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Monday 05.21.18


Evolving thoughts on Marylhurst closure


Shocking news today that Marylhurst University's board has voted to close the 125 year institution by the end of the year. I dont buy the Great Recession argument, Portland is awash in new developments and art enthusiasts. Still, it was obvious to those within the art community that something was amiss with the University. Some of the signs were the longtime art school staff departures and rapid turnover of the director of the Art Gym.

When I moved here in 1999, The Art Gym was the highest profile contemporary art space in the Portland Metro Area... and only later did other institutions and University galleries arise. Perhaps it stopped being "the place" as the scene expanded and Portland artists became more adventurous than any religiously affiliated institution could hope to show but it has always been an important venue that gave large scale solo shows and retrospectives to local artists (many with national reach). Still, I'll miss it and here are a few reviews we've published over the years:

Paula Rebsom's installation on the lovely campus grounds

Joe Macca's solo 2 artist show at the Art Gym

Mike Rathbun at the Art Gym


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on May 17, 2018 at 17:04 | Comments (0)

Mid May Links

The new chief curator for The Henry Gallery is Shamim M. Momin of LAND and before that co curator of the 2004 and 2008 Whitney Biennials. A great hire since the Henry hasnt been the same since the Elizabeth Brown days. Momin brings a present and pervasive intellect to what she does, and isnt one of those curators that tries to out vague her audience and subcontract out all the programming (which sadly is par for the course these days). She's a legit intellectual, which is what I expect from art institutions and rarely find these days. Congrats, Seattle will have her for perhaps 5 years but it will be good for contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest since I consider the Henry to be the top Contemporary Art institution in the region. Too often curators here program what they "should be" curating rather than discovering what they could be curating.

Contemporary art takes on the ease of getting guns in Chicago.

One of the world's top architects collaborates with Norway's troublemaker artist for a project to die for.

Too many artists today are doing tarp art, as if the wear and tear + stains of life are enough to make their art appealing to liberal elites who are out of touch with whats really going on. That and the artists of the 1970's like Christopher Hill simply did it better. Add him to the list with Sam Gilliam and Helen Frankenthaler who consistently did far more with tarps sopping up the studio. Now Im not against tarps (Love unstretched Frankenthalers and Gilliam) I just wish today's tarpists werent ingratiation attempts in a supplicant's pose to an art market primed to accept art that fetishes its "nothing specialness." Its a mode, weak era tarp art begone.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on May 15, 2018 at 11:37 | Comments (0)

Weekend Picks

The weather is finally fantastic and there are a lot of thesis shows from new grads. Here are some adventures to have:


Every year my favorite thesis show seems to be the OCAC BFA offering. This year they are calling it Coalesce and the MFA students are also showing in the same building but for some reason the BFA student offer more gems and better ideas even if sometimes less practiced in presentation. Some of the standouts this year were the woven tapestries of Luciano V. Abbarno, Cathie Carroll's multimedia paintings and Michaela Coffield's installation of child-like wonder. Many others showed a lot of promise but those three are ready to show.

Coalesce | May 11 - 25
Opening Reception: May 11, 5 - 9PM
Gallery hours of 11AM - 5PM daily
120 SE Clay St.


Thirdspace is one of the most interesting alternative spaces in a scene that has seen a lot of pressure on such places. Their latest show is called [Home] and is photography based around the theme. I suspect the lack of details is an attempt to keep gentrifying developers from turning their space into a spa or luxury tanning facility.

[Home] | May 11 - 13
Opening Night: May 11th 6:30 - 9:30PM
Hours: Saturday, May 12th @ 6:30 - 9PM
Sunday, May 13th @ 5:30 - 7:30PM
707 NE Broadway St Suite 205

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on May 11, 2018 at 13:34 | Comments (0)

DACA Lounge at Archer Gallery

DACA Lounge: A Dream Sanctuary at Archer Gallery

Immigration policies for the United States of America have always been an impromptu patchwork of reactionary policies that put a quick bandage on whatever current situation prompted that action. During President Obama's 8 years DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was put in place as a stop-gap when Congress did not ratify the Dream Act into law to address the plight of children of illegal immigrants who have known no other existence besides being in The United States of America. It was a moment when the USA started to talk about things it generally left unsaid and nearly 800,0000 kids have applied for the program. In the current, rather reactionary political climate the fate of the DACA program is held hostage as a political pawn, creating an uncertain, extremely stressful situation for these kids.

To this enter Horatio Hung-Yan Law's latest art exhibition DACA Lounge: A Dream Sanctuary. It is one of the most poignant and timely exhibitions the area has ever hosted. Interesting but not surprising that art is being a better host than a country. Law even


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on May 05, 2018 at 9:00 | Comments (0)

May Gallery Picks 2018

Spring is in full effect and the weather is sublime, time to emerge from your homes and catch important shows to ponder. Dont miss them.

Bespoke Bodies at PNCA ends soon

I'd argue that art is an appendage and so is design. All of which should remind us that the Bespoke Bodies: The Design and Craft of Prosthetics show at PNCA is entering its last week and if you have not seen it, you must. A wide ranging show that goes from physical artificial limbs to more digital enhancements this show covers a huge amount of ground, from simple replacement and mimesis of typical human limbs to to enhancements undreamed of in science fiction this is an important exhibition for anyone curious about humanity, where it has been and where it is going.

Bespoke Bodies | February 15 - May 9th, 2018
First Thursday: May 3, 5:00-9:00PM
511 NW Broadway

Horatio Hung-Yan Law's DACA Lounge A Dream Sanctuary at Archer Gallery

The current plight to DACA "Dreamers" in today's political climate is a very real destablization of the lives of those who know nothing but their lives in the United States of America and DACA Lounge a Dream Sanctuary by Horatio Hung-Yan Law is a multimedia exhibition in collaboration with students and dreamers about their lives. The exhibition has been up for a while but was just completed today as part of Law's residency in collaboration with dreamers in the community. See it, it is one of the best multimedia exhibitions the area has seen recently.

DACA Lounge A Dream Sanctuary | April 10- May 5th
Archer Gallery
Clark College
1933 Fort Vancouver Way
Vancouver Washington

Prosoography (2018) Matthew Dennison

Ive been keeping on Matthew Dennison for years but lately his odd figurative works of oblivious humans and wise animals have taken on a new poignancy and I am excited to see his latest show, Democracy. It is an ambitious title, fraught with all the hopes and fears of the moment... I suspect it may live up to the billing as each painting is a reaction to the day's news.

Democracy | May 1 - June 2
Froelick Gallery
714 NW Davis


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on May 03, 2018 at 12:20 | Comments (0)

End of April links

The Turner Prize list is out and one of the artists doesnt even consider themselves an artist. The age of the un-artist begins.

The Yard is perhaps the most discussed and oft hated new building in Portland but Brian Libby looks past the recent folklore around the building for Metropolis. What needs to be added to these new developments is space for cultural amenities

Barry Blinderman's program at ISU is what sparked my interest in contemporary Art. Up to that point I was mostly interested in art history and not living artists. Yes there was an Alex Grey show (probably my first art opening) but really it was the fact that there was a space that I could return to over and over and there was something different every time I walked across town when I was an undergrad. Congrats Barry!

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 26, 2018 at 17:39 | Comments (0)

JSMOA's Crimson Cube at WSU

the new "Crimson Cube" at WSU (photo Bob Hubner)

A little over a week ago I was fortunate to catch the opening of the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Washington State University in Pullman. Nicknamed the "Crimson Cube" for the structure's exterior it gives students and other visitors a landmark to navigate by. It is a nice touch since so many other University art spaces are hard to find and seem tied only to art departments, which often have little pull on campus politically and makes the susceptible to cuts. No problem with that here because the cube is intentionally at the heart of things at WSU. 20 years ago this sort of reflective glass structure would have read as corporate but the cantilever that is subtly off other building's grid axis and the red color are distinctly more curious than an office tower's comportment. The overall effect is, "what is that?" and the JSMOA's comparative minimalism recalls David Chipperfield's excellent library in Des Moines. That curiosity prompt is a good place to start for any art museum and has its roots in Robert Smithson's mirrored displacement works without the specificity that Art has. That is left for inside.

The skies over the JSMOA influence how extroverted the building behaves and its branding is low key, prompting questions...

Press briefing in the Person(a) exhibition in the Harmon/Wright Gallery


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 18, 2018 at 9:00 | Comments (0)

Art People Links

Art people make the art world turn. Here are some to consider:

The new Director of the Met is Max Hollein. This isnt a surprise and it is a rare thing to not promote from within but it really had to happen. Can the museum regain its composure as a seat of expertise... a place where knowledge and experience is rewarded? Can the museum update itself without undermining its greatest strengths and integrity? It doesnt need to reinvent itself so much as reassert itself with tech. Most 1st tier museums really dont understand these things and dont have to but Hollein's predecessor opened pandora's box already. (*hint) All museums should be free of charge, especially with income inequality the way it is.

Richard Speer writes a touching memorial for author and Portland art collector Sandra Stone. She showed up at so many openings and was always engaged and involved. I'll miss her.

Meet Mitchell Algus, art dealer... trailblazer. Individuals who stick their necks out to create a climate of exceptional activity are rarely rewarded but they are crucial.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 10, 2018 at 16:09 | Comments (0)

Early April Links

Amid complexities of gentrification LA's 356 Mission will leave its space. This is no surprise but it shows how the art and real estate market can undermine contemporary art's moral position. There are ways to do this in a way that enhances the community rather than be seen as some colonizing situation. Considering the political climate in the USA we need to not pit these natural allies of artists and POC against each other.

Tyler Green does a podcast on the Fazal Sheikh survey currently at the Portland Art Museum. A Macarthur Fellow, Ive yet to catch this exhibition but it is on my must see list.

Italy's far right party wants to fascist party's old HQ into a museum? Museums in the USA are themselves at the heart of the class war debate but it looks like Italy is upping the stakes... The world is not a safe place, act accordingly.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 03, 2018 at 9:00 | Comments (0)

Hanakago: The Art of Bamboo and Flowers at Portland Japanese garden

Spring in Portland is incredibly dramatic and the latest exhibition Hanakago: The Art of Bamboo and Flowers at Portland's Japanese Garden is the perfect instrument to sharpen ones senses and appreciation for the season as life awakens around us. There is something about the dried and shaped bamboo among recently cut flowers that suggests the withered husks of life as vessels of contemplation, grace and virtues in life. Both the bamboo and flowers highlight both control and variation through respect. They are perceptual paths to awe and understanding. When the viewer is among these bamboo and flower objects... the weave, the intention and care catches the light and filters our perception towards the fragility that forms constructed in webs of respectful intention entail. We live in an age where consideration and grace can be on short supply so Hanakago is a refreshing respite.

A breeze from long ago, Chinkuunsai III (2012), all photos Jeff Jahn

Hanakago is comprised of an impressive array of bamboo baskets and art from Portland collector Peter Shinbach's collection. Many are further brought to life with the ikebana art of Mrs. Etsuho Kakihana and those who study with her...


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 24, 2018 at 22:01 | Comments (0)

Louise Bourgeois in Pendelton

Louise Bourgoise at Pendelton Center for the Arts

One of the best shows to see in the Pacific Northwest at the moment is the surprise appearance of Louise Bourgeois' work in the small western town Pendelton, mostly known for its rodeo and woolens. The Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation continues to do good things by making important work available to audiences and places that wouldnt otherwise have access to it. I also found the Pendelton Center for the Arts with its excellent architecture, being a former Carnegie Library to be more than just another white box gallery space... it brings out an almost baroque aspect to Bourgeois' surreal imagery.

Bourgeois is incredibly topical right now with her focus on the the psychological positioning of women and judging from the very well attended opening last night its going down well in cowboy country where the crowd was more varied than anything I've ever seen considering the ages, backgrounds and ethnicities present. Pendelton itself has a long tradition with women breaking ground through its rodeo so I cant help but think the combo would have pleased her.

In particular the Crochet series of prints with their focus on knotwork, texture and routine... often evoking

... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 17, 2018 at 12:29 | Comments (0)

Mid March Links

I'm polishing off a very long review of one of the best exhibitions in recent Portland memory. (Portland memory as a term... hmmm.) Till then here are some links in an eventful week.

The departure of Helen Molesworth from MoCA is the news of the week. Some have characterized this as institutional manspreading. That is simply too simplistic and I see something deeper underlying it... the growing intolerance of museums for strong curatorial voices. I loved her Kerry James Marshall and Catherine Opie shows last year. It is part of the whole war on expertise that is going on both the left and right of the political spectrum. Does being a woman factor into this?... of course it does (leaving her more exposed than a man) but this is more complicated than that. Paul Schimmel is no longer at MoCA either and he was a giant, also Alma Ruiz is gone (Molesworth reportedly was key in that). That constitutes a great hollowing of expertise... when I was growing up in the arts I looked up to curators like Schimmel... professionals who shook up assumptions with overwhelming experience, saavy and knowledge and they understood the artists. Molesworth was of that ilk, close to the artists and full of expertise in an era when curators seem to farm out their shows, subcontracting to those outside the museum with expertise they professionally do not want to risk acquiring. In the past museums had in house expertise... slippery slope and any curator that keeps a higher profile is sadly in peril. *Update: the LA Times comes to a similar conclusion somewhat reversing their initial assessment. Thing is this isn't just MOCA... the entire museum industry is pushing back at influential curators. I consider it a purge of expertise and the influence that comes with it. What got Molesworth into trouble was daring to go farther than the board's agenda. Solution... hire curators that make their ideas inspiring to their board (you dont get that without expertise and even more daring). Art as an "asset class" rather than an intellectual prompt is hurting museums in very obvious ways.

Matthew Collings takes on a very complicated Tacita Dean show with an equally complicated and tricky review. There arent many critics out there who can do this.

I like Hans Ulrich Obrist as a curator and he has good ideas, but AFC is right his lectures like a lot of his imitators in the drain the life from what is exciting about art. As someone who can speak well and with passion, I bemoan the dearth of it and I do see it as a way to lower the stakes, which is odd because the stake at this time are higher.

Does Dora Maar deserve more credit for Guernica? Well yes, but not as the author for the brilliant final work but as part of the brilliant ecosystem of thinking and aesthetics that went into it. In that sense, absolutely she was involved. Like Helen Frankenthaler to Greenberg, she's crucial and without her you dont get the breakthrough work. Overall, there is no singular artist and if we can look at the entire cadre that these great works require it will make are understanding of richer. There is just too much zero sum thinking.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 16, 2018 at 10:48 | Comments (0)

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