuggled into the U.S. in a visiting curator's suitcase. Rock (perhaps best known for his giant inflatable hot dog at Jeff Jahn's 2005 show, Fresh Trouble ) is an important emerging figure in Portland's art scene, with a renegade personality and curatorial élan that recall the golden days of Haze Gallery (2003-04).