December is an odd month for the galleries. Many gallerists opt for group shows without a unifying theme. Most all of them take at least a week off around Christmas and the New Year, and many of those will keep the same show up in January. In short, the First Thursday Art Walk is the best time to catch it all.
Everyone is presumably busy, but hopefully not too busy for art. This month, we’re highlighting a number of shows that feature colorful and offbeat figurative work.
David Byrd: Drawing from Painting at Greg Kucera Gallery
The late artist David Byrd used a muted palette to depict his figures, seen in public spaces and mental wards. Byrd worked prolifically in isolation for decades before having his big debut at Greg Kucera Gallery shortly before his death in 2013. The latest show includes paintings and sketches, which feel like a regular slice-of-life at first glance but become stranger the more one looks at them.
Through December 23. More info online.
Casey McGlynn at Foster/White Gallery
For a more exuberantly weird array, check out Foster/White Gallery next door. Casey McGlynn‘s mixed-media works on canvas look like giant pages from a sketchbook. The mix focuses on figures (human and animal, especially equine). Because they are detached from any recognizable space and rendered in a naive manner, they can appear playful at first. But as with Byrd, the more one looks, the more one sees—anxiety, chaos, an attempt at finding order whose success is temporary at best.
Through December 23. More info online.
Gregory Grenon and Mary Josephson at Traver Gallery
Both Gregory Grenon and Mary Josephson focus on the human form, especially the face. Both use highly saturated colors and introduce other elements that makes the work a touch surreal (and occasionally a touch kitsch). Both are based in Portland. On paper, it makes perfect sense to show the two together, but sometimes the obvious choice isn’t best for everyone,.
It’s not often that I feel that a show has unintentionally pitted artists against each other, but it happened here. Both artists focus on female subjects, but Grenon’s gaze feels limited by comparison. His artist statement alludes to a narrative power that most of his works simply can’t carry. The paintings (oil on glass) are attractive, and some viewers will enjoy their frank, hip simplicity of the work. But Josephson’s work is much more thought-through and therefore thought-provoking. She goes beyond presenting an affect (or lack thereof) and hints at an inner world that is fulfilling to ponder.
The comparisons between the two artists thus make for more competition than synergy. At least the framing choices by both are really smart. See and judge for yourself at Traver Gallery.
Through December 22. More info online.
Richard Morhous: Duets at Harris/Harvey Gallery
There’s nothing revolutionary about Richard Morhous‘ painterly, urban scenes, but he’s a master of color. The urban, slice-of-life visions don’t always include figures, but he imparts a human warmth to every scene. In a city that can feel especially grey, cold and dark during the winter months, Harris/Harvey Gallery chose well, showing Morhouse as we near the darkest day of the year.
Through December 30. More info online.
Christopher David White at Abmeyer + Wood
If you prefer ghost stories to colorful scenery (or want a bit of both) check out Abmeyer+Wood, where Ceramicist Christopher David White‘s uncanny mimicry of flesh, wood and other materials is on full display. White’s work always teeters on feeling a little haunted, but some of his new sculptures are downright creepy. The figurative work “Split,” for example, looks like a creature from a Guillermo Del Toro movie. Elsewhere, eyes peer from wood to stare down “metal” nails that have been hammered into their pouting faces.
It’s not needlessly macabre, but it’s apt to see these distorted dryads in the gallery at a time when homes cross America have lopped down trees to watch them slowly desiccate in their living room. Happy Holidays!
Through January 13. More info online.
Featured Image: Richard Morhous, “Echo,” acrylic on clay board. Image courtesy of Harris/Harvey Gallery.