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Friday 01.20.17


More Disjecta

Well, the more you know about Disjecta and its founder (two different entities btw) the less surprised one is that things had to go this way.

Long ago PORT published this article... in many ways its founder never changed and was ousted as we reported here and here. Then yesterday he went on another of his infamous email campaigns prompting the board to respond by revealing his self-serving actions and retaliations (read below). There is a pattern here and many have put a lot of effort into apologizing for his tactics over the years. For example, you can see perhaps his staunchest supporter Meagan Atiyah in the comments of this PORT post. Their close coordination has always made me uncomfortable... when she left the board of directors a few years ago his support started to erode. There is simply a difference between being colorful and difficult... and someone who can't operate by taking the high road. It was a very Trump-ish move to build a wall (read the board letter below).

It is true some artists still stand by him (many do not, especially after the disastrous biennial) but he relied on cultivating those kind of buddy buddy relationships. Going for drinks, hanging out in a Blazer game skybox, being one of the guys etc. but there is a pattern there and it really doesnt serve an organization which takes up a lot of nonprofit art ecosystem resources. A non profit director has to walk a line as a steward. In Disjecta's founders case that line was clearly drawn around himself and I support the board's decision. A board isnt there just to rubber stamp the director's agendas. Like many in the art scene here, I could say more but am trying to be charitable.

Here is Disjecta's Board of Directors response... I hope Portland can learn from this:

"Statement to Disjecta's Friends and Supporters,

The most successful arts organizations encourage dialogue and community. To those of you that reached out to the board in response to an email from disjecta@comcast.net (not the organization's server), thank you for your messages and for your belief in Disjecta. We hope you continue to participate in Disjecta's future.

Initially, the Disjecta Board of Directors felt it would be neither appropriate nor respectful to Bryan Suereth to go into detail about the inner workings of our decision-making, but in the spirit of accuracy and balance, we offer the following:

Beginning in late 2015, and following an extensive evaluation process involving 100% of the board, external stakeholders, advisors, and... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 19, 2017 at 15:08 | Comments (0)

New Year opportunities

It is a new year and that means new artist opportunities... besides with Portland's current 13.5 inches of snow you gotta be getting a bit fidgity in the cabin. Start your planning, here are some good opportunities.

The annual Hallie Ford Foundation Artist Fellowships are here. They wont be taking applications till next week beginning January 19th, 2017 but you should prepare. Over the years I've criticized the 25k fellowships for their somewhat fusty adherence to genres that give artists who make things that are traditional sculpture or wall based work an edge (in general overtly handmade + wall and plinth based work). New media like video and installation art (two of the scene's strongest areas have been neglected). True some recipients do these things but its generally not their primary focus... and rarely if ever site specific work (a few like Bruce Conkle have). Instead, like most Oregon art awards they go to people who are very community active and or teach rather than those who do video and installation work nationally and internationally. Rarely are the selected artists considered to be doing their best work either (ties to schools or other institutions rather than ambition and execution get you awards here). That's why this partially underlined blurb got my attention this year in the press release, "Each year, The Ford Family Foundation reconstitutes the selection panel with both in-state and out-of-state arts professionals. Therefore, the types of artists or disciplines selected as finalists may well differ from year to year. Please encourage members of your community who are practicing artists who may have applied in earlier years, but have not been selected, to reapply." What does that mean? Maybe they stopped selecting conservative panelists that have sat on every other award panel around here? Perhaps application #'s are dropping because they feel that their work an installation artist, video or photographer is just a wasted effort? Also, will they start awarding more of the crucial Gen X artists who lead and recently rebuilt the scene giving it international relevance? ...perhaps by adding installation and video and other new genre work to the mix? Gen X really blazed the tail here for new media. Applications open January 19th, 2017, Deadline: March 1, 2017

As a newish breath of fresh air, the Houseguest residencies at Pioneer Square are very liberal in their acceptance of different media and disciplines for their 20k residencies. Deadline: February 1, 2017

The very new and now Precipice Fund-ed Una Gallery is taking submissions for their upcoming Art As Resistance show for the Trump inauguration. It was wonderful to sit on the panel that gave them the award because in this environment their specific mission will draw the attention of Trump bullies. Stand strong! Una Gallery Deadline: January 15, 2017

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 12, 2017 at 13:32 | Comments (0)

Monday Integrity Links

Jerry Saltz discusses what the Art World needs to do in 2017. Right now art has become a bit too pleased with itself and isnt challenging itself or its audiences enough. As Robert Hughes once wrote art had become too much of "a vocation" rather than "an avocation." Curators and artists need to find the edge rather than the safe middle ground for their careers. It will take some visionary collectors to support it rather than just rely on advisors and "best practices" that perpetually turn art's wild intellectual and physical brambles into well manicured golf courses that make art the Pet of the rich. It takes integrity. I'm working on a big piece for PORT on this to kick 2017 in the arse.

Why are so many Universities putting so much energy into their art museums? The two in Portland that could are Reed and Lewis and Clark. Something tells me L&CC is the more likely bet. I like it better than a lot of private museums and that wealth has to go somewhere... better to make it public. That said a private space with some realy integrity, insight and edge can make a huge difference. For example this project in LA has promise but I can think of a hundred solid ways to spend less and do more, especially in Portland.

... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 09, 2017 at 13:42 | Comments (0)

First Thursday Picks January 2017

January is always an odd month in the Portland art scene, usually a lot of group shows and holdovers with one or two big shows by top shelf artists that everyone follows. Well we have the group shows and holdovers. Here are my picks:

Christine Nguyen

Here is an interesting first, I have never seen a curator from the Portland Art Museum at the Everett Station Lofts... and I actually brought the museum's Contemporary Art Council down there when I was VP. Hopefully today that ends because Grace Kook-Anderson, the new Curator of Northwest Art is the guest curator for the Portland Pataphiysical Society's Christine Nguyen exhibition titled Constellations. A LA based artist it should be interesting though the lofts have showcased an enormous # of significant artists over the years. True the lofts ebb and flow but seem to be on an upswing with Una and Pataphyscal Society as rents rise out of control in the city.... the lofts can hopefully remain an essential incubator? Will the new curator finally break PAM's earned reputation of being nearly completely isolated from what is really going on in the Portland art scene? (a scene that is very active nationally and internationally)

Christine Nguyen | January 5 - February 18 2017
Opening Reception: January 5, 6-8PM
Portland Pataphysical Society
625 NW Everett St, # 104


More sad news Duplex gallery will be closing after a good run, but at least it is concluding with Emily Wobb. Her exhibition, titled Bad Dreams... seems appropriate and her work has always had an unsettled quality.

Emily Wobb | January 5 - 31, 2017
Opening Reception: January 5, 6-9PM
219 NW Couch St

... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 05, 2017 at 13:41 | Comments (0)

Jason Berlin + Alanna Risse at Rainmaker

Alanna Risse

Overall, Portland's best cultural cards are generally not its major institutions but rather its alternative spaces and artist enclaves... the very things that are threatened by rapid real estate development. One of the brightest lights is the Rainmaker Artist Residency program, which gives recent art school graduates a stepping stone once out in the real world. I liken it to an estuary for young fish. Therefore tonight's opening is the first "truly Portland" opening of 2017. Featuring current resident artist Jason Berlin's solo exhibition upstairs in the gallery and Alanna Risse's by invite installation, "A Bigger Boat," it should be a proper start to things in Portland's NW Industrial District.

Jason Berlin and Alanna Risse | January 4 - 27, 2017
Opening Reception: January 4, 6-9PM
Rainmaker Artist Residency
2337 NW York St

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 04, 2017 at 12:34 | Comments (0)

Saying goodby to 2016

As a year end exercise let's look at PORT's most read posts of 2016. It says a lot about Portland and the international audience that PORT reaches.

[About PORT] Recently I was reminded that PORT needs to remind people how and why we do what we do because PORT is innovative (forgive us if Ive repeated this but not everyone knows the spiel). Standard stuff, PORT reaches an enormous # of readers each year (over 1.5 million unique ones annually) and with 2016 being so tumultuous our readers turned to us to give the context that our depth, experience and prescience offers. Stylistically we purposefully avoid being an uninvolved observer (the province of the rapidly dying world of journalism) and instead adhere to the sense of being an on site historical observer and interlocutor (ala Herodotus, Baudelaire and a lot of art criticism out of London over the past 25 years). . . .

It is my belief that true understanding doesn't come through consensus but rather through being intellectually curious about the perceptually divergent mechanisms that inform dissent and consent. PORT thanks our readers and sponsors who make this effort possible. [End wonky digression]

That said, here are our 13 most read posts of 2016. In no particular order, these articles collectively paint a very interesting picture of Portland's art scene in 2016. I'll publish a more probing review as 2017 begins (yes things like institutional shifts at the Japanese Garden, PNCA, Portland building, James Beard Public Market and The Portland Art Museum etc. will get the space they deserve) ... till then chew on these:

Installation view: The Human Hybrid at PNCA's 511 Gallery (from the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer's Family Foundation)

2016 Was definitely a year for the ladies and Victor Maldonado's interview with Wangechi Mutu was insightful. We did a lot of prep for this, bringing in anthropological subjects and in particular I felt that Victor and Wangechi would have intersecting experiences as foreigners from syncretic cultures who attended elite art schools in the USA. The exercise did not disappoint.

Littman Gallery, PSU. 9/9/2016 for Ben Glas' Inging (Variation3)

... (more including Rothko, Warhol, Amazons, New Media and Blake Byrne)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 31, 2016 at 10:44 | Comments (0)

Mid December Links

It is mid December, which means the typical year end lists are making their rounds (Ill do a list of our most viewed posts soon and then a more substantial post as a look back later).

Christopher Knight's picks in the LA Times certainly look like a great Best Of list for the entire country, even though it is LA focused.

The Guardian's 2016 American art list didn't seem to get to LA or the west Coast at all... Um, considering the # of Brits on vacation on the West Coast I'm pretty sure we arent a flyover situation.

Jerry Saltz did his thing as did Roberta Smith + Holland Cotter in the NYT's... New York is is still king because they simply have more long standing career art critics and overall care about critical reception more than any other place, except perhaps London.

Speaking of critical thinking this poorly titled piece about Art World creating Donald Trump is the most useful thing Ive read since the election.

For those who really want to use Keirkegaard to understand the dark places of the internet that did partially spawn Trump this piece offers some useful contexts. Artists go to these places and have been for some time but the art World isn't really paying attention to them very much (yet).

The Oakland fire has lead to a crackdown on those crucial warehouse spaces that artists thrive in. I'm curious what Portland Commissioner Nick Fish thinks, he's calling for a committee but will it include people with real insight? Will it dig deep? So far only PICA's Precipice Fund, which just announced its 2016 awardees (I was one of the four panelists) has really has targeted the issues. The arts thrive best with non-linear thinking and actions... something government granting in Oregon has had difficulties supporting and our major art awards generally seem to favor very conservative approaches and outcomes. It must change if Portland is to retain its advantage as a hub of new ideas and ways.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 15, 2016 at 18:18 | Comments (0)

Interview With Blake Byrne

Blake Byrne is one of the greatest art collectors in the the country but its his approach and wonderful attitude towards collecting that makes his Open This End exhibition at Lewis and Clark College so invigorating. Speaking with him I got a sense of how art can and does exist beyond the cynicism of the age, bringing us back to core conversations about living on this planet together. Through sharing this collection and the philanthropy of his Skylark Foundation Portlanders have had a rare opportunity to get to know this one time resident. The exhibition consists of established masters like Warhol, Acconci, Kippenberger, Martin, Richter, Kelley and Nauman as well as younger artist like Wangechi Mutu, Marlene Dumas, Jennifer Steinkamp and Kehinde Wiley but its the vitality of discussion that shines through. Mr. Byrne is that rare collector who becomes a patron early in an artists career... he also owns works by some of my favorite Portland artists like Ellen George and DE May. We had a spirited discussion about life and art.

Blake Byrne with Kehinde Wiley's Saint John the Baptist II

Jeff Jahn: I dont know if you have been able to travel to see this exhibition in Portland yet but part of what I am intending to do by conducting this interview in the gallery is to at least give you a vicarious sense of others looking at what you have so graciously ... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 09, 2016 at 13:07 | Comments (0)

Grace Kook-Anderson appointed Curator of Northwest Art

Grace Kook-Anderson

The Portland Art Museum has announced that Grace Kook-Anderson will be the next Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art. Congratulations are in order as the position is the chief connector of PAM's curatorial program to the very active art scene. There is a challenge inherent in this as the Museum is somewhat disconnected from the more cutting edges of a nationally and internationally active local scene, often doing a better job of focusing on Seattle and Montana than its own back yard. Challenges are a good thing and it seems like PAM is aware of them because Grace's background seems to address these issues.

The Museum's statement:

"I am thrilled by the appointment of Grace Kook-Anderson as the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art," said Brian Ferriso, the Portland Art Museum's director and chief curator. "Grace's highly regarded tenure as the Curator of Contemporary Art at the Laguna Art Museum, coupled with her recent work in Portland as...(more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 08, 2016 at 12:00 | Comments (0)

U of O plans to close White Box

Breaking news, PORT received word that the University of Oregon plans to close its wonderful White Box exhibition space in Portland after this school year. Curator Cris Moss will carry out programming through June 2017. Another institutional change is that the John Yeon Center will be directed by core faculty members and not Randy Gragg as it is now. Overall, it seems like a very rash decision that hurts the U of O's reputation as a serious art school since the White Box is one of the premier exhibition spaces in the State of Oregon. It also gives the school legitimate roots in the very vibrant Portland art scene. They should reconsider, as it will damage the school's reputation immensely by shuttering it without exhausting every avenue (not just AA&A's very Eugene-centric avenues). Earlier this year we helped lead the outside charge to successfully save PSU's Littman gallery from administrative undersight. Big schools have silos and galleries usually are at the short end od most budgetary sticks, despite the fact that they are major connectors to the community and the good will/resources they bring.

The current Christopher Michlig exhibition at White Box through December 10, 2016

All of this is very sad news and puts the U of O's Portland Campus commitments into question. Disclosure, I have a long history with the White Box, co-curating the Donald Judd exhibition and conference in 2010. It was one of the first shows there and of the very highest caliber. This past April Cris and I co-curated the extremely adventurous Habitats multi-media exhibition so I have a lot of insight into how things are in that building. The current Christopher Michlig show was one of my picks for First Thursday this month and indicates how highly myself and others consider this exhibition space's role in the community. This is terrible news as Cris is among the most thoughtful, adventurous and rigorous curators in Oregon.

The Dean of the School of Allied Arts and Architecture Christof Lindner's statement was, "White Box has served as a valuable extension of A&AA's academic mission in Portland for the past seven years. We are particularly thankful for Cris Moss' contributions in ... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 05, 2016 at 17:08 | Comments (0)

First Thursday Picks December 2016

Cauleen Smith at PNCA's 511 gallery

Recently the list of Whitney Biennial artists came out and Cauleen Smith, whose show Asterisms... currently on display at PNCA is one of them. Now, Im not exactly wild about the WB list and have my misgivings about this show which according to the artist, "collects, arranges, projects, and draws connections between bodies unrelated, which together, create space and place. Objects from the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Craft intermingle with objects from the artist’s own personal collection to create the mise-en-scene for cinemascapes that require an a curious and slow-looking eye." (seems strained and MoCC collection feels strained. Still, I like the fact this is a new media show. Besides, it is a sneak peek at everyone's favorite group show train wreck in the Spring and frankly I like going to shows that I am deeply skeptical of. Art simply isn't about seeing your ideas and values reflected back upon you, though that's part of my criticism of this work so have a look and see what you think?

Asterisms | November 3 - January 6, 2017
First Thursday: December 1, 6:00-8:00PM
PNCA (511 Gallery)
511 NW Broadway


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 01, 2016 at 15:10 | Comments (0)

Mary Henry and Erik Geschke in the Couv

It is time for Portlander's to envy The Couv as the Archer gallery kills it with two great programmatic choices.

A mini survey of Mary Henry's abstract greatness at the Archer Gallery

Mary Henry is one of the greatest under recognized female modernists of the 20th century and the Portland area is being treated to a micro-survey of her work at the Archer Gallery called Practiced Exuberance. Last Spring, PORT reviewed another micro-survey of just her drawings to give you a taste. As part of the American Phase of hard-edged Bauhaus work under Maholy-Nagy she occupies an important place in art history and is a favorite among those with good eyes and taste in the Pacific Northwest.

Mary Henry | Practiced Exuberance | November 22 - February 11
Reception: November 29, 4-6PM (The gallery will also be open for Erik Geschke's talk Nov 30th, see below)
Clark College | Archer Gallery
1933 Ft. Vancouver Way, Vancouver Washington

Detail of Erik Geschke's Arena (2015), photo Jeff Jahn

Erik Geschke is one of Portland's most meticulous and slightly unnerving artists. Through a variety of materials (often with a twisted pop art sense of humor) he upends expectations, often with a sense of uncanny disasters, which have already occurred. Frankly, I loved his last major Portland solo show and reviewed it here. Erik received his M.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art's Rinehart School of Sculpture in 2001, attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture with a full fellowship in 1996, and received a B.F.A. from Cornish College of the Arts in 1993.

Erik Geschke | Clark Art Talk
November 30th, 7PM (Archer Gallery will be open before and after talk)
Clark College | PUB 161
1933 Ft. Vancouver Way, Vancouver Washington

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 25, 2016 at 18:49 | Comments (0)

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