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Sunday 10.04.15


Jason Hirata at Muscle Beach

Jason Hirata

Muscle Beach has been doing impressive things and the latest features Jason Hirata (seems a little like a David Byrne project from the teaser image... not a bad thing).

Jason Hirata | October 2 - November 2
Opening Reception: October 2, 6 - 9PM
Muscle Beach

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 02, 2015 at 13:21 | Comments (0)

First Thursday Picks October 2015

I'm back from my recent travels and looking forward to seeing everyone on First Thursday. A theme of technology in art has presented itself this October... something welcome when so much of the discussion of art in Portland gets bogged down in retarde definitions of hand made craft. Look, a lot of bleeding edge technology art involves a kind of craft, be it coding, the fetishing of glitches or gene splicing. "Craft" is more simply an expression of technique and sometimes tradition, whereas "Art" acts more like the absence of clear definition... a rebus we project our understanding of the world and ourselves upon (Art and Craft are not mutually exclusive of course).

That said, here are the technology art shows I suggest you see this month (PNCA's Alien She and Malia Jensen at W+K from last month are still up as well):


I can't think of anything better than the faux pop up shop Dynamic Horizons in the Everett Station Lofts at Composition Gallery to punctuate the tech theme. Described or positioned as a, "Premium trend start-up Dynamic Horizons Ltd. debuts new line of ephemeral wearable technology in a stock Portland-style pop-up shop.... The Intangibles line of ephemeral wearable technology meditates on the shifting nature of place, self, and access in the climate of fiber-optic-fast obsolescence. Comprised of 3 chimeric amalgams of preexisting wearables, the line conjectures at the form factors of future gadgets as they grow more intimately on and into us.

Technology is often tritely described as ethically neutral. This is to ignore the built in complexities of new technologies as well as the inherent goals of their makers (i.e., profit.) Determination about the fundamental purpose of a thing is foreclosed well in advance of its use, swathed in impenetrable terms of service. Moreover, the devices and services we use also change us. We become bots in their net. This intent and tendency can be redirected, but requires cognizance, cultivated skill, and solidarity among creative networks, both IRL and URL.

Intangibles devices are made from the 'biodegradable' plastic, PLA*, popular in disposable table ware, and will rot for compulsory participation in the upgrade culture."

There is a lot of sci-fi related work in Portland (the three best practitioners being Brenna Murphy, Damien Gilley and Laura Fritz) and the tongue in cheek Dynamic Horizons Ltd: Intangibles was designed by Tabitha Nikolai, deSolid State, Matt Dan, Jason N. Le, and is funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

Dynamic Horizons | October 1 - 31 (Saturdays 12-5) Product Launch & Opening: October 1, 6-9PM
625 NW Everett St. Suite 102 (on 6th)

...(more Upfor and Albatross)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 01, 2015 at 14:07 | Comments (0)

Avantika Bawa at White Box


Avantika Bawa exhibits a lot but her Aqua Mapping show at the White Box is perhaps the best realized of her shows on the North American continent. In it an inflatable buoy in India becomes a point on the map and a location as a rebus. Perfect for the smartphone tracking era...

Avantika Bawa | Aqua Mapping
Artist Talk: September 26, 2015 3:00 - 4:00PM
White Box
University of Oregon in Portland
24 NW First Avenue

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 25, 2015 at 12:15 | Comments (0)

Monday Links

The Guardian reviews Ai Weiwei's first major retrospective in London and gets at the heart of the matter. True, so much of it is recycled pop art but it is his ability to effect and redirect history instead of a simply affect it in a quotidian way that separates him from so much art that has been littering the art world for decades and the Portland Art Museum just showed a major if relatively well behaved work of his. We interviewed Mr. Ai here and the question remains if his work will keep its potency with his newfound freedom?

Airborne art fence at the US/Mexico border.

The most toxic sites in America as art. (Portland has plenty of sites btw).

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 21, 2015 at 8:33 | Comments (0)



Bay Area based Ernest collective has been in a residency at St. John's C3:initiative for some time now creating the Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility project and it is time to finally unveil it. It seems like all of the pressure on artist facilities closer to downtown should spawn more activity in St. Johns, which has a long history of alternative spaces and studios.

Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility | September 18 - November 22
Opening Reception: September 18 6:30 - 9:30PM
Wapato Roundtable: September 19 11AM - 1PM at St. Johns Community Center
7326 N. Chicago Ave (St. Johns)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 18, 2015 at 10:41 | Comments (0)

Primer on Portland's newest bridge

Portland's newest bridge now open (photo Jeff Jahn)

Portland's newest bridge opens today (Trimet rides are fee) but I'm going to hold off on my full review until we've seen it used some. Frankly, it is because I need to see it in use once open to give an comprehensive assessment. We've critiqued the bridge process (3 different architects etc) in a little more detail than other media outlets so I really want to pull it all together for you in a few days. Till then have a look back at the process:

own unofficial design submission contest to drum up more ideas. Some of our reader's ideas like the belvederes and light show are now featured in the final design. (A good idea is a good idea.)

Architect Miguel Rosales' designs were somewhat anachronistic looking rather than something bold. Also, in an area that requires the best seismic performance the courting of anachronism wasn't a sensible design. When the big one hits it is likely to be the only usable bridge. His second, still somewhat anachronistic design would have performed seismically but still seemed like it was pandering to a lot of retro loving old time Portlanders. Costs nixed it.

Last but not least the early designs by Donald MacDonald held a lot of promise and were refined a great deal in the finished project... which I'll dig into in detail tomorrow.

Ultimately, a bridge is never just a span... it tells us a lot about ourselves both good and bad so my review will go far beyond just the structure and the art situated around it.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 12, 2015 at 10:02 | Comments (0)

Weekend links

Everybody must read this review of Hal Foster's latest book on the various cliches that a lot of art has become. Every decade or so the art world starts to purge prevailing strategies which have become a kind of pantomime of themselves... we are at one of those "correction" moments in art history.

This little bit of art writing is too generous for the overly precious, research based cliches it reviews but it is good that it points out the problem. Basically if you want to make cliched contemporary art simply do some research, then present in the center of a clean white room in a precious way. Let's look at the takeaway vocabulary as a synopsis: hermetic, intersubjective communication, suppressed. Hermetic an intersubjective communication cancel each other out, leaving suppression as aform of formal presentation the end result. It is basically the way this type of work is placed that is the primary information of the installation... it say I have institutional carte blanche to present this glittery contemporary art postcard in a blank room. It is festival art 101, contemporary art as souvenir. (Thanks to Matthew Collings who brought this to my attention)

Yes,looking at art makes you smarter... but I'm pretty sure that reading a lot of art writing handed out at the venues will challenge your tolerance for cliched thinking.

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 05, 2015 at 11:10 | Comments (0)

First Thursday Picks September 2015

This September is eclectic lady land for the Portland Art Scene:

Alien She is in depth and groundbreaking survey of the influence of Riot Grrrl on artists today and the culture at large. Extremely topical it is easily the one must see show this month, even if it is in 2 locations, both PNCA and the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Curated by Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss. According to the PR:

"Riot Grrrl formed in reaction to pervasive and violent sexism, racism and homophobia in the punk music scene and in the culture at large. Its participants adapted strategies from earlier queer and punk feminisms and '70s radical politics, while also popularizing discussions of identity politics occurring within academia, but in a language that spoke to a younger generation. This self-organized network made up of teenagers and twenty-somethings reached one another through various platforms, such as letters, zines, local meetings, regional conferences, homemade videos, and later, chat rooms, listservs and message boards. The movement eventually spread worldwide, with chapters opening in at least thirty-two states and twenty-six countries

Question is if this will have any effect on the sexist bias in the local art scene, one which still favors men (despite most of our curators and gallerists being women) and rewards women more for their "role" than the work? (I'll save that in depth discussion for later)

Alien She | September 3 2015 - January 9 2016
Opening: September 3 6:00-8:00PM

Museum of Contemporary Craft
724 NW Davis

PNCA (511 Gallery)
511 NW Broadway

... (more with Malia Jensen and Lauren Hartman)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on September 03, 2015 at 14:55 | Comments (0)

Groundbreaking at Portland Japanese Garden

Today, city leaders broke ground on the Portland Japanese Garden's new expansion (see the designs here). You have just over a week to catch the garden before it closes on September 8th till next Spring.

Shrine Maiden ceremony


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Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 31, 2015 at 12:48 | Comments (0)

Suggested Reading

A review of a second book that is about the writing of a first book on Francis Bacon. Sometimes the art is in that which survives the transcription into history.

An excellent interview regarding a great late Barnett Newman exhibition.

Ralph Rugoff comes off as a deflecting pedant when talking about his 2015 Lyon Bienniale but the shift in taboo word of "modern" is interesting. Rugoff is a practiced contrarian when it comes to language and these festival shows are frequently intellectually capricious. In many ways he is a very right way to strip Alfred Barr's progressional timeline from what should be a very common and useful word "modern". All the School of Paris artists were trying to do is something current and yes "Modern". They didn't form salons devoted to "Modernism"... that was bill of goods the world was sold after the fall of fascist regimes involved in WWII. That's why the swipes at modernism and an attempt to rehabilitate the term is a bit of a straw man arguement.

Hyperallergic looks at writing art criticism. We at PORT see criticism as an experimental form that actually prioritizes challenging communication that embodies the challenge of communicating something about the challenge ...whew. And no academic diplo-dialects that never take a stance aren't so much... (more)

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 31, 2015 at 1:01 | Comments (0)

Jim Dine reading and installation

Jim Dine

Jim Dine is a legendary artist whose heart series became perhaps too popular in dorm room posters in the late 1980's and 90's. I prefer his odd pop assemblages of the late 1950's through the 60's... extremely underrepresented in the art historical cannon and on museum walls. He will be at Passages's Bookstore this weekend for a reading and book launch for Dine's, "Poems to Work On," published by Cuneiform Press. It is in the Towne Storage building (their last event there) so it is a back to roots sort of event rather than a dead museum setting.

Jim Dine Reading and Installation | August 29th 12-3PM
Passages Bookstore
17 SE Third Avenue

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 28, 2015 at 12:37 | Comments (0)

Monday Links

Here is a fascinating article on the arts and development/gentrification from Great Britain. Part of the problem I see with Portland's very knee jerk reaction to gentrification is the way it is prophylactic... as if change can somehow be halted. Needless to say that isn't realistic and Mayor Hales announcement last week was a step in the right direction but it needs to also incorporate the additional amenities that cultural spaces add to a displaced community that is trying to re-seed itself. Portland needs to embed cultural amenities into new development and provide the economic incentives to make it happen. Still, these re-seeded communities are kind of a consolation prize though we also need to protect those special artistic micro-ecosystems that take place in buildings. What's more the city has big red "U"-s on a lot of buildings that though not up to seismic code could be put to some use... just like artists have always done (they know the risks). Also, that means we should reward artists who take risks in Portland... for as progressive a city that we are we are programmatically very conservative on the institutional and awards level. Part of how Portland maintains a competitive edge is to help foster those artists who contribute to the "fine edge" that our city currently enjoys. Portland has to get over its phobia of individual achievement... often letting institutions from elsewhere (museums, publications, awards) be the first to give a national platform to artists from Portland.

A fascinating article on the crisis that art schools currently face, in this case San Francisco's AAU. One problem that nobody ever seems to bring up is the way fundraising for these schools do not endow specific teaching positions and programs (it is all about buildings and creating new programs rather than strengthening current ones)... that's the reason many of these schools have under experienced professors, tenure and depth of support has evaporated placing all of the pressure on enrollment.

Ah, lets get back to the art... Richard Diebenkorn was born here in Portland Oregon and here are images from his sketchbooks. He didn't grow up here in a formative way like Rothko did but we hardly need that to appreciate the seeds of his practice in his sketchbooks.

There was a little news on Converge 45, an international arts festival for Portland beginning next summer. Though the title theme "You in mind" sounds like a "curatorial selfie stick" of an umbrella idea that has been done to death already (there are far smarter concepts we could and should highlight and hopefully the component shows can rescue it from anonymity).

Here is an interesting look at Snohetta, the architecture firm that is designing the planned James Beard Market in downtown Portland. Currently that preliminary design strikes me as somewhat generic Nordic architecture but the devil is in the details of these things and I'm certain they will give it a more Portland personality. *(Hint more eclecticism that heightens the bizarre cacophony of a bazaar... Portlanders don't easily grow fond of unified textures/treatments.) Both this market project and the new Japanese Garden expansion set the bar for design in Portland (PAM & Portland Building projects take heed).

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Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 24, 2015 at 12:39 | Comments (0)

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