I've been traveling (will be so glad to be back in Portland) but that pile of Summer reviews is coming very soon. Till then let's look at how June is signing off:
The New Museum is going to expand and Rem Koolhaas will be the architect. Couple of thoughts: 1) It is important for keeping NYC's and by default the art world's edge as other institutions have chased audiences over art's more esoteric concerns and cultural functions. 2) Koolhaas was too radical for MoMA and LACMA expansions over a decade ago. 3) will it create a kind of preserve for Art as it is priced out of the area via condo pressure? 4) Why are buildings given more clout than innovative programming in almost every museum?
Brian Libby discusses the Portland Building renovation. My question, what about the art gallery administered by RACC? I wish there were more programs like it. What's more, making that space as good as it can be is important as the scene has lost so many institutional stepping stones.
I've been very critical of how most of Portland's cultural institutions provide rungs of support and cultivate artists by being too doctriniare, conservative and overall not willing to get behind artists whose work questions the status quo by having more uncomfortable conversations (Hallie Ford Foundation and RACC you are just the tip of the iceberg but panel composition, criteria and expectations are part of it). Still, there have been improvements and strong artists do win area awards (at a ratio of say 1 out of 5 chosen, which is somewhat in keeping with the bloated, self-satisfied state of the art world. Also I do want to point out opportunities that seem to get it right aits very easy to fault area art awards as being less than fresh. Here are 3 fresh opportunities worth considering:
The annual Betty Bowen Award, administered by the Seattle Art Museum is different than most of the other area awards as artists themselves serve on the panel and the finalists make presentations (often with the work present). Artist panelists wouldn't work for the Hallie Fords as it would just perpetuate the milder tradition already in place (HFF's felt stronger in 2010 and 2013, though not enough women etc.) but in Seattle, the USA's capital of satirical snark they have a bit more appreciation for the bite that art can deliver. It is supposed to call attention to under recognized artists... a directive it follows loosely but at least there is some edge to the winners and they have avoided some of the lamer Oregon artists whose careers seemed to be calibrated to accumulating the milder awards in Oregon. Not perfect of course, no award can be. One obvious problem, The Betty Bowen still charges a $10 fee (how 1992 of you). Deadline: August 1
I like how these Kunstlerschloss Balmoral residencies are set up. There are both 3 and 9 month residencies in Germany's Rheinland and the panels refreshingly require an; art critic, museum director or curator, academician, member of the artists associations in the Federal State of Rhineland-Palatinate, a visual artist, the artistic director of the Kunstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral... etc. I simply like the mix and the problem with most of the regional art awards here is
Changes at MoMA via Roberta Smith, the larger the institution typically the more catch up they have to do. Thing is when they have hollowed out their expertise making curatorial subject to other modes of the day and "following the parade," they lose their intrinsic potency. An institution needs to embrace the crisis they represent rather than attempt to address it via architectural program. IE let the artists reconfigure the institution via empowering curatorial expertise rather than muting it.
Then there is this issue over art criticism. Look, the critic's work is not there to produce a book report on the artist's source material. Criticism isnt a service industry for the art produced either. Instead, its a kind of civic test for alternate worldviews to see if the art translates and remains potent under different criteria... even to experienced observers who compare them to the history of what has gone before. That said, radical art is something so rare that it cannot be expected, especially in major museum surveys. Now expecting a show to have some edge is an entirely different thing... how close does the work skate on the thin, sometimes very uncomfortable veneers of decorum and understanding? Most institutional group shows dont really ruffle feathers any more outside of single points of outrage. The thin skin of understanding has become a brittle thing these days and professional art critics do measure the degree of suppleness on display beyond the simple questions of did I like/not like it?
The 2019 Hallie Ford fellows list was announced. It is good that a photographer was included this time, but the fact that is notable is lame. Still, artists who have to plug in their work or full on multimedia installation art are once again not in effect and as usual its not a very edgy list with artists that are super well established or are arch academicians. Sure its the Ford Foundation and they can do what they want but it actually effects artistic output... so many artists have gotten the memo. If you want a HF, use your... (more)
So the beleaguered Mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler's city survey completely leaves out all mention of the arts as a form of civic participation. That's a tone deaf oversight (sorry Ted I believe you are a talented admin but do you know what makes Portland Portland?... clue its the permissive cultural climate, which is spearheaded by the arts). Keeping Portland's character means supporting the arts ecosystem, which is challenged like never before. That requires more than a namecheck on any document about this place. Yet it doesnt even get a mention.
It's safe to say we are in a time of institutional upending, where things are being simultaneously being reconfigured, hollowed out or outright destroyed. Most of it seems knee jerk, follow the parade, performing public wokeness, a war on expertise and overall lacks strategic planning or vision (that's bad as institutions require it). After say 50 year of expansion, the art world for living artists seems to be contracting (except for blue chip commodity art and there dead = bread). Here are some links:
She's 98 and getting her first solo museum exhibition. Good news but why does this take so long? Oh yeah, she's a woman... and her concerns are less easy to commodify. Still its nice to have some good news and a sense of oversights being righted.
Looks like Josephine Zarcovich isnt planning on coming back as Linfield's curator. This is part of the overall war on expertise that all elements of the economy have been facing... from taxi drivers to tenured professors and yes institutional curators. It is coming from both the right and the left and a president with no interest in the standards of public service is the top example. Couple things though... I dont think Linfield ever technically had a full time professional curator like Linda Tesner. When I first started going there professors like Liz Obert programmed it, Cris Moss put the place on the map and he did teach as well. Hopefully Linfield can survive the current collapse of higher education and keep up a program worth tracking... the Linfield Gallery under Moss was THE reason to trek out to wine country and they can still do that... even if it is part time if they play their cards right. Another thing The Ford Foundation isnt always helping as much of their support prioritizes academic connections + traditional art forms (painting/sculpture) not the hybridized new mediums involving... (more)
AmazonComPandaTreeLoraZombieFineArt by Jeannette Mill
Portland's art scene has taken some hits lately but it also has new venues and a continuing tradition as an incubator of new talent. So instead of celebrating failures head out to see this new venue called 1122. This promising group exhibition called Time>Space>Place features some of my favorite new talents like Tabitha Nikolai and Wiley so I suspect the company they keep will be worth checking out. Artists are; Shannon Anderson, Ralph Barton, Ricky Bearghost,Tess Bidelspach,Jackie Boden, Aaron Cunningham, Job Erickson, EM Fuller, Sam Hancock, David Hunt, Jeannette Mill, Tabitha Nikolai, P.A.L.S. Video Collective, Brianna Rosen, Ivan Soliton, Gena Sophia, Mathew Spencer,
Jason Triefenbach and Wiley. TIME > SPACE > PLACE promises to be , "the first manifestation of Standard Practice Co:Creative,
a soon- to- be-incorporated community arts nonprofit dedicated to catalyzing creative potentials through engaged discourse and collaborative action." Seems like an opportunity to grow from and that's what artists need.
Time>Space>Place | May 17 - June 15
Opening: May 17 6-10PM
1122 SE 88th
I've been making the rounds to a lot of galleries and polishing up several think pieces. Till those are ready (soon) here are some links:
The Venice Biennale is a kind of barometer for the art world but to my eyes it still seems to be stuck in the past with a lot of the disaster porn art we've been accustomed to... so much some are calling it the we_are_all_gonna_die-ennial though its aim was for ambiguity (I believe uncertainty is a better subject, splitting hairs but it is important). This Rugoff curated affair has the same kind of failure fetish we have grown accustomed to for a decade+ (it is kind of Rugoff's thing). At least it is more timely than a glitz-ennial, which would be wrong as would a woke-ennial. Still the choice of raw plywood (a favorite with every MFA class) is tired as can be (The MoMA Judd retrospective will expose all pretenders). Here are some more tours of Venice but what I see is a certain stagnant malaise with a longing to escape it. Perhaps that's my curse... I always insist on finding something with a fresh edge rather than some convenient failure to fetish. It is out there, but one has to be looking to see it. What's the U2 lyric, "some places have to be believed to be seen." Right now there is a kind of fetish of fatalism (often accompanied with some quote or footnote by Joan Retallack) that's always playing the victim in a coded and lame way. It has the sound of settling about it and its too easy a look to achieve.
Whether or not it is fair, most major art institutions are caught in a crossfire these days, whether its forming a line to march in the woke parade, a sense that the 1% has unfairly rigged things too well or artwashing. Things are tense or at least sense of unsettled tension seems to background everything. I'm nearly done going through my archives for my 20 years of being in Portland post. It is about a thousand times more difficult writing about oneself, especially when you are easily bored with yourself like I am. So to distract you with more important things here are some links:
As expected Catlin Gabel has bought OCAC and it is over. Ill have more on this in my Portlandageddon article (coming soon, all things in the right time) but all this was needless and nobody buys the agitprop that this could not be avoided and nobody is to blame. Blame = a weak board that was out of their depth and should have stepped down instead of pursuing a policy that put all eggs into merging with another school. Merging could not happen because all tuition based revenue models of higher education are broken... I saw this immediately. OCAC had a lack of vision by creating a leadership gap which ground fundraising momentum to zero, right when they needed it. This is sad especially considering how much most of the community wanted it saved. The situation required real leadership (board and some faculty) that was not inherently fatalistic. Where was the oversight and the understanding that they were in way over their heads? I dont blame Catlin Gabel, they have a super competent board and its a hard lesson that Portland institutions continue to not learn about endowments and stewarding institutional momentum.
Just some of the Northern Lights exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden
Guest curated by Sachiko Matsuyama, Northern Lights: Ceramic Art of Hokkaido, features works by 21 established artists of the Hokkaido Pottery Society, with additional works by other members. Northern Lights is a follow up to an exhibition held at the Portland Japanese Garden a decade ago and celebrates the occasion of 50th anniversary of the Hokkaido Pottery Society. This is my 20th year of living in Portland and for that entire time the Japanese Garden has consistently put on the strongest craft based shows in the city. This exhibition is no exception with personal favorites like Masaaki Ishikawa's swirl patterned vessel with blade ridges, Shichiiro Koyama's Bishamon tortoise-shell lattice vessel and my favorite a tiny little green ah glaze bowl by Hideki Takai.
2019 is the Year of Hokkaido at Portland Japanese Garden, which commemorates the 60th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Portland and Sapporo. In many ways the Portland Japanese garden is the Japanese cultural embassy in the USA.
The news today that Don Tuski, current President of PNCA is leaving the school after only 3 years wasnt unexpected (certain exchanges then lack of follow up were a tell). First, higher education in general is in an incredibly challenging position... that of a destabilized financial model for any tuition based school without state funding (and that's dwindling too). More specific to Tuski, who had a stabilizing influence despite the relentless turmoil of rival school closures and ultimately the decision not to merge with OCAC ... he always seemed like a genial presence rather than the dynamic one of his predecessor (needed for a time). Now that PNCA has been somewhat stabilized (by virtue of outlasting rivals) it really needs a master fundraiser to shore up endowments for scholarships and professor positions as that is the only way to weather the current storm. Seems like Tuski going back to Michigan (in addition to being back to his roots and family) is a return to funders who are trying to reinvest in Michigan. Oregon is a younger state where a lot of the money here hasnt learned how to participate as effectively, leaving only a few Oregon families to take lead roles (most of whom tied heavily to real estate). Real estate money behaves differently than industrial, lumber, financial, new entrepreneurial and tech money (all new money). The Midwest has a different mindset, they realize that without investments all the talent ends up on the coasts. I suggest the next president be a visionary and relentless fundraiser. They should also be a better talent scout than most Portland institutional leaders tend to be. Tuski did have the vision to open a new GLASS building in North Portland, providing large scale ceramics and other staging possibilities. Still, the sense is only the most ambitious and talent driven art schools with the funding to attract those students with scholarships will survive the turmoil of the current student debt crisis and massive cost of education in the coming decade. Yet Portland is full of design and other creative sector firms so the disconnect between where funding/recruitment is placed and where it is derived seems pronounced. Tuski seemed capable but unable to really capture the imagination of Portlanders, perhaps he gave them too much of what they wanted... his predecessor, Tom Manley, was far more ambitious and controversial yet one of the most crucial Portlanders of the 21st century. They both inherited very different times and institutions.
PORT friend David Anfam, the world's leading Rothko Scholar and Curator of the Clifford Still Museum discusses the Rothko being auctioned off by SFMOMA.
I am not a fan of this deacquisition to buy other works by less represented artists but SFMOMA does have better Rothkos and they dont display it very often. That's terrible logic and if SFMOMA were truly committed to telling new stories through their collection they should do it without selling the work by one of the USA's most lauded immigrant artists! It is absurd and unfortunate. This Koons in the collection would be a far better choice (yes yes a partial gift that isnt wholly SFMOMA's but I think PORT readers get the point).
That the current Desert X Biennial isnt very sensitive to its surroundings is no surprise... too often art in the desert relies on its otherness rather than compound the situation presented. Some of my favorite works by Walter De Maria, Smithson, Judd and Michael Heizer all understand their inability to compete as an insertion with the site and in fact create "an incompletion" instead. If I were to curate a desert foray... it would have to operate that way (I've actually lived in a desert or 2 and that helps).
Not surprisingly the Zumthor LACMA design was approved. Frankly, I liked this design better when it had more gallery space and the curatorial offices were not farmed out to a rental building. Also, I actually like the curving single floor plan. I just dislike the banishing of curatorial expertise... (its a bigger museum problem as less and less curators are expected to be experts and act more like assistant directors). I like Govan's ideas about interdisciplenary non-timeline reliant hangs but it actually takes more expertise to do that right... like having 2 or more great chefs cooking together but now it feels like the curators are being sent a corrosive message. Museums are not just the storage lockers and tax havens of the rich... they are exist as the keepers of culture and that requires human expertise put on display (and it isnt just the art alone... it is the considered display and interplay... when I last visited LACMA there were problems in the displays of interplay).
America's Whispered Truths closing at Archer Gallery
Willy Little (fg) and Reneee Billingslea's Lynching Shirts (bg) at Archer Gallery
It ends Saturday so dont miss America's Whispered Truths at the Archer Gallery, which I reviewed recently within a cluster of related shows. In this duo exhibition Renee Billingslea and Willie Little dont pull any punches as they each explore the not so subtle violence of racism through powerful assemblage and installations.
If you want a truly unvarnished yet nuanced exhibition, America's Whispered Truths screams in silent terror, giving scope and sobering scale to the whole discussion of racism in America.
America's Whispered Truths
February 19 - April 13
Closing Reception: April 13, 3-5PM Archer Gallery
Clark College, Vancouver WA.