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Sunday 11.29.15


Holiday week links

Here are some things to tide you over.

The Stranger reports that the much anticipated Paul Allen backed Pivot Center for Art + Culture isn't going to be a full time exhibition space that Seattle had expected. That's disappointing because I liked the interaction of art and science it was supposed to address. I find it all the more interesting because art and science don't have very clear channels of dialog between each other. Whether this is just another adjustment or part of a broader shift in Allen's cultural activity remains to be seen? Still, I am hoping this signals a move into a more innovative direction but it certainly isn't good news for the full time staff Pivot recently announced. Ultimately, those who have the greatest impact on the arts are those who take an idiomatic position then follow it up with dogged determination for about 10-20+ years.

That said the New York Times ran an interesting art and science piece on space. Our perception of spatiality is something that is created through how space is used and not enough is done to explore its influence on us.

The Guardian asks if "hip Portland is over?" First I don't think they know what really is hip about Portland (*hint it is values based on moral distinctions... mostly non-corporate and knowing the true cost of things not just $$$). It isn't and never was the quirk hype that the Portlandia show overplayed. Absolutely though, there is an affordable housing/artspace crisis, but all interesting places including New York, Berlin, Santa Fe, Seattle and London have all faced this phase as well and it comes and goes. I think is good that it has been a relatively sudden issue that built over the past 2+ years rather than a slow bleed. Overall, I want to address this elsewhere and not as just a reaction but I can say that Portland's days of expecting artists to do everything for free ended a few years ago and treating art/artists as a cheap resource needed to go away. For the meantime read this bit I wrote a few years ago about priming the cultural pump in Portland. The indie industrial complex always has a new cheaper less-developed city but that just means we have to be more serious about what we support or else you lose the best talent (much of which actually bought property here and will stay, for now). Basically, raise the stakes institutionally/funding-wise and make it tied to merit and critical thinking.

A very interesting review by Matthew Collings on Artists and Empire at Tate Britain. Imagine if US museums used art and objects to interrogate and question the past like this?

Also by Collings is an interesting article focusing on quantity over quality in the art world today. He's one of my favorite art critics for the precision he applies to art's ambiguities...

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 24, 2015 at 13:25 | Comments (0)

Erik Geshke at PCC Sylvania


It is a busy weekend in the Portland art scene but my pick is a gallery talk by sculptor Erik Geschke for his show Amalgam on Saturday. We've only seen small glimpses of Erik's freaky and superbly crafted work in the past but this is a bit of a survey.

In an odd twist I think his his rarefied craftsmanship actually works against him as the craft Portland typically celebrates (I think too much) often features the traces of hand or a kind of expression of "work".

Instead, Erik's stuff looks seamless and it heightens the surreal discomfort and humor in the work.... you see more of this in Seattle where he once lived and studied. Maybe Erik isn't humblebragging enough? This is the largest show of Erik's work weve been treated to in Portland and beacause the excellent Northview gallery's hours are kinda dodgy this is one of your only weekend opportunities to catch the show... be there.

Amalgam | November 19 - December 19
Artist Talk: November 21 1-2PM
PCC Sylvania (North View Gallery)
12000 SW 49th

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 20, 2015 at 15:36 | Comments (0)

Art Talk Armageddon

I remember when I first moved to Portland in 1999 and we were lucky to have one good art lecture a month. These days most institutions have a weekly program and this Thursday looks like perhaps the most impossible schedule to choose from. Unless you can fold time and space you have to make a choice between these three options:

Still from The Ride at PAM

At the Portland Art Museum Paige Powell and Director Brian Ferriso will discuss New York in the 1980's (arguably one of the strongest cultural flowerings in human history) as a necessary addendum to The Ride photography and video exhibition. It is on view for the next couple months. A Portland native, Powell was part of the scene as a New York City "IT" girl and had a front row seat to the likes of Andy Warhol, Kieth Haring and her onetime boyfriend Jean Michel Basquiat. This can't help but be interesting but it is also tricky when everyone from Madonna to artist's estates all have lawyers looking to generate billable hours. Still, Powell's photos and memories provide a crucial pov in this important era. It should be fascinating as museums often feel like the cultural residue minus the human stories about what happened. This should fill in some gaps and hopefully isn't too weird for Powell.

Stops Along The Ride: A conversation with Paige Powell
Lecture November 19th 6:30 - 7:30PM
Portland Art Museum

Watering Hole (2005) by Amy Stein from The New Explorers

The New Explorers by OCAC alum Kris Timken looks like an excellent book chronicling the work of female artists who also explore our planet. Join Kris Timken along with artists Camille Seaman, Linda K. Johnson, curator Prudence Roberts and PSU's Professor Ethan Seltzer in a conversation about the project. I reviewed one of the artists, Amy Stein here on PORT when she exhibited at Bluesky. With an essay by Lucy Lippard it looks like an excellent project worthy of greater discussion.

This is part of OCAC's excellent Connection series.

The New Explorers
Conversation and Book Signing: November 19 7:00PM
OCAC (Vollum Center)

...(more with Michelle Grabner at PNCA)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 18, 2015 at 15:16 | Comments (0)

Tom Manley leaves PNCA

Tom Manley

It was announced today that Tom Manley will be stepping down as President of PNCA to take over Antioch college. Manley leaves after December 31st. It suffices to say that of all the leaders in Portland over the last decade or so Tom Manley has had the most impact on the Portland cultural scene, period.

...(much more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 18, 2015 at 10:50 | Comments (0)

Great Links

Today, the idea of "Greatness" in certain artists is somewhat out of vogue in the academies and perhaps too popular in museums, where every big name painting is suddenly touted as a masterpiece. The Truth is both are intentional dilutions and are institutionally self serving. (Yeah I used the word Truth, one can invoke it but not pinpoint it... it is easier to identify in its absence or the promise to be attentive to seeing it cross our paths, however fleetingly)

For perspective, today Portland is full of good to very good artists (500-1000?), perhaps 50-100 consistently excellent ones and maybe 3-4 ones who can summon greatness any time they want (those 3-4 are very different than the others, I've never once seen any of them satisfied and are incredibly good critical thinkers that have immense technical capabilities that they feel are just barely adequate).

Real greatness isn't that rare as most people experience it in flashes but the kind I'm talking about lies in a kind of constant questioning, questing relentlessness. One where every action is an interrogation of the matters at hand; what to do?... what can be done? ...and why not? These are conceptual and existential questions that meet the world at its terms... not just the projection of the artist's desires.

I find that the strongest artists are like rivers, their flow finds their channel by abandoning their preconceived notions. Just like rivers they follow fault lines and grind into the bedrock becausethey are so supple intellectually and often materially. Their process isn't just the path of least resistance, it is the natural path of relentlessness to work at the fissures and the seems of that what most people take for granted. The always work/cut in the deepest channel.

That said here are some great links to consider:

I'm not sure is George Shaw is a Great artist but he is consistently very good and this interview in the Guardian is a good read.

Roberta Smith's account of what makes Picasso a Great sculptor explains a few things that we never seem to grow tired of. You can hate the man or the reputation but the artist is hard to deny.

Another artist that many younger artists have grown to grudge is Ellsworth Kelly but this visit with the Guardian shows just why he is the real deal. The man breathes art and I admire him greatly. If you have a problem with his art, read this piece.

Peggy Guggenheim was a truly Great art patron. Today most collectors are just that, collectors and it is a more commodity driven exercise than one of sustained development between patron and artist. True, some do a bit more but the Great ones challenge artists and take real risks... not just offer incremental opportunities or vanity projects. Great patrons stretch artists beyond any demonstrated previous capacity and the artists do the same for patrons. I'm not certain Great artists are possible without Great patrons and perhaps a Great institution or two.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 16, 2015 at 11:06 | Comments (0)

Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility by Ernest

Scene From Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility by Ernest (all photos Jeff Jahn)

PORT has been covering C3: Initiative's first residency program with Bay Area based Ernest for several years now and since there is just over a week left of their strong capstone exhibition Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility I felt it was a good time to report and evaluate.

Though a lot of residency exhibitions turn into a sort of disparate show and tell exercise, Ernest's multi-year project has been both a longer engagement and ultimately more... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 14, 2015 at 13:36 | Comments (0)

What I Know Is

photo Dakota Gearhart

Portland's art scene has been facing challenges with affordable space being pressured by rents and developers for years but Precipice Fund projects like Prequel have been a bright spot (there still needs to be more).

For Prequel over the past six months, nine artists have met on Monday evenings ascribe and revise what it is that they think , "they know." As a kind of open source charette they have invited guests from Portland, Seattle, Pittsburgh and New York to shape these discussions which are, "prone to sprawling entries and circuitous connections." It sounds like a turgid but interesting basis for a group exhibition and I'm curious what is both lost and gained in the translation.

Featuring new work by; Travis Beardsley, Kello Goeller, Erin Mallea, Brittney Connelly, Genevieve Goffman, John Whitten, Dakota Gearhart, Lara Kim and Emily Wobb.

What I Know Is | Presented by Prequel | November 13 - 22, 2015
Opening Reception: November 13, 6-9PM
4148 NE Hancock St

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 12, 2015 at 14:07 | Comments (0)

Art News

Looks like Portland's Paul Bunyan is about to get some care. I come from the Midwest where Bunyans are plentiful but I like ours best and kinda wish more of our public art came off like this instance does. He is a greeter, and designed to be one... a lot of public art is the product of convoluted interests that commission them leading the work to serve too many masters. Of recent public art pieces none is more successful than Jorge Pardo's streetcar stop and it works precisely because it doesn't embrace some obvious things like rain shelter. Instead it gives people a beacon. Paul Bunyan is similar. Sunny disposition with his grin and trusty axe.

I am with Portland's Horatio Law on this, the term "ghetto" means many things to many people and has massive historical precedent in Chinatown. Trying to whitewash history with less loaded language is never the right way to handle these things. The Jews, Italians, Irish, Chinese, Puerto Ricans etc. have all been ghettoized in this country at one time or another and to cede that term to one group over another obscures the pattern and actually re-writes history in a false way. Artists sometimes remind us that committees can sometimes be very bad at addressing history.

An interesting idea, the Broad as a gateway contemporary art museum? I see it differently as every collector has a unique perspective... when they donate works to a more generalized museum their point of view gets diluted. I like strong points of view, even if I completely disagree with them. The Barnes Collection, The Frick, The Menil... they have a certain integrity that can get lost in the multi-patron museum shuffle.

A fascinating interview with an architect that embraces entropy. Watch this one.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 10, 2015 at 12:19 | Comments (0)

Artist Opportunities

You have just a couple of days left to enter the Container Artist Residency... where they literally put 7 artists aboard container ships on a route designated by the artists. Deadline 11/9/2015

What I like about the Belleview Art Museum's biennials is the way they focus on a single material on which to focus their a survey's attention... rather than the typically unfocused list-fetishing polyglots that don't look good or tell us anything we don't already know that we are subjected to in Portland. This iteration focuses on metals, aptly titled Metalmorphosis. Deadline: December 15, 2015

Oh and a head's up the Northwest Biennial is returning to the Tacoma Art Museum... they indicated a call should be going out in December 2015. I was in the last one and I liked the theme they chose which made it more worth visiting/participating in than any other similar regional surveys in 2012. You'll have to wait for details on this upcoming project, their building addition likely caused them to skip a cycle.

Last but not least Oregon College of Art and Craft is looking for a new Wood Department Head. Nobody's woodworking department turns out as consistently excellent designers and artists as this school so this is a crucial position for one of my favorite art schools.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 07, 2015 at 10:42 | Comments (0)

First Thursday Picks November 2015

Paige Powell: The Ride at the Portland Art Museum (photo Jeff Jahn)

A lot of people don't realize that the Portland Art Museum is free from 5-8PM the First Thursday of every month and they should take the opportunity to catch Portland native and one time NYC "It Girl" Paige Powell's photography and video exhibition at PAM. Titled, "The Ride" the opening last night was one of those rare moments where the crush of people overrode the museum's climate control in very localized areas to create the sweaty human mass you normally only get in smaller private galleries and warehouses. Everyone you suspect like her onetime boss at Interview magazine Andy Warhol to Keith Haring, Madonna and former beau Jean Michel Basquiat is here. There is also a fun Kenny Scharf installation called Cosmic Cavern. It makes every blacklight exhibit I've seen by younger artists seem timid by comparison. It's an 1980's zoo of activity that emphasizes the way proximity and ladders to climb allowed some to gain reknown and take Powell and her camera along for the ride.

The Ride & Cosmic Cavern| November 5 - February 21st
First Thursday: November 5 5-8PM
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park

... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 05, 2015 at 13:27 | Comments (0)

Upgrade Culture at PNCA

The Upgrade Culture panel at PNCA looks like one of the more interesting and cutting edge new media art discussions in Portland this year. Featuring new media artists, "Erika M. Anderson, Paul Clay, Mathew Lippincott, Megan McKissack, and Tabitha Nikolai on the impact of emergent technology on creative practice." These are some of the artists that I follow most closely in Portland and I personally nominated Paul Clay for the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards (they needed to tech-up and drive the new art/artist discussion more).

Topics for Upgrade Culture will include: "the function of fad and novelty in consumer and fine art aesthetics, the shifting nature of place, self, and access amidst near-constant connectivity, the ways in which art and design create an aesthetic veneer for corporate interests and what the role of the artist is or could be in this context."

I like this skeptical embrace of a shifting technology... and Portland is doing a lot of great stuff that is difficult to classify, providing a kind of exploration of technological/scientific uncertainty. It is also why I was so excited about the Mediatheque space in PNCA's new building.

Upgrade Culture
Panel Discussion: November 4, 6-7PM
PNCA (Mediatheque)
511 NW Broadway

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 03, 2015 at 14:05 | Comments (1)

Monday stories

Well there is a lot of talk about Frank Stella. Yes he is influential, yes he is an unlikely instagram star and yes it is ok to hate the late work but as Jerry Saltz says it will tell you something about yourself. My take, Of course I prefer the black paintings but I love to tolerate everything he's done that is at least painted. The naked unpainted metal stuff... well I see why he went there (he had gone everywhere else) but it feels like mall art. Maybe he isn't going out on a high point but it is further evidence that the so called "minimalist" artists had nothing to do with sober geometry as an aesthetic. Judd and Serra ate his lunch as a sculptor but all this attention reminds us how this guy IS a painter.

Speaking of painters Squeak Carnwath's "guilt free" work does make its case. There is a pluralism that we have to applaud... because anything that breeds and encourages freedom (I know that sounds sappy but it isn't) has immense value today. Painting can be the voice of adolescence in a good way and anyone named Squeak basically has to own that fate.

Check out Paige Powell's photography show at PAM in the old grey lady (show opens Wednesday night at the Portland Art Museum). With this, the Kenny Scharf show and a William Jamison exhibition in a week Portland is going 1980's to the max this Fall.

Here is some very exciting news, the Oregon College of Art and Craft has received a grant from the Murdock Charitable trust to, "enhance the educational and studio resources of OCAC through the acquisition of specialized digital machines that will dramatically expand the college's tools of craft. This technology will open new possibilities for students and faculty in creating their own art, and it will prepare students for careers in advanced making and manufacture." Translated, that mean digitally driven machines (3d printers etc.) that evolve the ever expanding tools that we use to craft our world. This is important as so many have framed the craft fetish of the Northwest as some purely handmade and tradition. It is false notion and even computer coders are a kind of craftsperson. What's more, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC (and many other smaller Northwest cities) are players in the digital forest and it is great to see the premier craft-oriented school in the region making this leap. Other institutions need to follow into a more expansively cogent discussion of craft in the Northwest. We live in a world where DNA and even sub atomic particles are being manipulated. Science and technology are part of craft.

Last but not least, 15 years ago Phong Bui started the Brooklyn Rail and they parallel what we do here at PORT (Ive even championed some of their writers in national grant panels). I like that Brooklyn Rail aims not for the most readers (200k a month is great though, PORT has 150K) but instead focus on having a cogent and critical voice that coalesces into a kind of authority. "Likes" are fine but culture ultimately isn't a popularity contest and a like isn't LOVE. Culture is much more important than being accepted on trivial terms. I'd argue that "Culture" helps us identify and perhaps understand the tensions and joys of the age. At a certain point that requires a critical voice that goes beyond saying this artist is the favorite of this gallery and this collector. At a certain point you have to ask why? ...and to what ends? Congrats to Phong Bui and the Brooklyn Rail.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 02, 2015 at 12:00 | Comments (0)

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