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Monday 01.16.06

« Portland Art Museum free on MLK Day | Main | a little of this and that »

2006, highlights for the year ahead in Portland art

Ok 2005 was a ridiculously busy year for the Portland art scene and Im pleased that everyone (that matters) seems to be in the process of continuing to up the ante.

Here are some things in Portland to look forward to for the visual arts in 2006, if you live elsewhere expect to see more Porlanders from Iceland to Chandra Bocci's current show in San Francisco:

Detail of Ovitz's Untitled Mehretu

1) Opening Jan 24th, Reed College's Cooley Gallery is doing a two part show of recent painting, drawing and multi-media work from the Ovitz Family Collection called New Trajectories. It's a young collection featuring work by Richard Prince, Julie Mehretu etc. Michael Ovitz is the agent who facilitated David Letterman's defection from NBC to CBS after "the tasteless" picked Jay Leno to replace Johnnie. He also ran Disney for a while.

What is interesting about the collection is that Ovitz isn't shy about collecting as a way to impress and project his personal elan and power (yes he's on MoMA's board so he's controversial for pushing the self-interest envelope way beyond others). I've always believed that to a point self-interest is the engine that elevates culture from mediocre platitudes and this collection (or any major collection for that matter) serves as an exemplar for that idea. Still, because of his position within MoMA, Ovitz opens up questions of donor pressure effecting the collection/curatorial process. As for the Cooley gallery, first Hatoum, now this... Reed is really stepping up, you just know this is building to something bigger.

2) February, Jenine Nagy, an artist in residence at PNCA is opening the Tilt Gallery and project space in Suite 106 of the Everett Station Lofts, with a focus on difficult and challenging work. While all sorts of impresarios have tried hard to impress with often empty words in 2005, this artist run space threatens to up the ante at the lofts and challenge other players like PAC and NAAU to be more sophisticated (size doesn't matter as much as content and execution does). Since Soundvision closed in 2004 the lofts have been good to iffy but Nagy has the chops and connections to resuscitate this hotbed of 15+ galleries.

Roxy Paine PMU (Painting Manufacture Unit) 1999-2000. 1999-2000, Aluminum, stainless steel, computer, electronics, motors, pump, valves, acrylic, Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York.

2) February 25th, Roxy Paine at the Portland Art Museum. The Meigs endowment's second show on the 4th floor of the new Jubitz center will be the most exciting international level solo show in Portland since PICA's great Erascism by William Pope L. (if you want to get more involved with contemporary art at the museum and meet some of these artists/lecturers take studio tours, trips etc., join the Contemporary Art Council, its only $25 for artists $100 for the civilians).

3) Portland Modern, has gone from a frankly flat and boring publication to an astute finder and facilitator of new talent, their exhibitions have gone from great to iffy depending on the location though (that will probably improve too). Kristan Kennedy of PICA and Matthew Stadler are jurying this one, you have until March 11th to apply.

4) March 12th, John Elderfield, chief curator of MoMA will be the third lecture in the Critical Voices lecture series at PAM. He will talk about reinventing "the modern" now that the 20th century is officially old news. I expect some great questions from the audience now that MoMA is so busy its tough to see the art! Funded by The Paul G. Allen Foundation, the Contemporary Art Council and the Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

5) May, a solo show by Ellen George at PDX Contemporary Art. She's really developed into a very unique voice in contemporary aesthetics, a possible heir to Noguchi, Calder, Willy Wonka and a more sophisticated player than Petah Coyne, bringing 21st century awareness to biomorphism. Her Archer Gallery show in the 'couv last year (welcome new PORT sponsor) really showed that she wasn't merely miniaturist and now that PDX has grown into their new space she has an opportunity to show everyone what she can do. I expect something special from her.

6) June? Supercollector Sarah Meigs' highly anticipated foundation and residency program will come on line, once again showing serious international level leadership. Construction is always soooo much fun and murder on expected completion dates!

7) July 29th, the Oregon Biennial opens. With a new curator on the team this is a huge litmus test for the museum. I have faith in them after the beating they took last time, they won't want that again. The big question is can the super active Portland scene capitalize upon the Biennial on a national scale the way that San Francisco has leveraged the Bay Area Now shows... The Bay Area is OK but many of their best artists now live in Portland and are doing radical work. Portland has only 2.1 million people but probably has more working artists than San Fran too... it's that crazy, (skeptical?) if you've been here you wouldn't doubt it we get tens of thousands out in the Pearl District streets during 1st Thursday for the sunny 6 months of the year. National art press has been tipped off, read this.

8)September: PICA's 4th Time Based Art festival. There is going to be a visual arts exhibition concurrent with the festival. It makes sense since the Landmark show last year felt like more of a fundraiser and propaganda device than an exhibition as it reprised PICA's visual art history only to remind us how sorry it has become. I'm tough but fair about this and at this point practically EVERYONE is in the visual art community is super fed up with the visual arts being used as a fundraiser for performance art so it's just isn't wise. Hopefully, great care will be taken in putting a coherent show together, if PICA does so it will be the first positive development for the visual arts program which PICA gutted in January 2004. A strong video art exhibition would absolutely fit into the wider TBA festival as well.

9) September: Brenden Clenaghen VS Sean Healy, Pearl District rumble. Two of Portland's very best artists have a friendly rivalry going on (they always seem to show during the same month) and both are pulling out all the stops. I've seen bits of Healy's work and it is pretty amazing and deserving of national praise (that is developing), Clenaghen is really growing as well and his work will look soooooooo good in the new Pulliam Deffenbaugh space.

10) Fall: Affair @ the Jupiter Hotel art fair is a great event and it feels better than other art fairs. Now in its third year the fair really needs to tighten up on the onslaught of self-conscious drawings (there was simply too much of the same, NADA has the same problem). Also I think a serious exhibition in conjunction with the show would do wonders to up the ante (hello there is a parking structure beneath the hotel that would be perfect). The strength of the last fair was how it provided an opportunity to buy exciting work in advance of it being shown in Miami. This could be the place for the really savvy collectors but the ambition quotient needs to continue its ascent. Knowing Stuart Horodner and Laurel Gitlen, it will.

11) October, The Art Gym and the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis and Clark College are doing a double punch survey of Michael Knutson's work. I think "Yeah!" sums it up.

12) Fall: what will Justin Oswald's next art project look like? He looks like a young Henry the 8th but after learning a lot from the Gallery 500 experience I suspect we will get a chance to see just how much he learned (he's got a good eye for very challenging work if you consider his recent purchases in Miami).

Yes, between Meigs and Oswald (both are young and gutsy) Portland is poised for greatness as an art oasis on the West Coast (visual art and design is the big game in town). We have the community and the leaders have been stepping forward.

Oy vey! the Oregonian likes to carp about how things aren't like the past and are uncertain... well that is good.... intelligent, sophisticated scenes prefer uncertainties because it opens the opportunity for dynamic change. The distant past no longer applies as a pithic predictive in Portland (the entire city is undergoing a dramatic change and the visual arts is its main barometer). The game has changed and it's about to be played. What is of intellectual relevance is world history and international standards, not some invalid inference that Portland is a closed system. The past laid a foundation that is being significantly added to, as well as being built upon. Still, this is the west coast and new is pretty much all we have got unless you want to count Rothko, Still, Jo Baer and Motherwell. You can't talk about local history while overlooking the major artists that are from the area.

Portland can be a leader on a national level and if the # of New York license plates in town is any indication I suspect we haven't even begun to understand the shifts in town. The framework has been laid down but the leadership in the next year will probably be indicative of the next 50 years rather than the last 50. What wont change is that Portland is very independent minded. The challenge will be to harness that individualistic energy and direct it without corrupting it. Be assured, PORT will be there to provide tough love, critical reviews and examine (blog) the process.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 16, 2006 at 13:39 | Comments (0)


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