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Art & Ecology at Indivisble
Early August News
Cooler Through Art
Summer reading
Newspace Closure? & Analysis
Clay Mahn's Bad Habits at FalseFront
Revisiting the North Coast Seed Building Open House
North Coast Seed Building Open House
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education reemerges
PSU's new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art bucks sad campus trend
Women To The Front
Weekend Picks: In House Edition

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Thursday 08.10.17

 

Art & Ecology at Indivisble

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Detail from Buster Simpson's "Captiva Raft Revisited 2017" from Rising Water Confab, a collaborative residency at the Robert Rauschenberg studio on Captiva Island, Fl.

Portland isnt that strong in its formal institutions but as was pointed out by Peter Plagens years ago its alternative space is very interesting... perhaps that is why Converge 45 feels like it doesn't quite present Portland's A game. Perhaps the most interesting alternative space in Portland is Indivisible (in a residential house deep in Portlands Southeast neighborgoods) so it is great that they are having a special open house this evening (Thursday, August 10th, 6-9 pm) for the Art & Ecology show. Curated by Linda Wysong it features works by Peg Butler, Bruce Conkle, Egg Dahl, Ardis DeFreece, Adam Kuby, Vanessa Renwick, Buster Simpson, Linda Wysong.

Art and Ecology | August 6-26
Special reception: August 10, 6-9PM
Additional viewing Saturdays, August 12th, 19th, and 26th noon to 5PM
Indivisible
2544 SE 26th




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Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 10, 2017 at 12:42 | Comments (0)


Early August News

We are still working on no less than 3 major articles, till then here are some things to chew on:

This interview with Philippe de Montebello is fascinating regarding the future of the Met. In many ways mission creep has pushed museums beyond their core competency. Is the Met really in trouble? uh no. Is there a crisis? All institutions need crisis to remain relevant and the question with the Met is interesting. My thought is the Met needs to do contemporary art at the same level it does any other kind of Art. Can it do that? The core competency for any museum is to play to their strengths by testing that strength. A digital initiative sounds great but if it isnt as enlightened as their Egyptian program it becomes a distraction. Once again mission creep can diffuse crisis in core competencies but that can undermine that core. New programs work better to bring a crisi of understanding to the museum's collection and programs. Today museums seem to have lost their way, always chasing the parade. No, play like the house... because the museum is the house. An intellectually rather than fashionably engaged crisis is all that is needed. Sadly, the contemporary art world isnt producing curators like that... or they arent ending up at museums anymore. Great curators like Robert Storr and Paul Schimmel are no longer at museums... that's a bad kind of crisis. (yes I like to point out that the Greek word Krisis is the root of the word criticism. For those who like to say there is a "crisis in criticism"... you are being intellectually redundant. Crisis and Criticism have the same linguistic origin. In conclusion, all great curatorial programs and museums use crisis of understanding to spur critical thinking about what they present. Simply having a program that chases its trending demographics will fail to capture them. For example Gen X and Milennials are disengaging from museums, partially because museums are acting as if they are too big to fail. The museums are failing to understand their own crisis. *Hint, great curators who bring the tensions of the present to what is presented are great communicators... they dont do what most contemporary art curators are doing now, which is extremely defensive. So many are failing and not in a good way.

While on the subject of crisis in contemporary art, here is a fascinating article where the strongest work tends to misread its predecessors to create room for itself. A strategy called "Misprision" where mere imitation is just a form of "cultural suicide" or at least death by thousand cuts from hedging... i.e. hiding in the cultural hedges. Simply doing research and evoking history and its forms isn't quite enough.... (more)


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 09, 2017 at 14:15 | Comments (0)


Cooler Through Art

Portland is hotter than a furnace (ok technically not) but still in a city where air conditioning can be rare in even finer homes heat challenges Portlanders. Frankly we arent used to being cooped up and with the unusually wintery Winter we had Portlanders are starting to feel like tatertots that have gone from the freezer to the frying pan. Here are three solid bets to feed you eyes and mind.

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Jennifer Steinkamp's Orbit at PAM (photo Jeff Jahn)

The top of most peoples list should be the Portland Art Museum and their current Jennifer Steinkamp exhibition is a long overdue look at a pioneer of computer generated art. She's a favorite of mine melding computer generated graphics and architectural recolonization as art. We saw her Jimmy Carter piece last year (her most important work) and though the selection of pieces here are'nt as cutting as her political or disease related works (who can tell the difference these days), being more non still lives and some related to teachers it constitutes a major multi-media show at PAM. A step in the right direction. True, having at least one work projected in non gallery spaces would have been even smarter but perhaps there is room for that once PAM sorts out its Rothko Pavilion expansion in the future? What's more, this Steinkamp show guarantees that this year's Converge 45 at least has one worthwhile anchor exhibition (last year was a planning phase, becoming more like a contemporary art version of a talk radio show... all of which sounded very dated after the last election). All that said Steinkamp does some pretty timeless stuff for being involved in new media and one piece Judy Crook is a poetic homage to a beloved color theory teacher. Art isn't all glitz and opaque curatorial hedging, the best of it is profoundly related to growing through life and as an artist who has rehabilitated the still life through new media Steinkamp is a must see. Yes, an interview is on the way. .

Jennifer Steinkamp
July 8 - September 17
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave



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Kabuki: A Revolution in Color and Design at Portland Japanese Garden (Photo Tyler Quinn)

Another great choice for beating the heat is the recently renovated Japanese Garden, everyone should see the new Cultural Village expansion by Kengo Kuma. Its always a bit cooler up there and the garden has always put on the best craft oriented exhibitions in Portland like the current Kabuki: A Revolution in Color and Design carries on the tradition. It is a good time to see the exhibition, new architecture and the garden. itself. Honestly, for Portlanders there is nothing cooler than visiting Japan for a quick day trip without leaving the city.

Kabuki: A Revolution in Color and Design | July 29 - September 3
Portland Japanese Garden
611 SW Kingston Ave



... (more)


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 02, 2017 at 9:34 | Comments (0)


Summer reading

I hope everyone (in this hemisphere) is having a great Summer despite and we have 3 major pieces in the works for you (two interviews and an extensive thinkpiece). Till then here are some of the best things I've read over the past few months.

Jerry Saltz half forgives MoMA, but he really doesnt give a stamp of approval. He's seen that The Museum is becoming more of a transit hub trying desperately to cope with its success, yet inherently incapable of fixing its real problem... an identity crisis that gets to its core competency, The Collection. The building is an issue sure, but its mostly exacerbated by the institution not wanting to use its influence and empower curatorial penache. Simply put they require a curatorial revolution and the directors who have slowly usurped curatorial competency over the past 2 decades simply wont allow it. Instead, the discussion is centered safely around the building's program but what I see is a certain curatorial temerity because rewriting the narrative of MoMA's collection too quickly would effect the assets... ahem "Art" that it is a custodian of and a benchmark for. This isnt news... the more powerful an institution is the less freedom it has in challenging its base and lore. The Met is going through similar things but at least its identity crisis seems to be questioning why its collection and curatorial voices have had diminishing impact over the past few years. Then there is the more radical approach LACMA is taking, only curatorial/intellectual penache will keep it from becoming a study in modes of cultural fashion. Overall, the crisis for museums is the question is one of egality. Is the crowd the chief tenant of a museum building or is the Art? Most museum directors will try to deflect that or say its both... but it cannot be. The core competency of an art institution has to be the art and all the content and or baggage it brings with it. Perhaps the proble with with major museums is related to the reason both major political parties are in tailspins? Has the art of patronage stalled as a form of critiquing civilization in a healthy way?

Should the ICA pull a show over a Painting that isn't there? Obviously not, PORT has interviewed Dana Schutz in the past and by protesting a painting that isnt even on display the whole drama just becomes a lynch mob (so much sad irony). I posit that Schutz was hung out to dry by a Whitney Biennial curators who didnt bother to contextualize her work in any way (that's their job though... instead they minimized their own exposure). Overall Dana's subject matter has often dealt with corpses on display and this lack context and scale of response says something about where we are as a culture now. Technically, "outrage" isnt a critique and all serious artists deserve a fair shake in the court of critique... vocal outrage is an important thing but without scope and targeting it falls on its own sword.

... (more on LA and the CIA's love for French Postmodern theory + Robert Yoder)


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 27, 2017 at 15:30 | Comments (0)


Newspace Closure? & Analysis

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This past weekend the Portland art scene was shocked to learn that Newspace Center for Photography was closing its doors. There hasn't been a formal statement about what happened from the board but the fact that a "for lease" sign has gone up on the building is a clue that it relates to their building. The board and staff was apparently working hard to find a solution so everyone is quite interested in what will be said today at 7:00PM in an open information session. Hopefully they are still considering alternatives like a move or reconstituting of the organization in a different form because their program has been socially engaged and excellent at a time when Portland absolutely requires it. If you care about photography and social engagement in Portland it would be wonderful to sit in and offer your 2 cents. Arts orgs die because of neglect and perhaps this shock treatment can spearhead support?

For some context, Portland has a terrible history of simply ending longstanding and very popular exhibition programs like the PCVA, PICA at their old Weiden + Kennedy Space (something they haven't yet fully recovered from with a consistent and diverse year round visual arts program... their new home does hold promise though), the New American Art Union, Portland Art Center, Museum of Contemporary Craft and the just 2011 when Newspace moved into this exciting new space. Obviously fundraising in Portland is challenging... there is a certain benign neglect (that isn't benign) and an aversion to leadership and strong vision that makes our art organizations bleed into each other as it is typical for 5 or more organizations to work together on a project. This leads to difficulty reaching donors who cant tell who does what? There is also a huge shift taking place in the way traditional art organizations are being used and supported.

*Update Details about the closure came out in the Oregonian. First off, that is never the correct way to close an institution... you issue a more detailed statement, not a town hall leaving the news sources to sort it out. Second, it looks like the lease was not the issue, instead it is the model. Relying on classes for revenue is a dicey proposition and most of the art schools around the country are facing decreased enrollments. What's more this was more of a skill center rather than a degree oriented institution so their courses are competing with online guides.... (more click below for more analysis)

Newspace Closing Remarks? • 7:00PM • July 10th
Newspace • 1632 SE 10th • 503.963.1935


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 10, 2017 at 13:48 | Comments (0)


Clay Mahn's Bad Habits at FalseFront

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Bad Habit (B) at Falsefront

Portlanders are stressed, blood has been spilled along ideological and racial lines recently and our own government appears to be trolling the entire United States as political shell games are being played. In short nerves are raw.

Finding an exhibition that speaks eloquently and meaningfully in these somewhat less than nuanced times has been difficult. Yet, one has presented itself and its like breathing clean air for the first time in so many months.

Funny thing, the exhibition is called Bad Habits...

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The show is hung at FalseFront, one of my favorite alternative spaces. It is an art gallery in front of a house in a charming residential Northeast Portland neighborhood. Thankfully it is about as far from Documenta as you can get, no crowds, no Obrist wannabes... just 3 small green paintings on linen in a room with ample natural light that mercifully overpowers the gallery lighting. .... (more)


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 09, 2017 at 10:23 | Comments (0)


Revisiting the North Coast Seed Building Open House

Last week I visited the North Coast Seed Building's annual open house. Going on for 22 years now it is perhaps the most Portland event anyone can attend. The building's occupants are fondly dubbed seedlings and there is profound sense of becoming in these spaces. Touring spaces like this is like experiencing an anatomy of the City of Portland. Yet spaces like this have been disappearing such as; Town Storage, Worksound and Recess, all of which are no more.

Yes there are other landlords who get it like Brian Wannamaker and Al Solheim but If I were to nominate anyone for the reinstated Oregon Governors' art awards Ken Unkeles (owner of the NC Seed building and others) would be my top pick. June 30th is the deadline. Frankly I'd like to see these awards avoid the typical roll call of higher profile patronage names and also include those who have had a less heralded catalytic role in Portland's very robust cultural ecosystem. Artists simply need spaces to work and show and Unkeles' approach as you can see just from some of the artists below has had an impact... essentially creating the equivalent of a cultural coral reef.

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North Coast See Building

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Bonnie Croissant is doing interesting things with macrame


...(More)


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 29, 2017 at 17:57 | Comments (0)


North Coast Seed Building Open House

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The North Coast Seed Building is one of Portland's great artist work spaces (many have disappeared or have been threatened). Today it hosts its annual open house. The building is made up of three separate warehouses constructed over thirty years, beginning in 1911. Originally zoned only for industrial use, artists working in the space in the early 1990s were nearly evicted by the fire marshal. Years ago, due to the intervention of a sympathetic member of the City of Portland's Bureau of Buildings, an artist's work was reinterpreted as a manufacturing process, and the North Coast Seed Building became an officially sanctioned artist space. This is one of the best annual events in Portland and we need more of these spaces since several have been redeveloped, robbing the city of its important artist workspaces and overall ethos. Many top Portland artists have studios here.

Open House | 2-10PM | June 17
North Coast Seed Building


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 17, 2017 at 12:27 | Comments (0)


Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education reemerges

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Grisha Bruskin's Alefbet

I cannot think of a better time for Oregon's Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education to reemerge on Portland's Park Blocks. Beset with hate crimes its astounding how humans seem to repeat their mistakes and the greatly expanded museum's exhibition of intolerance by all is just what we need to see right now (and always. International art star Grisha Bruskin's Alefbet (the Alphabet of Memory) comes to us from Russia and is a stunning and mysterious tapestry that everyone should see. The revamped museum is free and open to the public today.
Grand Opening: June 11, 12-4PM (free)
Alefbet | June 11- October 1, 2017
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
724 NW Park


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 11, 2017 at 9:04 | Comments (0)


PSU's new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art bucks sad campus trend

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rendering of the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU

At a time when nearly every college gallery or museum seems to be under pressure the exciting news this week is that Jordan Schnitzer has given Portland State University 5M for a 7500 square foot, 2 level museum within the renovated Neuberger Hall. It reminds me a lot of two respected University programs that taught me a great deal decades ago, the Illinois State University Galleries and the INOVA program at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, both of which do museum caliber shows and similarly have a discreet director position that makes the space more than just an extension of the existing faculty and their prerogatives. Instead, those spaces expanded the cultural climate of the campus (INOVA in the early days was extremely daring, later they moved off the central campus and became less cutting edge but still good). What is great about PSU's new museum is how visible this will be on the campus quad, inviting students to just stroll in.

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New rendering (top) and current Neuberger Hall (below)

Situated right on the Park Blocks the JSMA should add civic vibrancy to what is now just a mid-century curtain wall. I've long felt that university galleries expose students to art at a crucial time when they are building their intellectual apparatus. I experienced this first hand. Simply wandering into an exhibition on campus introduces an opportunity for curiosity and unlike most tests and quizzes there is no right answer and a museum scale setting gives it more weight. Overall, "Art" inherently encourages tolerance and flexibility... something our world certainly could use more of and possibly lost sight of until recently. The gift also makes PSU a much bigger cultural player and it was mentioned at the press conference how they could coordinate related exhibitions with the other museums and schools on the Park Blocks. It enhances the South Park Blocks "Museum District" count and considering Portland as a hot tourist destination it simply strengthens our civic cultural portfolio. PSU is still in the process of sorting out details like whether the Museum will have a collection or not but regardless the museum will have access to the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation's vast lending library of art.

That is the easy part of this story, but it really requires more context in a time where University budgets and brass haven't seen the value of even internationally important spaces like groundbreaking Rice Gallery in Houston, which sadly closed just last month. Spaces just do not fit narrowly proscribed "core" mission statements. Yet, they are important for that very reason, breaking up the cognitive biases we all develop. For a local example, June is the last month for the White Box space at the University of Oregon's Portland Campus. Let's not mince words, closing the White Box for simple storage space is a horrible philistine waste considering its excellence and 7 year history.... (more)


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 09, 2017 at 17:12 | Comments (0)


Women To The Front

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Keep Me Safe, Tracey Emin

What I like about collectors putting on their own shows is not every one of their open house efforts is worth recommending but Women to the Front at Lumber Room fits the bill. First of all as a single collector show of female artists it refreshingly isnt trying to be comprehensive history making exercise since important artists like Lee Bontecou, Agnes Martin, Anne Truitt, Eva Hesse and Helen Frankenthaler and are not present though crucial artists like Lynda Benglis, Kiki Smith and Tracey Emin (some would debate her being crucial but they forget she is the King of confessional art, male or female). Instead, knowns like Ana Sew Hoy and Eve Fowler (who is unveiling a site specific work) are rounded out with other Artists who happen to be women. This is Part II of an exhibition where some of the artists are moved or subbed in. In the past I was not impressed with the space's previous all ladies attempt Interior Margins, whose language and curatorial assumptions seemed to make a lot of younger female artists bristle (a schism that played a part in the last presidential primaries for Democrats) but I think these shows play a part of developing new language and contexts and checking out this less formal arrangement is interesting because it keeps the exhibition itself a kind of experimental gathering.

Women To The Front
Opening Reception: June 8 5-7PM
Regular Hours: Fridays 12-5PM
Lumber Room
419 NW 9th


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 07, 2017 at 12:00 | Comments (0)


Weekend Picks: In House Edition

With Portland's intense real estate market perhaps the last refuges for Portland's vital alt-space scene are its excellent in-house galleries which turn residencies into art spaces. Does RACC support them enough? Emphatically, NO... but we should be valuing and supporting them. Here are two to check out this weekend. These are the sorts of places emerging art stars launch build national and international art careers... less so our University and commercial galleries, which often catch on to things late... way after an artist builds a career outside Portland. There is a disconnect between the dynamic experimental scene and institutions.

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Indivisible continues to do interesting things with the home as gallery concept so their latest "Interchange: is of interest. Featuring Sharyll Burroughs, Jaleesa M Johnston, Mary Edwards, and Ju-Pong Lin it is a multimedia installations & performance group show.

Interchange | June 4-24
Opening reception: June 3, 6-9PM
Additional viewing June 10, 17, and 24th, noon to 5PM
Indivisible
2544 SE 26th



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Clay Mahn

Another great house gallery is Falsefront, which presents an intriguing show by Clay Mahn called Bad Habits. Though the press release gives no information except an obstruse poem (a bad habit?) I'll go by the Chicago based artist's previous work and still recommend it.

Clay Mahn | June 4 - July 2
Opening Reception: June 4 12-5PM
Falsefront
4518 NE 32nd Ave


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 03, 2017 at 12:00 | Comments (0)


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