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First Thursday Picks September 2017
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Thursday 10.19.17


Mid October links and news

With the Weinstein reckoning an artist whose work touches on this reality of abuse has been removed. Should the prophylactic response be used here? Do we remove anything that might be provoking or address inconvenient truths? It certainly wasnt Weinstein-enabling, if anything it addressed his type of behavior when others wert gym curator re turning a blind eye. Earlier this year Sam Durant's piece at the Walker made sense to remove... those gallows were simply like dancing on graves though it worked when initially shown at Documenta (why was the Walker so tone deaf and not understand that it worked in Europe but not the USA?). The difference here is the Hollywood day bed was more nuanced... perhaps too much for a retail setting but that's popular culture failure not the artist's or the work's. True freedom requires dissent and the mainstream left can cause greater harm to itself by by policing culture and general dissent. As a critic I try to engineer pressure points where the inconvenient is foregrounded and to try to drive these upsetting things back into the background is a kind of censorship.

The Art Gym names Ashley Stull Meyers as its new Director and curator. Good that she has a background in marginalized communities... but how is she on dissent? Portland is a city of dissonance but its arts institutions are mostly very safe... rewarding those who sit on panels but not work that causes an uproar or provoke discussion. It is a civic weakness that requires correcting rather than mutual congratulation societies. We wish her well and hope she has the full support of the university as these programs have come under increasing pressure. What's more Portland is a notoriously tough place to fund raise and being new often means 5-10 years of proving yourself.

Artnet asks who the most influential curators were. That's an interesting question, mostly because curators... particularly those at museums have been losing cache (going mostly to directors, most who act like curators but often arent... when they are both the split attention can be a blessing or curse). I wont make a silly top 10 list but here are my picks: My favorite was likely William Rubin (whose time at MoMA explored risk as cultural currency), other MoMA greats like Alfred Barr, Kirk Varnedoe and Robert Storr all matter. Im a fan of Lynne Cooke and I want to name Ann Philbin who is technically a director. Pontus Hulten, Okwui Enwezor, Hans Obrist, Paul Schimmel and the brilliant Walter Hopps come to mind as well. We just dont have that many brilliant curators at major museums any more... they typically act like investment portfolio managers managing risk rather than ... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 18, 2017 at 14:30 | Comments (0)

Weekend Picks: domestic edition

Andrew Wyeth, On The Edge (2001)

The Wyeths: Three Generations at the Portland Art Museum feels more like a family gathering than a museum survey... because that is exactly what it is. It is a good thing. Whether you love Andrew Wyeth's bone ghostly landscapes or his masterful wisps of existential hair in hardscrabble Americana or not this exhibition extols a waspy New England generational presence, like a Thanksgiving Day rendezvous with all the familial dramas, humor and warmth simmering underneath. That said, I am an unrepentant Andrew Wyeth fan despite the work never really being couth in Greenbergian... then Artforum circles (a sign he was on to something) and I also grew up appreciating N.C Wyeth's illustrations. All of which contributed to a more fluid appreciation of visual culture that doesnt put artificial barriers up between graphic art and Art. As a family, the Wyeths cover the whole spectrum... but Andrew Wyeth is the great one and the reason there is a traveling exhibion of his family's work. There's a vitality in this filial arrangement. Patriarch N.C. Wyeth has a fantastical bent, Andrew's world is haunted and Jamie brings humor and nature's animus. True, this a lot of waspishness here in a time when all white male Newenglanders are reviled as a kind of LLBean clad Brahman class in the US socio-political landscape but I am a firm believer that no one be they Mexican, Jew, Irish, Italian, Nordic or Hmong should have to apologize for what they are and what their culture brings to the table. There are some truly marvelous works, especially the large Andrew Wyeths that are not behind glass, several N.C. Wyeth oil paintings that became book illustrations and a witty conclusion with Jamie Wyeyth, whose painting of empty adirondak chairs sums it all up. Make certain to stream Victoria Wyeth's sold out talk on Sunday on PAM's Facebook page (It wont be archived so you have to watch it real time)... Victoria is a hoot and really brings the family history into perspective.

The Wyeths: Three Generations | October 7 - January 28, 2018
Granddaughter talk: October 8th 2PM
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave


The latest show at Indivsisble, Coded Albumen, features artists Bukola Koiki and Angelica MarĂ­a Millan Lozano. The work explores the way immigrant women have always been crucial instigators of political action though code. Just to restate the obvious I love how Indivisble brings art into a domestic space and in many ways this is what contemporary art at the institutional level has lacked... a sense of extraordinary connection to everyday life... hopefully this latest show at Indivisble distills this important thread...

Coded Albumen | October 7-28
Reception: October 7, 6-9PM
October 14, 21, 28, noon to 5PM, and by appointment.
2544 SE 26th Ave

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 07, 2017 at 9:35 | Comments (0)

First Thursday October 2017 Picks

Calvin Ross Carl is one of those bright spot artists in Portland who effortlessly combines design and art into the restless tensions of the age. His latest works at Russo Lee Gallery titled, "I am here till I am not," are perhaps his most realized to date, combining the exciting patter work of years ago with the hipster sloganeering of his recent series. It seems to have deepened, becoming both abstract and poetic, not just merely cool and positioned. He's maturing into something special, not just the latest pop-spoit-splainer.

I am here till I am not | October 5 - 28th
Russo Lee Gallery
805 NW 21st

The final exhibition for Compliance Division is Maximiliano's drwned cities. Maximiliano is one of my favorite new Portland artists and always has an incisive take on gender, fashion and identity. Too bad it is Compliance Division's last show but it is best to go out strong and Everett Station Loft Galleries are always turning over. 2-5 years is all that can be expected of them and Compliance Division has been memorable.

drwned cities | October 5th 6-9PM
Compliance Division
NW 6th between Everett and Flanders, #101

... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 05, 2017 at 13:07 | Comments (0)

Weekend Picks


The Boathouse Microcinema is one of the brightest spots in the Portland scene and their latest, "PDX Cinematic Psychogeography," features Portland artists who use the filmmaking process to explore and better understand the world around them.

"There will also be films by visiting artist Deborah Stratman, whose own experimental landscape films have screened at venues ranging from the Sundance Film Festival to the Whitney Biennial. Artists include Dustin Morrow, Jodi Darby, Eric Fox, Julie Perini,Pam Minty,Ross Reaume, and Deborah Stratman. Program curated by Matt McCormick, Adam Simmons will be on the video wall."

PDX Cinematic Psychogeography
September 30 | doors at 7:30 - show at 8:00
$8 - seating is limited
Boathouse Microcinema
822 North River Street

Jovencio de la Paz (detail)

We all still wonder what will become of the Art Gym since newish director Blake Shell left to head Disjecta (her curating seemed hemmed in at the school) but at least her last show Breaking Symmetry shows a return to what we loved about her stint at the Archer Gallery.

Breaking Symmetry focuses on contemporary fiber artists including: Emily Counts, Jovencio de la Paz, Jo Hamilton, Anya Kivarkis, Brenda Mallory, Kristen Miller, Emily Nachison and Jane Schiffhauer. It's the sort of obvious show idea nobody has had the curatorial temerity to do yet so its important and we all wonder what is to become of the Art Gym... it seems like all University Gallery programs have cone under a lot of institutional pressure and its a shame. Open-ended arts exhibition programs enrich campus life in important ways at any university campus, especially ones far removed from the city core. Marylhurst used to be an art powerhouse but even under founding director Terry Hopkins it had been waning... without a strong, fresh and adventurous eye at the helm the situation is concerning. At least we can enjoy this show.

Symmetry Breaking | October 3 - December 10
Opening Reception: October 1, 4-6PM
Art Gym
17600 Pacific Highway (Hwy. 43) Marylhurst University

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 30, 2017 at 9:35 | Comments (0)

Vancouver Arts Summit Video

Perhaps you missed the sold out Arts and Cultural Summit in Vancouver last weekend? Well you are in luck, they videoed the whole thing and have posted it for you (I start speaking at 2 hours and 35 minutes if you want to avoid my yakity yak. I do talk about some art historical models and what Portland has done well and not so well. Vancouver seems interested and the person in charge of the national park section of the Fort is the same person who helped the Headlands center in the bay area form.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 27, 2017 at 20:18 | Comments (1)

Artist Opportunities

The Portland Winter Light Festival is looking for contemporary artists and more venue ideas. The festival hasn't been around that long but is looking to expand its serious contemporary art participation. If you have some innovative ideas bounce them off their staff... so far its been more of a cold dark damp burningman vibe but PNCA's faulty and programs are involved this year so they are deepening their offerings. Here is the link. Deadline: September 29th

Many Contemporary artists love libraries (why shouldn't they?) and the West Linn Library is looking for proposals. Deadline: September 29th

The Obama Foundation is looking to help artists get a leg up. True they seem to want art that is described in just a few words (because not much space) but that isnt always a bad thing. Deadline: October 6

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 26, 2017 at 18:54 | Comments (0)

September quandries

Matthew Collings reviewed the new Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican. What Ive always liked about both Collings and the artist is the way they hone in on conceits and generally accepted nonsense. It gives them both a bit of grit 'n gristle. Too bad the "notions of cool" sound like another Basquiat show which tries far to hard to be both in the know and safely institutional. It is hard to be both and it always makes those curators seem off balance... I call it oversteer. The good thing is Basquiat's work can survive such posing... because it is precisely designed to be critical of such posur-posturing. We could use more of that but it is a difficult thing to achieve in a world of instant gratification.

Brian Libby has two articles on thePortland Building. The second discusses the issue of preservation. I tend to agree with him on this, the Portland building was never right and therefore always compromised... sort of like the Leaning Tower of Pisa started tipping right away. Better acknowledge the flaw by stabilizing it so it can last. Besides the materials are not as important as the visual impact here. At least they are going to save the Portland Building and make it a proper functioning structure. One thing they must do right is the revamped gallery space. There are many ways to improve it through the renovation. It is already an important venue but it could be so much more.

Artists defend Documenta and its curator. That's all well and good but I'm a firm believer that curators should be defending both the artists and the institutions. True this value engineering of culture is a problem but somehow I do sense that bigger leads to diffusion and this Documenta 14 got away from its staff by design (we covered 13). Last year's Portland Biennial was also a mess because it spread itself too thin... at a certain point these festivals need to be distillations not simply an invitation to get lost. That strategy has diminishing returns, especially with a world growing ever hostile to open ended thinking. Try to raise the stakes rather than obscure them.... and this financial inquisition is just another distraction that points to something amiss. Let's be smarter than the cultural bean counters by knowing how many beans will be required to plant? They had to know the Athens section would be scrutinized relentlessly in financial terms... state of the EU and Greece's debts and all.

Jasper Johns creates an artist retreat out of his home... generous but doesn't he need that? Moves like this are important but worrysome.

There is never enough time to cover everything so Jerry Saltz does short reviews. Ive done that occasionally done that... due for another batch but I use it to look back as an overview (Jerry has a very complicated locale to cover).

Last but not least I'll be one of the panelists at this years Clark Arts Summit in Vancouver. Look, I've never thought of the 'couv as a cultural dead zone (the Archer does some of the areas best shows) and by looking to activate Fort Vancouver etc. they might just be able to avoid some of Portland's mistakes (too much middling collaboration at the cost of vision, little support for small arts venues + a general phobia around ambition) at the institutional level. See you there.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 20, 2017 at 9:19 | Comments (0)

Interview with Jennifer Steinkamp

Jennifer Steinkamp is a digital art pioneer who creates vibrant, often mesmerizing works that explore; education, science, pathology, art history, even politics. A professor in the Department of Design Media Arts at UCLA, Steinkamp, is simultaneously both an educator and one of the best known digital artists on the planet. In the following interview she discusses everything from her 1st grade teacher to technology... and far more difficult subjects as two Mid-westerners might on the site at her eponymous exhibition at the Portland Art Museum on view through September 17, 2017.

Jennifer Steinkamp in front of Orbit 11 at the Portland Art Museum (photo Jeff Jahn)

Jeff Jahn: So pleased to have you here in Portland... it is a treat for those of us who followed your contribution to Dave Hickey's Beau Monde, a show, which is credited as a break of a certain kind of academic Postmodernism and ushering in a return to Pluralism. Since Beau Monde in 2001 we have been wondering when Portland would finally get a Jennifer Steinkamp exhibition?

Jennifer Steinkamp: Beau Monde was such a great show, has he (Dave Hickey) come here?

JJ: yes, over 15 years ago right after he received the MacArthur. Some careerist academics walked out of his talk and afterward at a cocktail reception all these Reed professors were trying to throw their jive at him. I remember he mentioned how he had not found much of a use for Derrida and they were horrified yet intrigued because JD was so central to their understanding. They were trying so hard to ask good academic jargon questions but he always had a specific historical or literary anecdote that would show that things were rooted to time and place. He just kept grounding things to their original inspirations and intellectual relevance... basically the real reasons we were still talking about them.

JS: He's so funny

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 13, 2017 at 11:14 | Comments (0)

Bill Will at Lewis and Clark College

Bill Will, House of Mirrors

Bill Will is one of Portland's biggest trickster satirist installation artists and in times like these what could be more appropriate than a lil art sideeye? Funhouse at the Hoffman Gallery is just what we need, a reminder of just how wrong we have always been as a nation. The entire menagerie of installations themselves form a funhouse with a specific route of whirling twirling theatricality that the viewer completes as a participant... predictably ending in a gift shop. Leave it to Lewis and Clark College to bring another strong season opener by trusting an artist to push the envelope.

Funhouse | September 10 - December 10
Opening Reception September 10, 3-5PM
Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art
Lewis & Clark College

0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 09, 2017 at 11:06 | Comments (0)

First Thursday Picks September 2017

Installation view of Crepuscular Blue

Alison Saar is considered one of the most important and sometimes controversial artists doing public art today so it is timely to have her work back in Portland. PORT interviewed her here 7 years ago in a discussion that explored race, identity and the artist's way. What her current show at PNCA's 511 gallery reveals is she is also a formidable print maker, giving us another facet to consider in addition to the sculpture, which are also on display. Upon visiting the show I was struck by just how successful her prints are, often using inventive non traditional support materials, coupled with a keen graphic sensibility. All of the works come to the 511 Gallery via the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation as part of their ongoing series at PNCA. It is one of the year's best shows and with everything else going on at PNCA the school (usually 2-4 other professional and student shows) is typically a best bet for 1st Thursday goers.

First Thursday: September 7, 6:00-8:00PM
Artist Talk: September 18, 6:30PM
511 NW Broadway

watt_companion_species_17.jpgMarie Watt, Companion Species (Canopy), 2016

Marie Watt has been on of the Pacific Northwest's stalwart artists for decades but this new series combining the depictions of a dogs (like the Capitoline Wolf) on various fabrics as well as sculptures argues to be her strongest work to date. I like to see an artist actually hit a new stride after getting a lot of awards and museum attention... it is a mark of distinction.

Companion Species | August 31 - September 30
First Thursday Reception: September 7, 6-8PM
PDX Contemporary
925 NW Flanders

... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 07, 2017 at 13:00 | Comments (0)

Early September Links

I'm still working on numerous long pieces due out before Fall officially begins (we are still in the early September rev up days). Till that backlog subsides here are some important reads:

The ousted Met director Thomas Campbell does a loaded two part interview, mostly on the Met. First off, all major US museums and many around the world take their cues from the Met and I wonder what chilling effect on digital departments this ouster will have? I'm rather certain that "Tapestry" Tom's ouster had nothing to due with finances or his digital initiatives and everything to do with the culture of the board and key staff. Blaming "digital" is like blaming Hilary's emails and the finances are suddenly fine after the booting (something we reported all along and much of the less savvy generalist media bought hook line and sinker). Those are smokescreens. The real issue is that the digital didn't have a deep culture within the board and the distrustful and "stressed" staff fed that fire. Overall, I welcome the Met being a player in more recent contemporary and less recent Modern Art but the problem with all these initiatives is they were separate strategies. Thing is most museums dont have a feel for new tech/art and by giving it a new division missed the point. Tech isnt something new, the entire collection of the Met is a catalogue of once new art/technologies and their effects. Specifically, tech should be an overlay that expands each division rather than be seen as a rival for the affections of funding. Most contemporary art curators at museums are relative luddites when it comes to tech too (and they wonder why tech billionaires avoid the art world). There is more to all this of course, but the Met needs to play culture cards like the house (most major museums should) because that is what they are. Lag along, its fine as long as you seem more dignified and adult. Problem was the Met looked like it was buying a Miata or three for its mid-life crisis (especially with that logo redesign) and the staff revolted. Thing is, major museums are in a precarious time and the Met like many is making the mistake of chasing the parade of relevancy. Part of the problem is a lack of curatorial verve and prescience, which comes from boards that aren't being asked to step up in visionary ways by curatorial programs (for a while the best curators are avoiding major "collecting" museums, hence Robert Storr, Paul Schimmel and Okwui Enwezor). Leadership means temerity and I haven't been seeing the same caliber of it most major museums as of late. Was it a situation of directorial oversteer? Probably... better to leave that to curators and have the director look stately and reassuring. Who does things well then?... most cities that are not New York should look at the Des Moines Art Center, whose Director Jeff Fleming PORT interviewed years ago. For example, the Met or any museum with over a billion dollar endowment should be open free of charge... or at least be so once a week.

Jerry Saltz thinks the new Kara Walker show is the best work about America this century. Perhaps, but that is a pretty low bar. Can US citizens really explore America that well?... isn't it dreaming immigrants who do that best? As a second gen American I just want to float that out there.. The American experience has always been best described by new immigrants.

How are Houston artists coping with the hurricane Harvey aftermath? Former Portlander (and much missed) Paul Middendorf is director/founder of Gallery Homeland down there and has been been working rescue operations.

Brian Libby writes a sad but wonderful piece about the Gorge on fire. It will be changed but I bet a great deal of wonder will remain... remember the biggest trees are designed to survive these fires. Still, I am deeply saddened about this blaze.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 06, 2017 at 18:02 | Comments (0)

Kate Simmons at Alexander Gallery

Kate Simmons' Slow Cooked at Alexander Gallery

First off, the Alexander Gallery in Oregon City is an under appreciated and under exposed gem in the region with its high ceilings and overall nice layout. If you want to do a large scale work it is one of the best spaces in the State of Oregon. Making use of those features, Kate Simmons' exhibition Slow Cooked: An Interior Monologue, explores "the cyclical nature of domestic tasks and are infused with a healthy dose of self-talk. In this work the artist explores and juxtaposes ideas of balance inspired by being a career oriented female and homemaker. This exhibition spans a three year period of making and features works of many media including, large scale photographic installation, bronze and mixed media sculpture." My own Mother was once a Home Ec teacher so I have a personal interest in this subject. On the world stage there has been a great deal of refocusing on female artists but I've found the talking points surrounding Art are still dominated by the very 19th century male-centric value structures and axioms. I think we simply need to apply a different set of values/virtues to apply to all artwork rather than modes that have existed since before the beginning of the industrial revolution (a discussion of space alone would be refreshing rather than objects as investments). Simmons is doing her part and you can hear her KBOO interview here and she's speaking tomorrow at 1:00.

Slow Cooked: An Interior Monologue | August 7 - September 1
Artist Talk: August 23rd, 1PM rm N140 (Niemeyer Center)
Alexander Gallery
Clackamas Community College
19600 Molalla Ave. Oregon City

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 22, 2017 at 10:11 | Comments (0)

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