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Saturday 12.10.05

« Weekend Events | Main | Toughlove for the Portland Art Center »

Reeding the Oregonian

Reed curator Stephanie Snyder takes Oregonian critic D.K. (Death) Row to task about his Mona Hatoum review here. Often I'm flummoxed as to why curators, artists and gallerists feel they can't critique the critics (I'm currently trying to find time to respond to a response to a response I have been having with one local artist [p.s. artist, I'll get back to you soon]).

It's healthy on both sides and this instance plays into my old saw about the Oregonian punishing artists who have relevance outside of Portland, possibly because of that relevance. I believe this is the case for globe trotting Northwest artists; Kornberg, Wojick, Ehlis, Healy, Conkle, Cowie and Picton (some of the most adept, intelligent, refined and most importantly "challenging" artist on the West Coast). Now we can add an international star like Mona Hatoum.

Now this isn't a jihad like the WWeek would like to call it... but I'm firm on this. Sophistication and mastery of one's subject is not a crime. Part of the subtlety of artist like Hatoum, Ehlis, Kornberg and Picton is the fact that their work has mastered technique to a point where one isn't supposed to see some grand struggle in materials that gives personal clues into the artists' lives. Instead it is a more universal and internationally readable (i.e. neutral) presentation that doesn't foreground the artist or process as much as the content that accrues. These artists have been called slick or inscrutable but what they really are is confident and not patronizing. They allow the art to speak for itself but its nice that at least two people have been moved enough to discuss Hatoum's work publicly. It's all part of Portland's growing pains and I think polarizing reviews are important. After the mendacity and malaise of Miami the fact that Hatoum can get this kind of reaction in Portland is invigorating.

DK does some good things though and I like his cynical but engaged attitude. Still he hasn't been the only author of the reviews in question at the O. It seems like an editorial policy to treat Portland like "the town" is isn't. Cities exist to discover, define and disseminate talent and Portland is in high geear even if the main newspaper wants to increase its appeal to the burbs by taking shots at the cosmopolitan changes in town. Those very real changes are being lead by the art scene in Portand and it's important to note the Orgonian has done an admirable job of providing coverage. The question is what kind of stance are they taking?

Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 10, 2005 at 15:03 | Comments (1)


Well put Jeff (and Stephanie) - Another somewhat amusing example of the O's "golly gee" potshots at cosmopolitanism accompanied an otherwise thoughtful and sensitive review of WIll Rogan's show at my space, Small A. The caption under the image (a photograph of two swans) reads : "If you go to Will Rogan's new show at Small A Projects, don't come expecting to see the visual equivalent of 'Leda and the Swan.' His is not conventioanl visual poetry. Rogan's exhibit of video, installation-type pieces and photos, such as 'Swans Through,' fall under the category of 'conceptual.'

Does their readership really need a caveat like this to look at beautiful images of swans, trees, etc? Isn't a visit to the industrial eastside foreboding enough ;)

Posted by: TheReal [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2005 04:38 PM

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