There are few enough spaces in Portland (OR) to witness the challenge of visual art: coffeehouses seem to be the most common and the most accommodating. Enjoy a minty mocha with a loganberry scone as you browse the walls for something you might like to hang in your kitchen. The art maybe amateurish or surprisingly mature; the coffeehouse is a generous way to introduce the newcomer without much fear of a vicious review. Coffeehouses are such a way of life in Portland, it is difficult to imagine the city without them and, as those sterling Seattle pioneers, Starbucks have demonstrated, a coffee shop is a good place to sell just about anything.
Venture further into the heart of the Pearl District, however, and you are beset and besieged with the Conceptual Immaculata of the Portland art scene: the pristine, white-walled and shimmering aesthetic well-known to galleries and museums the world over. The art they represent is the best kind: the (locally at least) well-known and reported. These galleries usually have the funds to advertise and unite to form a front that ensures their works will be the first on display in every local paper and magazine and any online search for art in the area will link to their sites first. Good for them.
And then there are the little places, the ones that are, often as not, looked over or ignored so completely that it is a wonder they exist at all. These galleries may try some combination of the coffeehouse and the art house proper; the low brow and the high brow, commercial kitsch with grand aspirations. Something for everyone, with a price tag limited to a lucky few.
GalleryZero opened in October 2008 to no press, no reviews and no fanfare. Located off of 34th and Belmont, far enough from the Pearl District to be considered inconsequential, but home to a colorful collective of seekers who seem to want a little more than post-Impressionist clouds in their coffee.
At first glance, GalleryZero looks like a blood-soaked nightclub, a hangout for the well-inked undead. Red is literally everywhere - wall to wall, floor to ceiling. This is not your mother's art gallery. There is no escape from the dramatic effect of first entering this 1,000 square foot alternative universe: it is as if Rod Serling and John Waters got together to re-open the Night Gallery in a suburb of Hell. It might be that cool. The gallery itself is part of the display and much of the art, from the celebrated Gris Grimly (The Dangerous Alphabet, the forthcoming stop-motion film Pinocchio) to NW locals like Ron Rogers, provide a graphic, pop culture aesthetic you are unlikely to find anywhere else in Portland.
For First Friday, December 5, 2008, GalleryZero will hold their first 'show' with NW artist Mary Millar. Millar's work displays a flair for satire of the absurd: her subjects range from Tonya Harding to mock Madison Avenue advertising. The reception begins at 6 PM and Millar's show continues through December. Visit www.thegalleryzero.com for more information or RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.