Let's just say that PORT's Melia Donovan, Jenene Nagy, Jessica Bromer and Jeff Jahn all agree to mostly disagree: Jeff Jahn's, best and worst for the Portland art scene 2006:
Best Group Show (tie) New Trajectories I at Reed College: L to R works by: Stephan Thiel, David Thorpe, Eric Schmidt, Richard Prince and Tim Eitel
Best Group shows (tie): New
at Reed's Cooley gallery & Anxiety
and Ecstasy in German Expressionist Prints at the Portland Art Museum's Gilkey
, nothing else even comes close. Anxiety and Ecstasy was an unusually
well thought out and rewarding show and of the best shows I saw nationwide this
year. With Kirchner, Heckel, Nolde, Grosz, Kollwitz, Meuller, Munch and Marc
this was a tour de force of one of the most compelling movements in 20th century
art, regardless of medium. Though New Trajectories I was not nearly as tight
or thought provoking it was important because this work is rarely seen in the
Pacific Northwest. Besides, Michel Ovitz's contemporary collection is better
than most museum's and because he's a collector it's quirkier. With David Thorpe,
Julie Mehretu, Tim Eitel and Karin Davie it deserved the
two part review in PORT
. Michael Ovitz is allowed to gloat uninterrupted
for 2 hours without judgment by anyone sometime in 2007 for making this show
happen. For "mostly but not all local" group shows it was the tightly
Curated by TJ Norris at Geustroom gallery. Too many other shows were diluted
by 25+ artists (including the Oregon Biennial).
Break-out Artist of the Year:
Sean Healy, with a successful
at Liz Leach, a Thom
, an FBI headquarters in Houston, a good presence in Miami
and a show in 2007 at CAMH, he's going places. runner up Bruce
, picked up by a New
, showed in Iceland & Miami while being added to the Portland
Art Museum's collection. Too many other artists to note had exciting attention
outside of Portland as well.
Inescapable fact of 2006:
It's all about the "quality" be it
the gestalt of a single show, the arc of programming, or art writing. Good intentions and press hype matter little and good shows never happen by accident. There was a general intolerance for
mediocrity or a lack of sustained quality in Portland's scene that excited me in 06.
Here is the lesson, excellence is the only thing that sustains the arts. Sadly though, excellence's importance applies to all facets of the arts and only a few publications in Portland can claim that their arts writing focus has anything to do with artistic achievement. Just FYI, Port's readership has doubled since June 2006, thank you for supporting better art writing, there is an audience.
Most Auspicious Debut
Rebsom at Tilt
Newcomers, watch for more: Sincerely
, Noah Nakell
, Houston, Stephen Slappe
, Jesse Durost
, Craig Payne
Joe Macca of the year award: Joe
Macca for Safety Dance
, runner up Brad Adkins
Visual Arts Institution of the Year:
The Portland Art Museum, finally!
In 2006 they installed northwest curator Jennifer Gately and hired director
but what is more important were the shows: Pierre Huyghe,
The Oregon Biennial, Richard Rezac, The Mahffey
, Roxy Paine, Sophie Calle, Roy McMakin and The Anxiety and Ecstasy
in German Expressionist prints show leave no question as to who sits at the
pole position in town, finally. (disclosure I am Co-VP of the Contemporary Art
Council at PAM but Ive always been vocal about the lack of contemporary programming,
2006 came as a relief... now about that major contemporary art exhibition we
haven't had since 2002's UBS
Most exciting gallery: Tilt
with shows by Paula
, Avantika Bawa
Ali Schmeltz and Stephen
this was consistently the best gallery to see surprising new art
in the city, especially once the group shows at the gallery ended and the solos took over.
Best worthwhile but uninspired & derivative show that flattered everyone's
was good but mostly an uninspired restatement of work we had already
seen (excepting Chandra Bocci and Jesse Hayward who did site specific work).
The net result was flattering (it had to be for the museum to regain local cred)
but it had very little energy or surprises and some artists like Brittney Powell,
Brad Adkins, Storm Tharp, Emily Ginsberg etc. were hampered or even orphaned
spatially. Best work: Bocci, Jo Jackson, Hayward, Matthew Picton, Pat Boas,
David Eckard, Bill Will, Mariana Tres, Vanessa
. The format was inherited, which was fine this time but expect curator
Jennifer Gately to re-frame the biennial to be more than just a mix tape of
the last 2 years. Things like commissioning specific artists and featuring fewer
people could make the Biennial into a real showcase that is influential, rather
than simply being influenced.
Curator of the year:
Bruce Guenther, Chief Curator Portland Art Museum
... um Roxy
, Sophie Calle, Richard Rezac and Pierre Huyghe. Oh and the Hilda
Morris retrospective? Does anyone dare question this choice? Plus, recently he's hung an amazing early Warhol soup can and the most personal and strange Jean
Michel Basquiat I've ever seen (2 monkey's forming a heart on a pink background).
Even the staff at the museum has recently warmed to him. For the first time
in his tenure here he has really been allowed to curate. The results speak for
Best Solo Show: Roxy
at the Portland Art Museum. What's more he's a nice guy who
remarked, "Portland seems like such a civilized place with all the transit
and the layout of the city... even the people." Sometimes we are too civil
but he's right, Portland feels almost Roman. Luckily, one of Paine's PMU paintings
is now in the museum's collection, painted on site. Honorable Mention: Hildur
, Harrell Fletcher, James Lavadour (despite being a daul show), Paula
Rebsom, Michael Knutson, Brenden
Jackson at Sugar
Most Controversial (tie): Jesse
Hayward at Oregon Biennial
Ennis's The Bronze Loss
at NAAU. Both were controversial for different reasons.
Hayward is controversial for his completely unapologetic and rather ballsey
mutation/mutilation of painting into installation art, basically offending the
easily offended. Ennis was controversial for growing up a little. See a lot
of people can forgive outright adolescence or a more wholly developed sense of mature insight... instead Ennis tried to dabble at both giving all camps
a transitional show that polarized opinions. It wasnt bad and it wasn't convincing either. It didnt help that people read the 3rd place title as crass cop out.
Still, neither of these artists are truly controversial like Rober Colescott,
Damali Ayo or Harrell Fletcher can be though.
Most Sobering Show:
Harrell Fletcher's the American War at PICA's TBA
festival, super well done and to counter some who consider this anti-art, it's
actually related to Gordon Matta Clark's photography. Harrell has a dark side...
a very dry dark side that we started seeing creep out in his scar project a
few years ago. What's next?
Biggest Dissapointment: Matthew
PICA's TBA Festival, basically a well-intentioned grasping at
seriousness fluff. Example: using Black Power symbols and Brancusi's Bird In
Space are both just too loaded for such light handling. New Yorker critic Schjeldahl
and tons of other cognoscenti find his work to be weak entertainment fodder,
I have to agree. Ive been watching his work for years and I want to like it
but it just doesn't seem to have any depth... Sam Durant does "iconographic
memorials" way better. Sure Jackson has his supporters but needs to fix
his bud-lite commercial version of history by pushing harder. I can say I liked
having the opportunity to revisit his work in Portland.
Not since 2003 has there been such an epidemic of 25+ people
art shows. (a.k.a. indecisive "inclusionary curating"). A point was
made in 2003 but this time it just seemed convenient. Sure there is a place for a community of one's peers applauding one another but without serious solo or
more directed group shows it focuses on the institution and curator rather than
the content of the show.
Good solo shows (Healy, Fletcher, Linda Hutchins, Steven
Slappe, Yoshihiro Kitai, Paula Rebsom, Brenden Clenaghen, Jesse Durost &
Ellen George etc.) overshadowed the rambling group shows.
Did some galleries get more conservative in 2006? Portland's come a long way very fast, will Portland's developing art scene/patronage continue to be hampered by less sophisticated visual arts coverage?
Jenene Nagy's Best of 2006 Picks
Al Sousa's Hodge Podge at A Century Of Collage at Elizabeth Leach Gallery
Best Group Show:
A Century of Collage at Elizabeth Leach Gallery
Best Local Solo: Yoshihiro
Kitai at Portland Art Center
Best Non-Local Solo: Richard
at Portland Art Museum
Ones to watch:
Stephen Slappe, David Eckard, Liz Haley
Jessica Bromer's Best of 2006 Picks:
Ellen George's "Little City" at Grey|Area
Best creative culture magazine: Plazm
Portland-based Plazm is an expertly crafted blend of brain food,
eyecandy, smart design and sexy typography.
Best Portland artist blog: Action Items
, Matt McCormick's musings on
such supremely endearing topics as volunteering to walk homeless dogs for the
Humane Society and eating frozen turkey dinners alone on Thanksgiving are as
deeply felt and witty as his excellent films.
Best independently curated exhibitions: grey | area curated by TJNorris
and Haunted curated by the Blood Rainbow Family (Brenden Clenaghen, Margaret
Currin, and Patrick Rock) While they couldn't have been more different from
one another, these two exhibitions shared many of the qualities that mark curation as an art form in its own right. Entering grey | area or Haunted was not unlike slipping down a rabbit hole into the curators' personal wonderland--a cohesive
but diverse aesthetic/conceptual universe in which the inclusion of the curators' own artwork (a practice to which I'm usually opposed on principle) served a vital role, like the heart's place in the body.
Administrator of the year
PICA Visual Arts Director Kristan Kennedy
In addition to making and showing her own artwork, Kristan found time to do
a gazillion things to improve and diversify local art exhibitions and resources,
both via PICA and independently.
The Best of 2006 (or what I actually got around to doing this year)
Paul Sutinen's Mt. Hood Piece at 9 Gallery
Best solo show by a townie: Paul
Sutinen at 9 Gallery
Best solo show by an out of towner: Richard
at the Portland Art Museum.
Best group show: Atlas
of the Unknown
, Curated by Tina Kukielski at small A projects
Most regrettably missed show: Maryhill
by Lead Pencil Studio: Annie Han + Daniel Mihalyo
Event that lived up to my newcomer expectations: PICA'S
Time Based Art Festival
(Small Sails set was a highlight)
Best example of putting my money where my mouth is: Julianna Bright at Motel
Best print publication: Portland
Best arts related event: the back room: Lisa
Robertson, writer, and Hadley + Maxwell
, artists, with live music by Dave
Longstreth (Dirty Projectors)
Best art viewed en route to Portland: Spiral
out the window of a passenger plane after take off in Salt Lake City.
Best fudge at an opening: POW
Pictures of Women at Quality Pictures
Most controversial artist: Matthew
for ruling the blogosphere
Best lecture that also scared me: Julia
Bestest, shortest show that should have been longer: Jesse
Durost at Elizabeth Leach
Best video installation I regret taking my 5 year old to:
Marina Abramovic: Balkan Erotic Epic
(he kept going in there for some reason
Best book I read:
Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen