It arrived in hundreds of small cardboard boxes, each carefully catalogued and classified — butterfly-pinned pieces of untreated filth and detritus collected from the gutters of New York City. Yuji Agematsu’s thirty-plus year practice is as simple as it is incomprehensible: thousands of small pieces of trash amassed and displayed in maximalist, unadulterated formulations. It’s breathtakingly, disgustingly beautiful.
Agematsu first large-scale, institutional show is coming to Portland this weekend thanks to Yale Union — the high-minded, occasionally inscrutable arts center that’s challenged and confounded Portland’s arts community for the better part of five years.
Built at the turn of the century as an industrial laundry, the imposing, two-story brick facade takes up over half a city block in Southeast Portland — enclosing a sprawling, well-windowed interior that emanates a kind of God-light during daylight hours. The building’s been transformed under the command of a tight-knit, visionary cooperative into something strange and special — a bold, internationally recognized contemporary art institution that’s unlike anything else in the city. It’s an uncompromisingly rough treasure, and a perfect partner for Agematsu’s heady works.
The show opens April 26 and runs through June 29.