Memory Theater, installation by Srijon Chowdhury at Upfor Gallery in Portland.

Memory Theater, installation by Srijon Chowdhury at Upfor Gallery in Portland.

I got up to Portland this afternoon to check out the offerings from the First Thursday Art Walk in the Pearl District. PDX still has galleries — certainly more than the tiny handful that remain in Eugene — and the trip is worth it, especially in such great weather.

The most striking thing I saw was an installation at Upfor, 929 NW Flanders St., by Portland/L.A. artist Srijon Chowdhury. Memory Theater, pictured above, is a play on an arcane Renaissance idea of using real or conceptual buildings and other structures to facilitate learning and memory. (Think memory palaces, used by competitive playing card memorizers.)

Chowdhury’s take is a beautiful semicircular enclosure made of scrims on which lights that surround the outside project shadows; these you can enjoy from the inside, while sitting on comfortable cushions. You can also wander around the outside and take in various objects made by 24 other artists, all drafted into the project by Chowdhury, and which cast their shadows on the scrims.

The whole thing is thoroughly engaging and fun, without ever trying to make too much of its roots in philosophical systems. It will be at Upfor — a relative newcomer to the Portland art scene, opened in 2013 by writer Ursula Le Guin’s son, Theo Downes–Le Guin — through May 28.

Over at the Froelick Gallery, 714 NW Davis, Charles Froelick is showing new paintings by Matthew Dennison, a gallery regular, along with paintings by Laurie Danial. Dennison’s work, which I had not seen before, completely captivated me. The title of his show is Commensalism, a term from biology that refers to a situation where one species benefits from another without harming or hurting it; the classic example is animals that eat food that humans discard.

Dennison’s animals are as wondrous as his humans are creepy, such as this oddly named mountain goat, Edward Goss. His work is up at the gallery through May 28.

Edward Goss, oil on canvas by Matthew Dennison; 13x20 inches.

Edward Goss, oil on canvas by Matthew Dennison; 13×20 inches.