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Aural Report

Pounding out the First Thursday connection
Making music to make art
by Kurt Dahlke

rt and music are twisted together like braids in a cruller. It's not a revolutionary concept, but maybe one so obvious that it needs someone to wave one of those cone-like orange flashlights in front of it so that we keep noticing.

The Backspace Gallery on First Thursday: music works its magic more quickly than a painting – putting people in a headspace to appreciate art.

Tonight I'm hitting the nasty streets of Portland's Pearl District to see if any First Thursday shows are pounding out the connection.

Audio stimulation is vital in aesthetic life, and most artists listen to music while working. In fact, what they listen to often dictates what and how they create.

Music is a power-player in the viz-arts scene. And lots of artists are musicians as well – making music to make art to, perhaps.

So why are musical-themed/enhanced show openings still a minority, especially in the Pearl? Are gallery owners afraid to disrupt the solemn air of art appreciation (read: buying)? Sure, a lot of buying is going on, but why not throw out a little convivial music to accompany the wheel-greasing wine and make the event more honestly the faux-continental meet-and-greet it really is?

Maybe artists could take charge and play the music that inspired them to create what now hovers like an icon on a virginal white wall. Art is supposed to be all about process, right? So bring some process into the gallery.

My process starts at the Lowbrow Lounge, listening to talk-bubbles wobble from topic to topic while watching foam-rings stratify inside my glass. A room full of light talk can be as relaxing as waves breaking on the gentle shore all afternoon long, which is a nice space to be in while seeing and being seen.

The lively young crowd: bringing some process into the gallery.

Naught but hushed tones at Pulliam Deffenbaugh where Jeffry Mitchell's kitschy vacuum-formed graphic-design bears and paintings of cute waterfowl capering among the fluffy clouds ("The Apotheosis of the Penguins") share space with gleeful Babar-like ceramic elephants. Modern and classical Hello-Kitty cuteness.

The schtick is heavier at Alysia Duckler, featuring colorful, heavily textured chain-link-and-horizontal-line partite canvases, but no music. I'd be interested in hearing what Scott Sonniksen listened to when painting these optically pleasing (if not somewhat garish) two-note sambas.

The music's all on the street, with violins, didgeridoos and more exotic instruments on many corners, played for fun as much as money. Even the Starbucks on Glisan features small combos on First Thursdays.

Artistic collusion: not buying much other than lattés.

The Backspace Gallery and many galleries at Everett Street Lofts go the DJ route, a pure appropriation art if ever there was one, but one that works its magic more quickly than a painting – hopefully putting people in a headspace of aesthetic euphoria needed to really get into art.

So, while seeing art that you wouldn't find at any Pearl gallery (desiccated condoms on clotheslines) you can jam out to Metronome spinning "microelectronic funk," too.

But Backspace goes synergistically further than just a DJ, pointing out that music is only a small part of creative life – life that includes (in the Backspace business plan) a coffee bar, Internet/gaming terminals, old-fashioned arcade games, art and more.

The lively young crowd may not be buying much other than lattés I wouldn't touch this late at night, but they are buying into artistic collusion, where microprocessors, mochas and, most importantly, music, cuddle up together where they belong.

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

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