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Friday 07.27.07

« Talking about nature | Main | Weekend Events »

Contemporary Northwest Art Awards list shortened

Well the list of 28 artists for the 2008 Contemporary Northwest Art Awards is out and 3 to 5 of them will make up the exhibition next June. One will be awarded the $10,000 Arlene Schnitzer Prize. More background here.

The CNAA replaces the Oregon Biennial at the Portland Art Museum (the last one had 35 artists) but one is struck by the thought that if these 28 artists were to be given a similar group show it most certainly would be more conservative and less engaging than the 2006 OB. Don't fret though, because that isn't how this works, only 3 to 5 artists will get the nod and there are many ways to parse this list.

Daniel Attoe (Washougal, WA)
Gretchen Bennett (Seattle, WA)
Joshua Berger (Portland, OR)
Buddy Bunting (Seattle, WA)
Cat Clifford (Vashon, WA)
Judy Cooke (Portland, OR)
Claire Cowie (Seattle, WA)
Marc Dombrosky (Tacoma, WA)
Ellen Garvens (Kenmore, WA)
Jesse Hayward (Portland, OR)
Mary Henry (Freeland, WA)
Fay Jones (Seattle, WA)
Michael Knutson (Portland, OR)
James Lavadour (Pendleton, OR)
Margie Livingston (Seattle, WA)
D.E. May (Salem, OR)
Jeffry Mitchell (Seattle, WA)
Seth Nehil (Portland, OR)
Richard Notkin (Helena, MT)
Geraldine Ondrizek (Portland, OR)
Joseph Park (Seattle, WA)
Akio Takamori (Seattle, WA)
Whiting Tennis (Seattle, WA)
Storm Tharp (Portland, OR)
Oscar Tuazon (Tacoma, WA)
Laura Vandenburg (Springfield, OR)
Marie Watt (Portland, OR)
Robert Yoder (Seattle, WA)

All are provocative choices for one reason or another. Some like like Yoder, Lavadour, Henry and Knutson are terribly obvious but belong. Some are safe regional stalwarts who though good can hardly be described as being at the peak of their powers, they crested 10-15 years ago. Others are brash and daring choices whose unproven track record could rescue/validate this award if chosen. 3-5 are already national artists or one's making a legitimate play to move beyond regional accolades. Aesthetically most of the artists are highly controlled... almost fussy choices, few seem to take a lot of risks. This low # of risky artists is dissapointing considering what is being produced in Oregon and Washington. The final cut could fix this and the show's curator Jennifer Gately will continue reviewing these artists work over the next several months. Many grumbles were heard regarding the fact that James Rondeau (who helped sort through the submissions last week) won't be involved in studio visits.

Media-wise most genres are well represented, though true installation and video art from Portland and Seattle seems devoid of A-list candidates, these are some of the strongest genres in the region and might be a reflection of the initial screening processes which didn't have studio visits. Time will tell if it is a chance taking strategy to bet on the less proven or simply a failure to capture the strength of production in the two main cities.

Lastly, some obvious names like Alex Schweder, Sean Healy or Bruce Conkle are conspicuous omissions... did they get nominated or even send in packets after nomination? All have major projects outside of the region.

In the end this prize will be judged not by this list but by the final 3-5 artist cut. If it tends towards the safe side of this list the show will fizzle. If it takes more chances it could be great, otherwise it will be seen as a regionalist gaff (while posturing as its antipode). I'm sure this isn't news to Gately whose show faces potentially stiff and deep-pocketed competition from NAAU's series of stipend shows next year. Both developments share a common problem, be fresh and provocative (i.e. relevant) or be seen as inconsequential uses of cash and squandered prestige.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 27, 2007 at 10:01 | Comments (0)


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