Last week, the group art show, Blazer Mania opened at the Compound Gallery in Portland. The show is the most recent of several Trail Blazers-themed shows that have popped up in the last couple of years. This isn’t particularly surprising, as I find over and over again that there’s an interesting intersection between Portland’s arts community and an interest, ranging from casual to fervent, in the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazer Mania show was a mix of mediums, ranging from pen and ink to 3-D installation. The following are a few of the highlights.
Mike King’s Kevin Duckworth Obscured by Trees, a screenprint on wood piece, was one of my favorites of the show. Most of us who were kids in the late-eighties and early-nineties Blazer era probably recall how passionate “Duck” was about Oregon’s natural beauty. King’s piece is a fitting tribute to the late, beloved gentle giant.
Ryan Berkley is a friend of mine, and a wonderful self-taught illustrator who has created a number of brilliant Blazers-inspired pieces over the last few years. I love the concept of “Rip CIty Bigs,” and, as with all of Ryan’s illustrations, becomes quirkier and more wonderful the longer you look at it. The tiny details, such as the falling roses, Brian Grant’s tattoo and the word “Enforcer” on Maurice Lucas, just blow me away.
Portland-based street artist Klutch’s style is unmistakable, with bold colors and a definite punk inspiration. This piece, Home Court Damage, was definitely the first thing most people were drawn to upon entering the gallery space–it’s a knockout. (Fun fact: The Suns’ Channing Frye has a large installation from Klutch in his Portland condo.)
I had the chance to chat with artist Ryan Bubnis about his urban folk art painting, The 6th Man, at the opening. Ryan is a big Trail Blazers fan, and started following the team when he first moved to the Portland area in 2000. He noted that he felt a sense of irony working on this piece, given the disheartening news about Brandon Roy’s health that was the news this fall. “It was kind of crazy, since I was painting this during one of the most depressing times in Blazers history,” reflected Bubnis. (Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to chat with me about his work!)
You can check out the rest of my photos from the Blazer Mania show over on my Flickr (see slideshow below). The show continues through the end of January.
A Few Notes on the Blazer Mania Show
This was the first time I’d been to the Compound, thought I’d walked by and looked in the window many, many times. The space is, frankly, quite disappointing. It’s very small, poorly-lit and miserably hot. This is made all the worse by the dead-end configuration of their gallery space, which really doesn’t allow for much flow of traffic when viewing the art. It’s a shame for the artists.
Moreover, the staff was extremely surly. They required that I leave my bag behind the counter, despite that I explained I was at the opening to write about the event. I was stuck carrying my camera, notebook, pen, pencil, wallet and phone through their crowded awkward space. Worse yet, the same employees let several twenty-something hipsters go right on in without confiscating their bags. Apparently, I look like a shoplifter. I write quite a bit about art and other creative fields (and teach at an art college), and this is the first time I’ve had this experience at a show.
While a few of the pieces, such as those by the two Ryans, Klutch, Mike King and the 3D works were distinctive and exciting, there were some underwhelming contributions that felt unfinished, which is always one of the downsides of group shows. Additionally, I was disappointed to see the show dominated by a large installation of pen and ink drawings by a New York-based artist. They really took center stage in the show, and several of the other pieces–that were far more distinctive–were placed in dark corners of the space. (The same artist also misspelled LaMarcus Aldridge’s name.)
Finally, I always thought it was “Blazermania,” not “Blazer Mania”–but I’m guess that word hasn’t been standardized by Webster’s just yet.
Sarah Moon is a Portland, Oregon-based writer who spends way too much time contemplating the style hits and misses of professional athletes, especially those in the NBA. She loves rookies, misfits, weirdos, free-spirits, underdogs and anyone who wears their heart on their sleeve, and is the proud originator of the #MorePattyPlease hashtag. Follow Sarah’s thoughts on sports, life in Portland, the awesomeness of tator tots and other random musings and rants on Twitter @SarahSMoon.
This is another part of the [bartsketball] series, as A Stern Warning celebrates art in basketball.