First Thursday
by: COURTESY OF LAURA RUSSO GALLERY, Mel Katz’s flat metal sculptures, such as “Triad,” stand up straight at Laura Russo Gallery.

Mel Katz's flat metal sculptures look like lines when you turn them sideways.

He likes that because he believes that 'everything is about line. A line represents you, just like when you drew a line on the wall for the first time as a kid.'

Katz is showing four new full-size (about 9 feet tall) sculptures and a half-dozen models (most about 3 feet tall) at his longtime gallery.

The former husband of ex-Mayor Vera Katz has hit a streak with his designs, in which clear geometric and organic shapes tumble and meld with each other under a slick painted finish.

The 75-year-old's process is refreshingly postmodern - none of that old struggling in a garret and getting your hands dirty.

He farms out the filth. Eschewing preliminary sketches, he begins by making a 1:1 scale drawing in charcoal on paper fixed to the wall. Then a 'programmer' traces his lines, importing Katz's ready-made curves and lines into a drafting program.

The subsequent .dxf file goes to BBC Steel in Canby, where aluminum plates are cut with a fine jet of water and welded together. (BBC usually does big commercial projects, but it will work with artists. It also does sculptor Lee Kelly's fabrication, and it did those curved metal tree/circuit board sculptures on the MAX line.)

'They do it for me because they're nice, but that's just Portland,' says the New York-born Katz, who moved here in the 1960s. 'If I tried to do this on the East Coast, they wouldn't let me in the door. People are more receptive around here.'

The sculptures are painted by commercial painter Dura Industries in Northwest Portland, which uses a thermally cured (i.e., baked) fluoropolymer paint plus a clear coat.

Dura specializes in painting things that have to stay out in the weather, mainly condos. Katz's sculptures cost a couple of grand each just to paint, so it's no wonder the big ones sell for $22,000 to $25,000.

He always makes the $4,000 smaller version first, just to see who bites. Full-size ones are a bit of a commitment to install. He picked the 3-foot size because 'it's larger than teeny and smaller than large.'

Katz and Connie Kiener, a painter also showing in March, will give a talk at the gallery at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 10.

First Thursday reception 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 1; regular hours 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, through March 31, Laura Russo Gallery, 805 N.W. 21st Ave., 503-226-2754

The Attic Gallery is a good example of how galleries ebb and flow in Portland.

Attic has one location downtown on the MAX line and since May 2006 has had a second location on Northwest 10th Avenue in the Pearl District. (The space was previously a dodgy Asian antiques market.)

The parking space lines still are on the floor, and doorways have been hacked in the Sheetrock from room to room. That's because, according to manager Tommer Gonser, the building's only going to be there about a year before it's razed to make way for a 10-story tower, with a swankier Attic on the ground floor.

Artistically, it's a definitive middlebrow experience - not that there's anything wrong with that. Gonser is proud of the fact that prices are low enough that 'people who just want some art for their walls feel comfortable walking in here,' and he has a point.

The gallery's Web site rallying cry is 'Remember, Portland has no sales tax!'

While there's a minor tendency toward art featuring animals or big nudes, there's enough variety to make it an interesting place to browse. On dry First Thursdays the garage door opens up and the hordes come in for their wine and live music.

This month's featured artist is Hadley Ferguson, with a feel-good show called 'Acrylic Paintings of European Scenes.'

First Thursday reception 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 1; regular hours noon to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, through March 31, Attic Gallery, 539 N.W. 10th Ave., 503-222-3850

Mark Woolley's self-imposed exile to Northeast comes to an end this summer.

He's keeping his Wonder Ballrooom gallery but opening a second gallery next to Augen Gallery downtown. (In other news, PICA might use the Wonder Ballroom and gallery for its TBA 'The Works' afterparty next September.)

For now, though, Woolley and some Northeast businesses are running the free Russell Shuttle between his gallery at Wonder Ballroom and the Pearl District to get people across the river.

They've dropped the limo service that was offered in February, but the Groove Bomb, a renovated TriMet bus, runs again, this time on a set schedule, between the Pearl, Old Town and Northeast Russell Street.

Oh, and the art: Woolley has shows by Lance Morrison (lonely hummingbirds in oil on canvas), Jeff Fontaine (mixed media on rusted steel) and Bobbi Ambrosini (monotypes).

The Groove Bomb runs 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on a 30-minute loop. Free nonalcoholic beverages and snacks are available on board.

First Thursday reception 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 1, also First Friday reception 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 2; regular hours 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Mark Woolley Gallery, Wonder Ballroom, 128 N.E. Russell St., 503-224-5475,

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