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Sunday 12.31.06

« See em before 2006 is gone | Main | From The Walker With Love »

PORT Staffer's Picks For 2006

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 Trajectories I at Reed's Cooley gallery & Anxiety and Ecstasy in German Expressionist Prints at the Portland Art Museum's Gilkey Center, 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 Grey|Area, 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 solo show at Liz Leach, a Thom Mayne project, an FBI headquarters in Houston, a good presence in Miami and a show in 2007 at CAMH, he's going places. runner up Bruce Conkle, picked up by a New York Gallery, 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: Paula Rebsom at Tilt

Newcomers, watch for more: Sincerely John Head, Noah Nakell, Daniel Barron, Houston, Stephen Slappe, Jesse Durost, Craig Payne, Quality Pictures

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 Brian Ferriso but what is more important were the shows: Pierre Huyghe, The Oregon Biennial, Richard Rezac, The Mahffey Print show, 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 collection show...)

Most exciting gallery: Tilt.... with shows by Paula Rebsom, Avantika Bawa, Ali Schmeltz and Stephen Slappe 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 predetermined tastes: The Oregon Biennial 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 Renwick. 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 Paine's PMU, 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 themselves.

Best Solo Show: Roxy Paine's PMU 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 Bjarnadottir, Pierre Huyghe, Harrell Fletcher, James Lavadour (despite being a daul show), Paula Rebsom, Michael Knutson, Brenden Clenaghen, Linda Hutchins and Roxanne Jackson at Sugar.

Most Controversial (tie): Jesse Hayward at Oregon Biennial PAM, Ty 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 Day Jackson 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.

Worst Trend: 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.

Best Trend: 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.

Big Questions: 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 Rezac at Portland Art Museum

Best Discovery: Marcy Adzich

Most Improved: Paula Rebsom

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 Issue 28 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.

Melia Donovan

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 Rezac 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 Double by Lead Pencil Studio: Annie Han + Daniel Mihalyo

Event that lived up to my newcomer expectations: PICA'S Time Based Art Festival (Small Sail’s set was a highlight)

Best example of putting my money where my mouth is: Julianna Bright at Motel

Best print publication: Portland Modern

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 Jetty 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 Day Jackson for ruling the blogosphere

Best lecture that also scared me: Julia Bryan-Wilson at PSU

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….oops, wrong blog.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 31, 2006 at 13:48 | Comments (3)


Dear Jeff,

I am totally in agreement on your Joe Macca of the year award. Joe Macca really deserves it. He's the best.
ps- you need a haircut.

Posted by: carrieandharley [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 31, 2006 10:03 PM

But can Macca sustain it? I think he's feeling a lot of pressure to be Joe Macca and others are hot on his tail!

I saw Joey yesterday and he's got a whole new shipment of Macca for 07

...in Macca related news I'm forming an indoor soccer team.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2007 12:16 PM

Dude, the "bronze loss" would in fact be fourth place. You should really pay more attention to sports. I do agree that Mr. Ennis could learn a lot by being more like Ayo, but in the realm of hockey. Hmm... maybe Storm Tharp was right and we should just deport him into Canada!

Posted by: clarklovins [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2007 04:55 PM

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