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Wednesday 01.03.07

« First Thursday Picks for January | Main | First Friday Picks for January »

Port's Curatorial Roundup 2007

Curators are the people you need to know in the art world and Portland is full of them. To begin 2007 we thought we'd poll a few of them and learn a little more about how they see their roles. Now prepare yourselves, this is one long article. Also, as expected the term curator was incredibly loaded. Some reserve the term only for nonprofit work, others admitted to acting in a curatorial role without actually claiming to be curators. For some being a curator seemed to be like breathing. To be sure there are as many types of curators as there are curatorial roles. From old pro's to rookies, these 13 are only a sampling of the curatorial voices in town:

Terri Hopkins by Joe Macca (detail)

Terri Hopkins: Director & Curator of the Art Gym, Marylhurst University

How did you get into curating? It was a circuitous process of career sampling and elimination. I prepared for a career teaching art history, which I tried briefly, but did not like. I Then sampled commercial gallery work and community arts administration. I eventually landed back at a college, but curating instead of teaching art history. The college gallery seems to make the best use of my academic bent and desire to work with living artists.

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows? 26 years, hundreds of shows, more than 50 publications.

How do you define the role of curator? look, think, show, tell, write

Curatorial dislikes? pointless group shows

Favorite part of the curatorial role? looking at art, meeting with artists, learning

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
Years in Portland: 33 Current role: 26

Is it different curating in Portland? I could not do what I do in a city with fewer artists.

What gets your attention? things I don’t understand

What are you reading? The Birth of Venus, Deafening

What are you looking forward to most in 2007? World Peace?

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work? Invested in itself : bought real estate, hired Jennifer Gately, craft curator Namita Gupta Wiggers begins to make her mark, Stephanie Snyder at Reed and Linda Tesner at Lewis and Clark continue to curate important shows. Needs more ways to put more money in artists’ pockets: more sales, better teaching salaries

What is your best advice for an artist?
Make art and figure out how to make a living, including a decent place to call home, good food and health insurance.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
Couldn’t choose. Would have to live with the museum in my head.

Who are your heros?
Nelson Mandela

Laurel Gitlen, small A projects, Affair @ the Jupiter Hotel

How did you get into curating? Hmm, this is an interesting opportunity to clarify what i do now (as a dealer) from what i did when i was a curator in 2000-2002. Obviously there are aspects of what i do now that are curatorial, and those aspects may be the most natural or prominent aspects of what i do, but i think it's a misrepresentation to conflate what we do as dealers with the role of a curator (more on the distinction later). Anyway, I got into curating through a number of internships first as an editorial assistant at Grand Street Magazine in 1996 and then as an intern at SITE Santa Fe and finally as a curatorial assistant at the American Federations of Arts. I worked in an art advisory in New York (curating personal and corporate collections) and have been organizing gallery shows for the past two or three years.

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows? I've been putting together exhibitions in someway or another since 2000. At the AFA I was managing around six traveling exhibitions at a time. Now I try to organize around 8 gallery exhibitions per year in addition to events and screenings.

How do you define the role of curator? I think this is where I will draw out the distinction between curator and dealer that I alluded to before. As a curator, I was programming for institutions and an audience. Curators have different obligations regarding education and regarding collections. As a curator, you are trying to contextualize objects in an institution or milieu, you are attempting to historicize objects, artists, themes, and movements. While I still think about the same issues as a dealer, my constraints, goals, and parameters are different. Exhibitions happen more quickly, my personal and professional opinions are somewhat closer -- i'm an interested party in a different way -- and "the market" is only a small part of that.

Curatorial dislikes? fundraising (sales?), budgets and bookeeping

Favorite part of the curatorial role?
facilitating projects, realizing ideas, writing, collaborating

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
2 1/2

Is it different curating in Portland? Maybe, sometimes Ithink the Portland audience and writers forget that artists are responding to artists and dialogues that are outside of here, i think people here can be overly critical of things they don't understand and a bit closed when it comes to opportunities for education. But perhaps that is true everywhere. . .

What gets your attention? things that are interesting but not immediately likeable, serious commitments to ideas,

What are you reading?
artforum, the new yorker, the new york times

What are you listening to (music)?
jay-z, catpower, soft pink truth, spank rock, nas, reggaeton

What are you looking forward to most in 2007?
Gordon Matta Clark at the Whitney!! Dave McKenzie at the ICA Boston, Chris J at PAM, Matt McCormick at Liz Leach

Favorite pdx shows in 2006?
Harrell Fletcher's "The American War," The Ovitz collection at the Cooley, Walid Raad's performance at Reed (was that last year?) non pdx shows: "Down By Law" (the Wrong Gallery's contribution to the Whitney Biennial), Tuttle at sfmoma, Stephen Shore at the Henry, "Dice Thrown" at Bellwether, Sara VanderBeek at D'amelio Terras, Kalup Linzy's videos at Taxter and Spengemann, (i don't get out enough!)

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? the pdx art scene seems suddenly more ambitious - more worldly. . . Where does it need work? we need more serious critics, not just journalists/bloggers

What is your best advice for an artist?
take your work seriously, take other people's work seriously.

Stephanie Snyder: John and Anne Hauberg Curator and Director Cooley Gallery, Reed College

How did you get into curating? ;I began curating exhibitions through fairly traditional means: i.e. studying art history and engaging in extended research projects in graduate school at Columbia University in NYC. My first major commission was from the Nathan Cummings Foundation. That said, while at Columbia I also studied art education and studio art, and helped start an arts-based public high school in East Harlem, a collaboration between the New York City Board of Education and Columbia University. I found that working with local teenagers was as rewarding as working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or spending the day in Avery Library (and few things are as sumptuous as spending the day in Avery Library). The high school is called the Heritage School, and it still exists. The students study in every major museum in NYC, and work with Taller Boricua (the amazing Puerto Rican arts organization with which it shares an historic building) to curate exhibitions of their and professional artists' work. Holland Cotter reviewed one of our exhibitions, when the kids and the East Harlem painters exhibited together in the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center. But more conventionally, in terms of curating, graduate school research simply extended itself past Columbia, and I kept going.... For me personally, curating and writing quickly became more engaging than making art in the studio, but maybe that will change one day.

How do you define the role of curator?: If I have to put definition to the role of the curator, I would say that first and foremost a curator must be flexible and of course persistent. My own experience of the role is that it changes constantly. As I came into the field, I was educated to believe that a curator is a researcher, a collaborator, a producer of culture, but a curator is also "simply" an organizer, a conduit and a connector, and this aspect should not be devalued. Being a good organizer is so important. So is being a good human being, and occasionally I become a caretaker through my work. During the last exhibition at the Cooley, Lucien Samaha worked at the gallery every day for six weeks. For me, this meant a sustained relationship, and one that involved providing for Lucien... no regrets, but relational practices demand a different kind of attention and investment.

Curatorial dislikes? Yes, of course. I think what you would expect: misunderstandings, anything petty, bad scholarship, any community that is not willing to change the way they do things... Favorite part of the curatorial role? Everything, but especially research and the challenge of working with artists, institutions and collectors.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? About three, as the director and curator of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College.

What gets your attention? A studio full of thoughtful work, collaboration, people who read books.

What are you reading? Right now I just finished The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker, material for an article that I am writing on the Embroidery exhibition that just closed at Portland's Contemporary Crafts Museum and Gallery for Textile, an international journal of art and craft. I am also reading Gelitin's latest catalog and Claire Bishop's recent work...

What are you listening to (music)? I am listening to the Marriage Records compilation and also a Portland band called the Dirty Projectors. I have also been listening to the Silver Jews and whatever else my husband Jonathan plays... he is much more informed about music than I am.

What are you looking forward to most in 2007? Everything.

Favorite shows in 2006?
I take it that this is in addition to the work that I shed my own blood, sweat and tears over? MOMA's Dada exhibition; Lynda Benglis' 1976 film The Amazing Bow Wow, at Art Unlimited, Basel Art Fair (and the entire fair); the James Castle (American Folk Artist, 1900-1977) exhibition in NY; Jason Rhoades' Los Angeles Black Pussy Cabaret Macrame Soireé attended with Marjorie Meyers and Nan Curtis; Jessica Jackson Hutchins post-Chinese fancies; MK Guth's cascading braids; Sean Healy's cigarette butt sun and looming vultures; Bruce Guenther's Hilda Morris exhibition; Jarrett Mitchell's show at Organism; Dana Dart-McClean's prismatic configurations at Small A projects; Linda Tesner's show on exploration and biological classification at Lewis and Clark; The Garden Party at Deitch, NY; Gerri Ondrizek's project at OCAC; Red76's city-wide project Ghosttown (in this instance Red76 was Sam Gould and Khris Soden but hundreds of people participated); Cynthia Lahti's tough delicacies; Storm Tharp's baroque precision and transhistorical narratives; Matthew Day Jackson's complex historical materialism and the way that Kristan Kennedy facilitated that project; And though these last two are not exhibitions per se, I am very happy about Jennifer Gately's sharp arrival in Portland, Harrell's lecture series, and I am grateful to be attending Matthew Stadler's back room events ... the list keeps going...

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work? It did so many things so well. Some wonderful new galleries and initiatives; Camela Raymond vastly improving Portland Monthly's arts coverage; better writing and arts editorializing from DK Row at the Oregonian, Brian Libby's work at the Oregonian; Chas Bowie and John Motley telling it like it is at the Mercury; and the great collective at PORT; PAM's still-evolving transformation--the Miller Meigs Program and the Apex Program .. What we need now is more consistent attendance (come on, folks, get out to a more diverse group of exhibitions and lectures); and a more vital collector base. We seemed to support the Affair better this year; also need to keep getting our artists out of town ... thanks to Jon Raymond and Matthew Stadler for writing about Portland artists in national journals and magazines.

What is your best advice for an artist? Don't be intimidated by Portland's cliques; ask for what you want; and most importantly, trust and push your work, and know why you do it (without losing the mystery).

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?

1. Daniel Spoerri. Kichka's Breakfast I. 1960. MOMA, NY.
2. Everything in the National Gallery of Athens, Greece.
3. Any portrait by Hans Memling c. 1479

Who are your heros? Dorothy Miller (one of MOMA's early curators); Matthew Stadler, because he never stops questioning; my research assistant Leslie Miller; the amazing people that I work with at Reed; Swiss artist Daniel Spoerri; painter Agnes Martin; my colleagues in Portland; and my family.

TJ Norris, independent curator

How did you get into curating?: It was about half my life ago. While I was VP of student government at MassArt, Boston. Operating the student gallery spaces was part of my assigned responsibility. I was charged with programming, maintenance, etc. Simultaneously I worked for Harvard Art Museums as a security guard, which was a great opportunity to be up-close and personal with some of the greatest masterpieces in art history. I have many memories of works of the Der Blaue Reiter, the famed aging Rothkos in the basement, my close encounter with a work of Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, celebrity visits by Vincent Price, Cher and evenAl from "Happy Days". Seems like another life ago, but the duty to safeguard priceless works of art made a Max Beckmann fan out of me. Then when I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia I was gallery assistant at the Anna Leonowens Gallery. That all led to a job as assistant curator for the Artists Foundation in Boston alongside Jerry Beck who is now the director of The Revolving Museum. Working alongside Boston's most prestigious longtime gallerist, Barbara Krakow, I organized an exhibition of children's artwork to be shown at the U.S. White House as part of its 200th Anniversary.

In 1993 I had the great opportunity to assistant teach at Tufts University's Curatorial Program. The master's level course engaged ten students who designed an exhibition from concept to completion, including the development of a printed catalogue. This led me to various freelance gigs, mostly at academic museums (SUNY/Binghamton Art Museum, Mt. Ida College) and other non-profit galleries. The latter 90s had my focus in the studio once again, laying my curatorial scope down. That was until I landed on Oregon soil where I opened my own space, Soundvision. The gallery project lasted a short thirteen months, but gave me the opportunity to fuse media in experimental ways. It also gave me the lay of the land, so to speak, here in the Pacific Northwest.

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows?: Since about 1987 or so. Hundreds of sketches and concepts though maybe only a dozen or so exhibitions have seen th light of day. 2007 sees a few projects underway at New American Art Union and at the Newspace Center for Photography, as well as my collaborative curatorial role in a brand-new film festival sometime in the Fall.

How do you define the role of curator?: A risk taking, opinionated connossieur. Someone who attempts to deal in the delicacy of conceptual tonality. A curator defends and definesissues of taste, style and substance. We often have some clue about art history and general culture.

Curatorial dislikes?:Anything that smacks of fad, replicating something torn from last month's pages of Art Forum. I'm not a big fan of shows that cram too much into a space, much prefer a big white room that may host something quite intimate. Oh, yes, I am bored by the regularity of shows that have too many rainbows, or caricatures with big doe eyes.

Favorite part of the curatorial role?: My role is to comb through things until I can see my clear part. Favorite parts of the role are writing about the collective work, researching artists, studio visits. I love the exchanges that occur in the creative process. Comparing and contrasting every last element that make the final edit. Some have referred to me as anal, others as a perfectionist. My rule of thumb is sort of map-based - to maximize your potential you must filter your recipe of ideas down to specific points of interest.

Years in Portland (in your current role)?: I've been here nearly six years now.

Is it different curating in Portland?: Hmmm, not really. The sophistication of the viewer and expectations of quality seem similar to much larger cities. There is a good range of those coming from an academic or traditional slant - and still a few risk takers here. Though Portland could use a few more of us to tweak and broaden our perspectives and experiences.

What gets your attention?: Work that deals in layers, double meaning, entendre. Simplified, minimal work that creates an atmospheric ambience. Technology that is invisible, ambiguous. And of course, work that transcends its medium.

What are you reading?: Honestly, I read a lot of blogs. It's completely facinating, personal opinion, and the way people communicate about their cultural life.

What are you listening to (music)?: "Midnight Moonies" by Nurse with Wound (Steven Stapleton even signed my copy); old faithful discs by Wire; Windy & Carl's a/v collaboration with Christy Romanick called "Akimatsuri"; "Revep" which is the latest collaboration between Raster Noton's Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto; and Isan's "Plans Drawn in Pencil"

What are you looking forward to most in 2007?: Learning Final Cut Pro and completing my "Tribryd" installation cycle.

Favorite shows in 2006?: Linda Hutchins at Pulliam Deffenbaugh; Ellen George at PDX Contemporary Art; Ty Ennis at New American Art Union

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work?: Some of the city's top galleries physically rebuilt themselves into really fine new architectural spaces. Younger art centers and galleries are starting to emerge. New galleries like Quality Pictures and Small A Projects show great promise for bringing outsiders in and shaking the provincial tree. The overall scene is still somewhat imbalanced due to the fact that there aren't enough spaces representing top notch regional talent in artists like Abi Spring, David Eckard, Troy Briggs, Joe Thurston, Pat Boas and others. All too often gallerists spend too much time talent scouting young and emerging potential that can be a bit too green to cut it over time. My inclination is that in the coming few years that will change. Portland must also harness and respect local mid-career artists more gracefully, or lose a wealth of skill and history. New avenues for cultivating collectors must be robustly developed. Art criticism hereabouts has taken several shots in the arm from the emergence of art blogs (Port, Visual Codec, Art Dish, Urban Honking) and the like. Newspapers like The Portland Mercury, Willamette Week, and recently the Oregonian have adopted their own blogs which, in many ways bring cultural news to the people in a slightly more casual format. Often these web sources are easy access and can offer the reader an instant opportunity to respond. Personally, I would love to read a much broader range of academic-based critical writing. Though we are light years ahead of where we were even a few years back.

What is your best advice for an artist?:

Turn your work upside down. Break it down, simplify the process for yourself, step back from your work, be open to critical reviews from your peers and rework good ideas. Don't be afraid to try something completely new. Spill some ink.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?:

Just three! Is this just for fantasy? If they were works of any time period I would have to select a work by Albrecht Dürer, Marcel Duchamp and El Greco. In Portland you would be hard pressed not to look past Stephen Slappe, Pat Boas, Ryan Jeffrey, Dan Gilsdorf, Arcy Douglass and Laura Vandenburgh.

Who are your heros?:

All-time heros include Susan Sontag, Trevor Fairbrother, Derek Jarman, Billie Holiday and Andy Warhol. Local art house heros would include
(but not be limited to) Terri Hopkins, Christopher Rauschenberg and Marjorie Hirsch.

Namita Gupta Wiggers, Curator, Contemporary Crafts Museum & Gallery

How did you get into curating? I am an art historian who has worked in museum education, as an ethnographer for a product design firm, a teacher at the college level, and as a studio artist. All of these experiences come together in curating for Contemporary Crafts Museum & Gallery.

How do you define the role of curator?
Curator is almost as loaded a term as craft! Curatorial practice is a diverse field these days, where the role and focus is determined largely by the type of institution/environment through which work is presented.
As a museum curator, my interests are historically driven. Through the presentation of exhibitions and through writing, I connect artists and the general public in a broader cultural conversation about art through a focus on contemporary craft. If the museum is an interstitial space between maker and public, I see my role as curator as a connector, a conduit by which that in-between space is explored through exhibitions, writing and the development of a historical record.

Specifically, I am fascinated by the way objects communicate meaning, and by the ways meaning can be heightened, illuminated or altered through juxtaposition and groupings in culturally charged spaces. My graduate work focused on histories of the “other” outside the cannon, with a goal of engaging those histories without subsuming or subjugating them with a Western cannon that privileges a particular high art aesthetic and a trajectory of progress. This is where I find craft today – and I find it thrilling to be able to work to bring this history into public view through changing exhibitions, a permanent collection, publications and educational programming.

I fully acknowledge that as a curator in a museum – a socially, politically and culturally charged space -- I am a shaper of meaning. It is a position that carries great responsibility on a myriad of levels. It is a role that shares “what” is happening at the moment, but simultaneously questions “why” and “how” at the same time.

I believe a well-curated exhibition moves beyond the successful placement of individual works in a space to present a cohesive whole, to provoke questions, and to suggest new meaning through those juxtapositions.

As a former museum educator, I focused on interactive learning experiences in a contemporary art museum environment. I worked to provide a vocabulary and base of understanding from which visitors could engage the very private artworld conversation of contemporary art. At Contemporary Crafts, a different vocabulary and concept of interactivity prevail – often rooted in process or technique. This can be equally confining, intimidating and isolating. We need a vocabulary that addresses the specificities of craft-based work, from functional to “fine art.” By engaging craft as a verb in some exhibitions, a media-defined category in others, even a historical movement in yet another, exhibitions and writing can engage visitors in a broader dialogue about a very particular contemporary mode of artmaking.

Through personal experiences visiting museums throughout my life, I believe that museums, like libraries, belong to the general public – to the majority of us who may not be able to live with a Rauschenberg, but can visit one anytime in a public institution. At Contemporary Crafts, I am a steward of a collection – a public collection that documents a particular history of artmaking. With changing exhibitions, I am a responder to the questions artists are exploring. With the permanent collection, I seek ways to make that collection relevant, accessible and to bring to light its historical significance.

Curatorial dislikes? Examinations of exhibitions that do not consider the specificities of the environment, the mode of presentation of the work, and the intent of the exhibition. When anti-intellectualism makes the work of an artist into a one-liner.

Favorite part of the curatorial role? Talking to artists, collectors and museum visitors, working everyday with objects, and writing. Working towards new ways of presenting artwork that brings to light new questions, ideas and modes of exploration. Being able to spend each day thinking about new ways to communicate the power of the visual, and the crtical importance of art in our culture.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? 2 in current role; living here since 1998

What gets your attention? Multifaceted experiences that operate beyond spectacle, sound bites and bullet points. Experiences and artwork that make me think, ask questions and look at the world through a new lens. Rather than cocktail party banter, I pay attention to things that are catalysts for dialogue. I like it when things are stirred up.

What are you reading? Shalimar, by Salman Rushdie, A Little Friend, by Donna Tartt, Pin up Grrrls by Maria Elena Buszek, Part Object/Part Sculpture by Helen Molesworth, Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture by Eilean Hopper-Greenhill

What are you listening to (music)? I am mostly at the mercy of my children's musical interests these days. Schoolhouse Rock, KC Chambers, Johnny Cash, Cesaria Evora and They Might be Giants are on heavy rotation this month

What are you looking forward to most in 2007? The opening of the new museum in downtown Portland in July 2007. Also, the publication of the first book on Contemporary Crafts Museum & Gallery's
permanent collection.

Favorite shows in 2006? Yubiwa Hotel (PICA) – I think it will stay with me for a long time. Sutapa Biswas and Mona Hatoum at the Cooley Gallery – wonderful to see beautifully executed concept and issue driven work in such an intimate museum-like setting. Massive Changes at MCA, Chicago – fantastic installation, an environmental blow up of Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau's visual aesthetic that has had such an impact on product design and architecture; also fabulous to observe so many families who'd researched the exhibition on the web and were incredibly engaged The Imagery of Chess-Revisited at the Menil Collection, Houston – art history geek in me LOVED the academic rigor of the exhibition, and thechance to imagine the first-time experience of the objects at Levy's
gallery in 1944 New Embroidery: Not Your Grandma's Doily at Contemporary Crafts Museum & Gallery

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Energy and getting continued notice outside the area. Loved the way TBA continues to balance talks and “think time” with experiences.

Where does it need work? Critical address. Not critique, but critical attention to the questions being explored through strong critical writing. With the rushing from thing to thing, there isn't space and time to think beyond what is in front of people. I'd like to see a balance between quick hits, and time to reflect, think and push ideas further.

What is your best advice for an artist?
Construct a life that lets you work. Understand that great art doesn't come from talent alone, and to be noticed 10, 15 – even 30 years into your work speaks volumes about dedication, focus, and commitment. Failure is a marvelous learning tool. Working through failed projects pushes your work – just like in writing, where a series of rough drafts is essential to produce the final piece. Which is then edited – for even further clarification – if a writer is lucky. Art should be the same. Read and look at art – don't lose track of the conversations going on around you – not to make or force your work to fit a conversation, but to understand that your work is a part of a bigger conversation

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick? Interesting question. The art I'd most likely write about isn't always what I'd want to live with on a daily basis. A readymade by Marcel Duchamp, a Noguchi sculpture, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art by John Baldessari

Who are your heros? My great grandparents who believed in education and the importance of social service for all their children – 3 men and 5 women – in the early twentieth century and well before feminism had a name. William Camfield, who modeled rigorous discipline, the power of teaching, and opened contemporary art history to me at Rice University. Emile Zola, who I am paraphrasing: If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you I came to live out loud.

Kristan Kennedy: Visual Arts Prgramming Director PICA

How did you get into curating? By osmosis.

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows?
Officially I am 2 years old, as for shows... Landmark, Saturation for Portland Modern with Matthew Stadler and TBA 06's Visual Art offerings.

How do you define the role of curator?
I stay pretty close to the definition, " to care for the soul", Kristy Edmunds described it that way to me many years ago, and since I have learned that it is the definition most curators I know feel the closest to- for me it means developing a real relationship with the artist and the work, deep thoughtfulness and commitment to making their ideas real and a desire to help build context around those ideas.

Curatorial dislikes? Ego

Favorite part of the curatorial role? Saying yes.

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
12 years in Portland / 2 years as the Visual Art Program Director, PICA

Is it different curating in Portland? It is all I know.

What gets your attention?

What are you reading?
The Pastures of Heaven / John Steinbeck

What are you listening to (music)? Love is All, White Magic, The Buzzcocks, Bongwater, The Blow

What are you looking forward to most in 2007?
Political Upheaval + The "NEW" New Museum

Favorite shows in 2006?
Michael Knutson at Marylhurst / Lewis + Clark, John Pilson at Nicole Klagsbrun, DADA at the MOMA, Richard Tuttle at the Whitney.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work?
What we did well : we stopped whining. What we need to do: end the praise of mediocrity.

What is your best advice for an artist?
Don't think about curators

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
Way too hard.

Who are your heros? Marsha Tucker, Kristy Edmunds, Jimmy Carter, June Wayne, John + Yoko, William DeKooning

Patrick Rock: Artist, Curator of Haunted

How did you get into curating? I am not really a curator. I am an artist with a profound respect for other artists, their practice, and sometimes the art itself.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? I was born and reared in Portland and returned to here a year ago.

What gets your attention? A good brioche, the sound of the rain, gunfire.

What are you reading? Mike Kelley: MINOR HISTORIES, Statements, Conversations, Proposals, Fyodor Dostoevsky: THE GAMBLER, John Fante: The Road to Los Angeles, Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness, Marquis de Sade: Las 120 Jornadas de Sodoma, Ken Kesey: Sometimes a Great Notion

What are you listening to (music)? Black Flag: DAMAGED, Circle Jerks: Group Sex, THE GERMS: (GI),45 GRAVE: Sleep In Safety, The Formless: Shine Life Shine Death, Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps, The 42nd Royal Highland Regiment: The Black Watch "Nemo me impune lacessit", David Bowie: Hunky Dory, Shakuhachi flute

What are you looking forward to most in 2007? My Purple of Romagna artichoke plant bearing fruit. Breaking out my Oldsmobile Delta Regal 88 convertible 'RANDY' when the sunshine returns.

Favorite shows in 2006? Will Rogan: Getting Through - Small A Projects, Portland, Oregon Brenden Clenaghen: Endless Parade - Pulliam Deffenbaugh, Portland, Oregon Gina Osterloh, Joe Deutch, Brenna Youngblood: GOOD TIMES FOR NEVER - Queen's Nails Annex, San Francisco, CA Robert Aaron Young: Harris Lieberman, NYC, NY

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? PICA'S TBA, The Art Affair at the Jupiter Hotel, www.portlandart.net, POINTFLUX7, DISJECTA, PSU's Monday Night Lecture Series, Portland Art Center, PNCA-Illegal Art Exhibition, The PAM remodel, a new curator and The Oregon Biennial. Justin's Germans.

What is your best advice for an artist? If you can do something well which actually makes a contribution to the world besides the often selfish endeavor of fine art then by all means pursue it immediately.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick? Paul McCarthy: Blockhead, Jeff Koons: Michael and Bubbles Vito Acconci: SEEDBED

Matthew Stadler: Writer, juried Portland Modern # 4 Saturation

How did you get into curating? I am not a curator, but I appreciate being included here.

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows? Zero.

How do you define the role of curator? Not sure.

Curatorial dislikes? None.

Favorite part of the curatorial role? Can't say.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? Eight. I'm a writer.

Is it different curating in Portland? Can't say.

What gets your attention? Beauty. Great work.

What are you reading? The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin

What are you listening to (music)? The Gerry Mulligan Quartet

What are you looking forward to most in 2007? Writing.

Favorite shows in 2006? Simpsons.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work? Produce work. It needs to attract more money.

What is your best advice for an artist? Work hard.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick? A desk by Rietveld; that Rousseau painting with the tiny dog and the parade in Paris; a black "surrogate painting" by Alan McCollum .

Who are your heros? Anne Focke.

Eva Lake, Chambers Gallery

How did you get into curating? It started out more as a need in my circle of friends than a professional pursuit. I had a lot of friends who were not exhibiting or exhibiting in the right way. Some of these people were really good artists with no representation and I figured that whatever I could do was better than what had been. Plus, I was not feeling very empowered as ‘just an artist’. Meeting people only at openings is not all that satisfying and the conversations are limited. Curating extended the conversation into an ongoing process in which you never stop learning.

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows? I’ve had two eras of curating: one was so early that I never thought of myself as a curator, but someone who organized parties and events with friends. This was the early 80s and I did more than just art, especially in San Francisco: I organized poetry readings, gigs for bands, film nights, fashion events, all in conjunction with visual art, for about a five year period.

It was this era that I looked at when I came back into it almost twenty years later. Those days became a sort of role model, because I liked the less academic approach and having an open mind. Initially I envisioned working with all kinds of creative people but very soon realized that visual arts were my strong point and that there was a need to focus. Altogether I have probably only curated about 45 shows but that includes about three times as many artists.

How do you define the role of curator? It’s a personal contribution on what we think the world ought to see, as regards to what crosses our path. It is not just about putting out there what I like and in fact, it might surprise some to know that I don’t always love what I show. But I have to believe that it is important to expose it and have the work be a part of the landscape. Maybe that is the biggest factor of curating for me: contributing to a change in the landscape. The work needs the right platform in order to do that. Curators are interpreters in this way.

Curatorial dislikes? Things too fast, too sloppy, too pushy and/ or too presumptuous or instructive. Give the viewer room and trust the viewer to complete the work.

Favorite part of the curatorial role? I like to help. I like to make someone’s day, whether that is exposing art that is overdue or hearing from a viewer how important the show was to them. I know a lot of curators may not be coming from that place and sometimes I am not even sure that it is a healthy place to come from, but I would be lying if I said anything else.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? As a curator, only five years.

Is it different curating in Portland? Portland has changed immensely from the time I first put together shows. But so has the art world. ‘Curating’ was something only people in museums did when I first became an artist in the 70s. That has completely changed and of course Portland is part of a larger situation.

What gets your attention? I like the underside of things but I also appreciate great skill. Sometimes works come together that have both – the unexpected but the very well versed. It would seem unnecessary to state that I am visually oriented, but much in the art world is driven by academic pedigrees often divorced from more instinctual means. In the beginning and in the end, I consult my instincts.

What are you reading? At any given time, I am always researching artists due to Artstar Radio and because of that, there is always contemporary art in my reading. I need escapes like historical and classic novels though, and also books about birds and dogs.

What are you listening to (music)? I like the North African Modern that Sasha plays, who has a show on KPSU right after Artstar. I became vaguely familiar with this kind of music during my last trip to France a couple of years ago and have listened to more. And anything I can dance to.

What are you looking forward to most in 2007? Making more time for myself. You can love art (or artists?) too much! It’s important to keep your own world view in sight. I’d like to be more out of Portland and bring whatever that is back to it.

Favorite shows in 2006? James Lavadour never ceases to amaze me and in general, it’s hard for me to think of a show at PDX that I did not like. I think Jane Beebe has a great eye and way with everyone, from artists to the viewers.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work? I’ve said this too many times: we need a real art market here. This did not bug me for years, but with every recent December passing and all of the gassing on an explosive money-soaked Miami, it saddens me what people pay for art here and how few of them even do that.

What is your best advice for an artist? Your art career is up to you. Set standards on integrity. And don’t think that art is about an object or an idea. Art is about living a life in sometimes very diverting ways. You need to be very selfish in one way but extremely generous in others and all at the same time. It is never about ‘just making your art.’ Even those four words comprise much more than a studio practice.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick? I would take a Vermeer, because I could look at one forever. A great big Marilyn or Electric Chair would be nice. A Byzantine icon would be very satisfying too.

Who are your heros? It’s still David Bowie. It’s still Alfred Steiglitz.

Mack McFarland: PNCA

How did you get into curating? My good friend Carl Diehl pressed upon me the importance and enjoyment it is to put together shows and exhibits.

How do you define the role of curator? Coordinator, Producer, organizer, Someone who can work with people, by looking all around the idea at hand.

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
Role as in making a living, 3 months, in PDX 3.5 years.

What gets your attention? Work made that by those why know why they
made it, or presented by those who feel they know why it was made.

What are you reading? The Mind of a Mnemonist: Little Book About a Vast Memory: By: Aleksandr Romanovich Luria Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House: Writings 1973-1994: Bill Viola Many Magazines

What are you listening to (music)? Nice Nice, Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, Slim Gaillard

What are you watching; film or video? Norman McLaren box set Ingmar Bergman The latest: Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work? I often ask artist and critics and curators at parties and panel discussions what the PDX art world needs and the answer I always receive is "more money." Be it more collectors or donors the feeling I get is that more funding would go a long way.

What is your best advice for an artist? (and myself) Work hard, be lucky, feel as little angst as one can.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick? Hans Haacke, News, 1969 Robert Rauschenberg: Erased de Kooning Drawing, Hugo Ball's Death Mask

Who are your heros?
Archie McFarland (my Grandfather)
Johannes Baader
Kurt Vonnegut

Jeff Jahn: director and curator, Organism

How did you get into curating? I'm an apostate academician. In grad school I studied to be a historian of creative movements and individuals... mostly Victorian and Weimar era writers, artists and inventors. Then the present placed more pressing demands on my attention and being able to organize the current moment was rewarding. Something about me is driven to help catalyze and facilitate idiomatic environments by others and there is no space more potentially idiomatic than a visual art exhibition (even if I dislike the show). The training in critical theory, comparative aesthetics and writing non-fiction didn't hurt either. Im a serious musician too so I suppose playing Beethoven and later Zappa taught me how to convey information through structures of risk, tension and satisfaction while playing the notes of others.

Also, I simply can't stand to let things founder through a lack of serious presentation and consideration. After Id organized some shows in the Midwest and Portland people started to label me a curator but the first fully curated show was Play at Portland State University in 2002, which also had a catalog (a rarity back then). It pretty much woke the press and galleries in Portland up to the reality that something new was going on here and it had very little to do with the city's previous track record. I was basically acting as an artist/catalyst and people suddenly considered me a curator? I took it seriously though and it's helped change Portland, but it also changed me... becoming what was needed. It is like electrical current, you go where the environment conducts you, somehow Ive always been able to generate current for others too. Despite what some of the the press wants to say about me I'm just an agent of thoughtful change who doesn't accept mediocrity and the artists I work with are the brave cultural pioneers who make it happen.

How do you define the role of curator?
A facilitator, a flexable organizer and a catalyst, also an extension or tool of the artist that sometimes acts like a guide in strange and unfamiliar lands for the less initiated. Sometimes you have to take a stand. The role is very different depending on who you are curating for, Museum curators must always consider the Museum's history, University curators have an important educational mandate that we dont have. As an alt-space Organism is more about being an artist's advocate, in our case up-and-coming international artists.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? lived in PDX for 7.7 years (6 years as a form of curator here but I've been producing shows since 1996)

Is curating in Portland different?: Its less formalized than most places, its still the wild west. It has also changed a lot, there is a lot of freedom but it's more sophisticated and hard working than it was 5 years ago. Right now there is a wave of sophisticated people sweeping over Portland and a bunch of pre-existing sophisticates who where trying to stay low key. Public discussion of art in the media tends to be less sophsticated than the art scene itself and there is some tension because of this. The general populace of Portland is generally art freindly and there is a natural curiosity here that makes artists and curators feel welcome.

What gets your attention? Work that challenges or resists my assumptions rather than pandering to them. That said virtuosity can overcome anything, even misplaced elegance.

Curatorial dislikes? lack of consideration for context and letting critical details go unaddressed, it is even worse when the show is covered up by so many artists that they all become anonymous.

What are you reading?Anything about artists or anything related to researching new cultural entities. Also; Epicurus, Cicero, odd web sites related to obscure subjects like Sid and Marty Krofft's theme park

What are you listening to? A lot of instrumental music (often with amazing drummers): Duke Ellington's "Blue Pepper", Niccolo Pagganini's Caprice #5, Mahavishnu Orchestra's "A Noonward Race", Frank Zappa "Little Umbrellas" & "Black Napkins." For singer-songwriter stuff it's: Townes Van Sant. his "Poncho and Lefty" is a masterpiece, Wayne Kramer's (of the MC5) "My Great Big Amp", The Afghan Whigs, Lou Reed's "Street Hassle", The Hives, Sleater-Kinney's "Combat Rock" and Spoon. I was listening to the Captain and Tenniel's "Muskrat Love" it's an amazingly funny/strange song. Im recording some very odd music of my own... kinda James Brown meets John McLaughlin by way of the Velvet Underground.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work? Good: everyone seemed to stop complaining about Portland (except Jon Raymond's article, I understand it's a tradition worth keeping, seriously). Instead, most Portlanders just got on with doing vigorous, serious stuff. There is so much talent here and I think everyone started to demand excellence from every show in 2006 in a way they didn't before the new museum wing. In the past being half-assed seemed to be tolerated, even celebrated by some. The new focus on the exchange of money is a bit of a red herring. What we need to do is stop focusing on complaining about money and throw our energy into overwhelming quality and presentations. Money and talent find each other but it takes real quality to break the ice. Asking for money without the quality isn't feasible.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick? Paul Klee's Forest Stronghold, Mattisse's Red Studio and I know it is cheating but... Donald Judd's entire Chinati complex

What is your best advice for an artist? Saturate everything you do with integrity... be it intellectual integrity, integrity of materals and the hang of the show etc. yet retain a sense of supple reflexivity. Also, be a decent person others can rely on, then find those who appreciate what you do.

Who are your heros?
Kids, the wise, the ageless, Thor Heyerdahl, Lou Reed, Themistocles, John McEnroe, Alfred Steiglitz, Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Klee, Frank Zappa, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Jimi Hendrix, Donald Judd (a.k.a. either the worst or best dinner party ever!)

Brenden Clenaghen: Artist, Curator Haunted

How did you get into curating? In order to contextualize a project the Blood Rainbow Family wanted to present.

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows? One year. One show.

How do you define the role of curator?
1.Pick a number of things that have a specific resonance 2. Arrange them so that the resonance is compounded

Favorite part of the curatorial role? The creation of a temporary community of artists.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? Since 1999 in my current incarnation. I was birthed in a dark Oregon wood though.

Is it different curating in Portland? Lots of space, little money.

What gets your attention? Work that is initialy confouding.

What are you reading? Maya Deren- Divine Horsemen, Mike Kelley- the Uncanny

What are you listening to (music)? The Stooges- "Funhouse" (remastered): I dream of Iggy writhing on the ground. Alice Coaltrane-"Univeral Conciousness": Beautiful free music.
The Fix-"At the Speed Of Twisted Thought": '80-'81 hardcore punk from Lansing, MI Annette Peacock- "I'm the One": Homemade electronics meet torch singing. Get Hustle-"Rollin' In the Ruins": Angela Carter as filtered through the MC5. PDX's best.

What are you looking forward to most in 2007? To see how all the activity in 2006 shakes down.

Favorite shows in 2006? Anna Fidler at P/D. The Perfect Medium at the Met. (yes, I know it ended Dec. 2005) The California Biennial (particularly Tim Sullivan and Sterling
Ruby). Will Rogan at Small A. Natascha Snellman at Art Center (MFA thesis show). Antyhing with Patrick Hill

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work? It continued to move forward. I can't tell if it needs more unity or more division.

What is your best advice for an artist? Less chatting more making.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick? Caravaggio's " Narcissuss", Marina Abramovic's- Chair for Departure&, The Rothko Chapel

What are you watching? Fassbinder's Whitey, Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life; and ;Written on the Wind; Dark Shadows vol. 19

Who are your heros? My friend Katherine who is in Africa with the Peace Core and my brother who came out at, like, the age of ten and never looked back.

Jenene Nagy: curator and director of Tilt
How did you get into curating?I have always been interested in the idea of curating but I was officially in it by opening Tilt.

You have been at it for how many years? One year.

How do you define the role of curator? I kind of see it as a someone who is a liaison for new ideas.

Curatorial dislikes? Working with difficult, unprofessional artists.

Favorite part of the curatorial role? Having people say, "Wow! Where did you find this one?"

Years in Portland (in your current role)? One.

Is it different curating in Portland? This is the only city I have done so.

What gets your attention? Ambition, well-executed work, people who are taking risks and pushing the boundries of their matrials.

What are you reading? The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

What are you listening to (music)? Lots of internet radio.

What are you looking forward to most in 2007? I am very exciting for Damien Hurst @ the museum and to see the Daisy Kingdom building open.

Favorite shows in 2006?Liz Leach's Collage Show, Yoshi Katai @ PAC, Jeffry Mitchell @ Pulliam Deffenbaugh, Richard Rezac @ PAM

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2006? Where does it need work? What is your best advice for an artist? Work work work and get and it out there.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick? Something by Jessica Stockholder, "Female Nude" by Egon Schiele (the one with the red head who is outlined in white), Gordon Matta Clark's "Split House"

Who are your heros? Lance Armstrong, Jimmy Carter, Liza Lou

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 03, 2007 at 23:23 | Comments (4)


It seems as if many of these curators feel the same way I have been feeling about the Portland scene this year. Mainly, that this was the year the Portland art scene grew up. Artists were creating very sincere, serious, and "adult" works. Congrats Portland, you have hit puberty.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 4, 2007 11:46 AM

I wrote in October 2005 that we had achieved adolescence... with the triple threat of the new museum wing, Affair II and Fresh Trouble in one weekend I think something changed in how the city saw itself and the artists responded. The Museum wing's persistent presence cannot be underestimated... all the festivalism has made its important points but persistent quality is self perpetuating and the missing stabilizing force.

What we are seeing now are the effects of that attitude change.

I loved Laurel's succinct advice nugget: "take your work seriously, take other people's work seriously"

doing so in 1999 used to be practically a crime in Portland.

no more

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 4, 2007 12:36 PM

That's because in 1999, Portland was packed full of nothing but crappy highschool sketchbook drawings. :)

I think this is definitely an exciting time to be in Portland. Speaking of exciting things, what's coming up next for Organism Jeff?

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 11, 2007 04:09 PM

The 1999 Oregon Biennial practically redefined portland's art scene; Sean Healy, Michael Knutson, Brenden Clenaghen, Jacqueline Ehlis, Tom Cramer, Kristan Kennedy (as part of swallow press) & Storm Tharp... may of them were introducd in this show or heir signaure styles were publicly unveiled then. The bad drawings came in 2001-ish.

Organism will have another Gertrude salon on Jan 22nd at the someday lounge... it will go late and have some cool surprises.

On January 24th Motel, Organism and the Portland Art Center will stay open late (8:30 PM) for a thematic NW 5th and Couch artwalk with timely talks. That event event is called "Indoor Wildernesses"... 4 shows all around the theme of bringing the outdoors experience indoors. Mark your callendars, details coming very soon.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 11, 2007 07:35 PM

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