Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

Early September Links
Labor Day Weekend Picks
Museumy Links
Wendy Given at Vernissage
Mid August Links
Grace Kook-Anderson in Conversation
Portland Art Adventures
Early August Art News
August must see picks
End of July News
Alia Ali's Borderland at Bluesky
Mid Summer Reads

recent comments



Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Openings & Events
About PORT

regular contributors


Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman



Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us


Contact us






powered by


Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a


Creative Commons License

Wednesday 06.08.05

« Jacqueline Ehlis at Savage | Main | LANDMARK »

Art Wars?

The Willamette Week (our Pulitzer Prize winning weekly) has this image plastered on boxes throughout town depicting Sean Healy and Jacqueline Ehlis mock Kung Fu fighting. Visual art is the big game in Portland and this generalist paper is trying to suss out the aesthetic agendas of the over 10,000+ artists in this city of 2.1 million. With new artists arriving each day good luck! Read the doomed thing here. (I apologize in advance, I'm mentioned).

Needless to say I disagree with a lot of the silly particulars and the flakey absolutism of it all but its existence contributes to the general sense that there is something going on here (it could be compared to the music scene in Seattle in the 90's, not 1994 either).

When I took the quiz I polled as a post-mod... so silly, frankly history is cyclical and we aren't post anything.

Actually, the cover story in the same issue about live/work space is very good.

I do think one can sift through artists by determining those who aren't satisfied with the morass of everyday life and do something about it. It's an existentialist problem coupled to a romantic notion but both Harrell Fletcher and Jacqueline Ehlis have that kind of romantic ambition.

Whearas other artists don't have the ambition to change things. They just want to fit in with a group and get a gallery they think is cool. These opportunists aren't post-mods or untalented, they are just less noble than the real deals.

For discussion's sake here is a list of some grievances with the article:

A) I think the WWeek is confusing an artist's temperament with aesthetic movements. Some artists are very confident well adjusted individuals and others are reclusive, skittish, retiring or just plain odd lurkers. Both are valid strategies used by artists to get people to look at their work. Some use mass media PR like a personal weapon and others simply choose to be lower key and deny the media machine any fodder. Portland is full of independent minded people who come here to get away from the slicker and more typical New York and LA media personas.

Specifically, I call the ones who put on a shy act the Hug Me's. It's a pretty common hipster affectation. Hug Me's make all sorts of art that cries out for love and friends. Other artists aren't so needy and blanch at the idea of art which purposefully tries to make everyone feel less self conscious, enforcing mediocrity as a social code. The less needy and more generous artists craft art and personalities that are more vigorous than are normally experienced. Most everyone on that too short to be meaningful list of 19 fits in this category.

B) Only 2 groups, one conceptual... the other experience driven is just too didactic and simple. For example, the so called post-mod Harrell Fletcher's learning to love you more projects (in the last 2 Whitney Biennials) are designed to instigate shared interconnected communal experiences, like this choral piece. In that case Harrell's instructions specifically called for a transcendental experience and it turned out pretty good.

Harrell and I have spoken at length about how Postmodernism's fetish of a disconnected world is out of date with the reality of instant messaging and spy cameras everywhere. Harrell is trying to get beyond all that and get back at human connections. Other artists like Healy, Ehlis and hundreds not mentioned like Bruce Conkle, James Boulton and Ellen George also want to connect and reconfigure

C) The premise of Post-Mods as idea driven, text based and analytical does not jibe with their alleged role models of Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. Neither Hirst nor Koons are remotely text based, both use their faces to generate vast PR and both use presentation and pop for visual effects that purposefully mollify conceptual heft as just another form of window dressing. Better choices: Bruce Nauman, Joseph Kosuth and Liam Gillick who also have personas…. See a trend here; successful artists have larger than life extensions of themselves that they develop to insulate themselves from tabloid press. Its necessary due to the extreme stupidity of most press.

Other Portland publications have art scene press too:

Joseph Gallivan (of the Portland Tribune) is writing some really good stuff and muses on the aesthetic merits of crack pipe ephemera. Although calling Ehlis "serine" is a misnomer. She's more traditional but it's some of the loudest minimalism I've seen in years. Loud minimalism isnt anywhere near as typical as randy installation art made of dubious trash is.

In the Oregonian, DK or "death" Row finally took the kid gloves off and gave Disjecta a good whupp'n.

The Mercury's Chas Bowie writes about artists jumping the shark. This is his first good bit of writing since he jumped the shark himself. It happened precisely when Bowie stopped writing art criticism to focus on hipster writing, A.K.A. nostalgic navel-gazing and scrounging around your room for trinkets to digress upon. (ok most lame art critics do that but Bowie can be much better than that) Really, I'm only half-kidding, more bits like this and I'll start reading them religiously again.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 08, 2005 at 23:47 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee