An exhibition currently running at Russo Lee Gallery in Northwest Portland combines literary inspiration with the language of archeology and a deep dive into Oregon's history. In Northwest Bound, local artist James Allen uses nothing more than a scalpel to "excavate" wild, original art from books scrounged at bookshops and thrift stores; these hand-carved assemblages of antique text and imagery tell stories all their own. 

Allen’s work in Northwest Bound is heavily rooted in the history of the state—the centerpiece of the show is made from Oregon newspapers dating back to 1914. “I leave the pages bound, then I cut right through the covers, and one page at a time, I cut away and remove pages,” Allen explains. As he cuts down, he leaves behind images or words. “I’m revealing things that are already there…I just create these relief sculptures of the books and use content that’s there in a different way.”

Other literary pieces in Allens’ excavation art include a book of Eastern Washington and Oregon plants, books of European history, and newspaper comics. He says he enjoys using these because of his interest in history. “I think about it as sort of looking back in time,” Allen says.

This is Allens's second solo show at Russo Lee. The Illinois-born artist says Portlanders have always responded well to his work. “Portland has been a real blessing for me,” he says. “The people here really connect with what I’m doing.”

James Allen

Thru May 27, Russo Lee Gallery, FREE

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James Allen

11:00 AM FREE Russo-Lee Gallery

The Portland artist specializes in what he calls “book excavations,” in which he slices through book covers—leaving the spine intact—and carves around images...

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