First Thursday: April shows bring flowers, as well as Iraq, underpants and Portland block by block
by: ©2007 JOEL PRESTON SMITH, Joel Preston Smith’s photos from Iraq depict both the natives (such as an Iraqi police officer, above) and the visitors, including a U.S. cavalry soldier who took a dip in the Euphrates River near Saddam Hussein’s Northern Palace (right).

With the annual photography conference Photolucida in town from April 12 to April 16, everyone is showing photography this month.

There is also an international flavor to much of the art on show around town, and some of the best stuff is happening on the east side.

It's certainly worth crossing the river for a couple of brave, energetic shows. A new space - 23 Sandy Gallery - will deal with photography, painting and art books. It opens with photos from Joel Preston Smith's book 'Night of a Thousand Stars and Other Portraits of Iraq.'

One of the dividends of the Iraq war is the amount of good writing, video and photography coming back from there. Smith's portraits, taken on two visits in 2003, capture the faces of Americans involved in a foreign adventure, and of the foreigners who hate them. Heckuva job.

First Friday reception 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 6; regular hours noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, through April 28, 23 Sandy Gallery, 623 N.E. 23rd Ave., 503-927-4409

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TJ Norris is adept at finding interesting avant-garde music (see his blog at, and he's an excellent visual-arts curator, too. His new group show features artists from several countries under the title 'invisible.other.' (Norris recommends pausing between the two words.)

It's not clear what the theme of the show really is, but the general idea seems to be obscure images. One wonderful white-on-white panel piece by Abi Spring consists of a series of horizontal lines that change in the light like solarized film or mother of pearl. The artist made the marks on the shiny white background with a belt sander.

Another, by Thomas Köner of Germany, consists of three video screens showing crowds moving in slow motion in Japan, the Czech Republic and India, accompanied by his own electronic soundscape, which fills the room. It's refreshing to see local and international rubbing shoulders.

First Friday reception 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. April 6; regular hours noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, through April 29, New American Art Union, 922 S.E. Ankeny St., 503-231-8294

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That old chestnut (on a satin cloth with dramatic lighting) the still life gets an airing at Pulliam Deffenbaugh as 14 artists take a pop at the form.

Interesting standouts include German photographer Uta Barth, who does series of simple objects on what look like window sills - an apple, a flower - with a lot of space around them. Photographer Wolfgang Tillmans shows a white door with a pair of pants hanging from the corner, the underpants still attached. In the background is a blurry glimpse of bed.

Group shows with such a simple theme as this can be very enjoyable, because they are both accessible and educational. Sort of. Where's the wine again?

First Thursday reception 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 5, regular hours 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, though April 28, Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery, 929 N.W. Flanders St., 503-228-6665

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It might not be all baskets and masks, but contemporary Native American art sure stays close to its roots, as evidenced by the show at Quintana this month.

Douglas Miles, a San Carlos Apache, shows some skateboard decks featuring his Peace Maker series (named for the handgun).

Drew Michael, a 21-year-old Inupiaq, or Eskimo (according to gallery owner Cecily Quintana, the word Eskimo is not totally off-limits these days), makes carvings based on his own growth as an artist.

And Keri Ataumbi, a Kiowa, does encaustic paintings on panel that contrast designs from traditional corn husk bags with color-field paintings.

First Thursday reception 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 5; regular hours, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, through April 28, Quintana Galleries, 120 N.W. Ninth Ave., 503-223-1729

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Your tax dollars have been looking for work, and now they are rushing home all excited. With Sam Adams' approval, City Hall's doing First Thursday, with art and bands and everything.

First up is 'Portland Draws,' a group show of local illustrators and comic creators. It features all sorts of names you half-know, like Scrappers, Carson Ellis, Bwana Spoons and Shannon Wheeler. Now's your chance to snoop around the city commissioners' offices.

First Thursday reception 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 5; regular hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., through April 28, City Hall, second floor, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave., 503-823-3008

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Blue Sky Gallery is getting all puffed up ahead of its move to the DeSoto Building on the North Park Blocks this summer.

Christopher Rauschenberg's dad, Robert, donated a sculpture to the gallery that sold in January to the Portland Art Museum for $1 million, and certainly got the blood pumping.

At their regular location they are showing Wolfgang Zurborn's photos of the fractured modern world. Andrew Miksys focuses on the Romany word baxt, meaning fate or destiny, and here he's shooting Lithuanian Roma ('gypsies' is not PC).

First Thursday reception 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 5; regular hours noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, through April 28, Blue Sky Gallery, 1231 N.W. Hoyt St., 503-225-0210

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A few blocks away, Blue Sky is presenting 'iWITNESS,' the work of photojournalist Tom Stoddart, under the headings Famine, Siege, Exodus, Cleansing, Floods, Earthquake, Loss, Conflict and Scourge. Stoddart will lecture on his work at the Portland Art Center at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 14.

At the same venue is another installment of the Portland Grid Project, this one picked by seven curators. The Grid Project ( is a way of photographing Portland based on a AAA map, which Blue Sky board member Christopher Rauschenberg cut up into 98 pieces and distributed to photographers, telling them to shoot the people and natural and man-made forms they saw in their square. After nine years it was complete, and now another cycle is under way, currently in its third year.

First Thursday reception 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. April 5; regular hours noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, through April 27, Portland Art Center, 32 N.W. Fifth Ave., 503-236-3322

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