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Thursday 07.19.07

« Interesting combinations & feedback | Main | Ushering in a new era? »

Cook'n with PAM (and a look at the latest acquisitions)

One of PAM's latest acquisitions: Judy Chicago's Pasadena Lifesaver, Blue Series #4 (1969-70)
Acrylic lacquer on acrylic

It is pretty clear now that the Portland Art Museum is a very different institution than it was in 2005. PAM has even taken a decidedly more intellectually engaged turn since Brian Ferriso took over, though so far he is most notable for letting his curators actually curate. Here is a catch up on PAM's latest activities. (Disclosure I am VP of the museum's Contemporary Art Council, though hardly shy about my opinions). Here are some scoops and other info nuggets regarding PAM's new Director, CNAA, programming and latest acquisitions.


The current Wes Mills (Apex program) and Kehinde Wiley (Miller Meigs series) shows are great additions. Ursela Von Rydingsvard is next for the Miller Meigs series and her massive wooden structures should be go down well with the lumber loving Portland audience. That said I'm NOT excited about the upcoming Chuck Close print show at all... both he and Frank Stella went from great to ubiquitously dull during the 90's. Besides, it's tough to get excited about yet another big print show? The Jordan Schnitzer minimalist print show was very good and a tough act to follow.

Also, it is obvious Portland still requires a large scale contemporary art show before we can really say PAM is serving the new standards that have been set in town (I hear it is coming). Right now I know a lot of serious contemporary art people in town are annoyed that they always have to travel to see a major contemporary retrospective. How about bringing something like Rudolf Stingel's traveling show here? It really hurt when the Rosenquist retrospective didn't materialize here in 2004 and our last big contemporary show was the UBS exhibit in 2003 (way too long). Before that it was the excellent Lets Entertain show way back in 2000 (it along with the 1999 Oregon biennial have been the most influential art shows in Portland history... and I do mean its entire history (even the travelling version of THE Armory show hasn't had as profound an impact here). .

Still it is exciting that chief curator Bruce Guenther has a show called Camouflage opening August 4th in the Schnitzer Atrium space where the Neri show is currently on view. With an exciting lineup of Philip Taaffe, Andy Warhol, Agnes Martin, Christopher Wool and Damien Hirst among others it will take a look at the use of pattern in contemporary painting over the last few decades. I cant see how this can miss. It is topical and Bruce seems to be enjoying the opportunity to put together his first mid-sized multi-artist survey show at the museum since his excellent New In Town survey way back in 2002.

PAM has hired an Asian curator too, (will they address contemporary Asian art?) I dont think I'll discuss them much here on PORT unless they do.

New Director:

I published this checklist for Brian Ferriso the day he started working here last Fall. So far acquisitions have stepped up, there has been more contemporary curating, he's hired a new director of development who knows the West Hills well, the rental/sales gallery has moved out of the galleries and into rented space across the street and the new PAM logo's days are definitely numbered. The staff likes him and he seems to get candid responses from them too. He also just moved into his new home this week. Sure, Ferriso is still getting his sea legs here but he's doing well. The really tough stuff is yet to come as engaging and leading the city with our premier art institution is a bit like herding cats with a bulldozer. I admit that is an entertaining thing to watch.

Contemporary Northwest Art Award:

We will see if the 3-5 artists chosen for the Contemporary Northwest Art Award will be provocative and fresh or dull and safe? If it isn't the difficult combination of both fresh and masterful it will be laughed into inconsequentiality. About 250 artists were nominated and around 30 didn't even bother to reply with packets. So now it is up to Gately and James Rondeau to determine who of the around 220 get a closer look. My sense is that Gately knows a lot is riding on this for her and I suspect there will be some welcome surprises. She wouldn't have designed such a contest if she didn't feel it could create something relevant. We shall see.

Acquisitions (here are 2 acquisitions since the big Rauschenberg last year and both of the items discussed here are on display now):

Judy Chicago's Pasadena Lifesaver, Blue Series#4 is one of her seminal minimalist works made before here terribly famous feminist icon "The Dinner Party." She along with Lynda Benglis (also in the collection) both deserve major retrospectives at MoMA and this minimalist work by Chicago definitely enhances the museum's holdings of minimalism and art by women.

Joe Goode's Torn Cloud Painting (1975) Oil on canvas

Goode is seminal California pop artist and this large canvas bridges the gap between the perceptual pop of Goode's pal Ed Ruscha and the light and space artists like Robert Irwin. I like its associations with Clyfford Still, Lucio Fontana, Matisse's cutouts and Stieglitz's Equivalents too. Chief Curator Bruce Guenther has installed it appropriately next to the Irwin disc. This work was purchased by the Contemporary Art Council on which I serve as a board member.

I already mentioned the Gene Davis acquisition a while back too.

Finally, you can see a lot of new to Portland loaner works on view in the Jubitz Center for Contemporary Art as well. There is a big Richard Prince joke painting, a really nice 70's de Kooning that suddenly makes the abstract expressionist room a lot more respectable, a Gerhard Richter, a Judd stack, a Gabriel Orozco and and a couple Sigmar Polke's too.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 19, 2007 at 14:50 | Comments (2)


Both of the works pictured here are gorgeous. Hurrah!

Posted by: lsd [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2007 07:36 PM

Great post, the newly acquired pieces are just wonderful to look at and have been installed incredibly well - Guenther has a good eye and the Contemporary Art Council has chosen some great pieces, which have opened my eyes to new artists I knew nothing about until now.

The pieces on loan right now are incredible too. You will kick yourself if you miss them - I promise! Like the Ed Ruscha piece 'Turn Around' (which seemed innocuous and maybe a little silly to me until I read what it was made from, whoa!)

The Leda and the Swan piece by Lichtenstein is perfectly sited next to the Claes Oldenburg - here we see two theories of Pop Art side by side. And what better way to kick the history of painting-making than to paint a subject that's been done throughout history and by the great masters no less. I wish we could have that one!

But then, I'd like to keep the Judd, the Richter, the de Kooning... the list goes on.

Bruce has done so well to bring these pieces to Portland, he is to be congratulated - even if these works are here for only a little while, we have an opportunity to consider some of the great works of the 20th Century.

I may sound like I'm overstating it here, but walking up through the building there seemed a surprise at every turn. I personally will be back again and again until they leave us.

Posted by: keith.d [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 26, 2007 10:48 AM

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