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Tuesday 10.09.07

« Bruce Conkle in New York, opens Oct 12th | Main | Wilson Benefit »

NAAU is the time for Couture

Back in June PORT brought you the scoop by announcing the New American Art Union's series of stipend shows, where each artist gets $7,000 for producing a show that transforms the gallery space and $1,000 for materials. Now called Couture, the plan was an unheard of act of bravura, laying a direct challenge to The Portland art Museum's Contemporary Northwest Art Awards (which should announce its 3-5 finalists in November). It also allowed a commercial gallery to behave more like a non commercial space. The Oregonian (probably not wanting to be so scooped again) has the list and promises a full article tomorrow.

The recipients are:

Rose McCormick (whose current show at NAAU is a bit of breakthrough, her Wolf in the Henhouse is superb)
Ty Ennis
Jim Lommasson
Jacqueline Ehlis
TJ Norris
Stephen Slappe
Vanessa Renwick
Laura Fritz
Ethan Jackson
The Video Gentlemen: Carl Diehl, Jesse England and Mack McFarland

Overall, the list is heavy with perceptual experience artists like Ehlis, Jackson, Fritz, McFarland and Diehl. While Renwick and Slappe tend to create narrative tableaus with their video installation work. McCormick, Ennis and Lommasson are more traditional to their medias which are painting, drawing and photography respectively. Norris, McCormick and Lommasson are represented by NAAU but if this last year's group shows and this list are any indication, the gallery wont look anything like a sales gallery.

Now all that matters is how the actual shows deliver.

*Update: The Oregonian has published their digestion of the decisions and I'll refrain from discussing too many of their factual distortions but one has to be challenged... Renwick, Lommasson, Fritz and Ehlis are hardly the greenhorns David Row portrays them as. When Row states, "None is an established figure regionally, although critics have praised the work of Ehlis and Renwick during the past decade. None is commercially oriented." He's simply full of it, all those artists I just listed are essentially mid career stars in the local sense and most are emerging nationally.

First there is Renwick, an internationally celebrated indie filmmaker who was the star of last year's Oregon Biennial and was just announced as runner up to the Betty Bowen Award. Not exactly just a critic's favorite, one should keep an eye peeled for her at the big Art Basel Miami Beach Art Fair. Then there is Ehlis, whose shows with Tracy Savage have been some of the best selling exhibitions in recent Portland history. Even when she showed old work at NAAU last June it sold well. She was also in the ultra influential 1999 Oregon Biennial. Hardly non-commercial the combination of her position with critics and her rather rock solid market make her one of the most established artists in Portland. Row obviously knows this because his review of her last show tried to explain why her work was so popular with collectors, tsk tsk. Ehlis is also director of drawing and painting at PCC Cascade and curator of their gallery. Fritz is my girlfriend so I wont say more other than link to what the Seattle Post Intelligencer's Regina Hackett said about her reputation (it's sad then the PI has more cred than the O on Portland's art scene). Lastly, Lommasson just had a solo show at the Portland Art Museum and has gotten "national attention" for his book (which Row actually manages to mention, thereby internally contradicting his unsupported thesis). I mean no disrespect but huh?

True, besides those 4 most of the other artists are emerging but Row's characterization of Couture as having less established artists than the finalists in the CNAA is misrepresenting both entities. Renwick, Lommasson , Fritz, Jackson and Ehlis are actually more established than some Contemporary Northwest Art Award finalists and vice versa. Both artist opportunities have the possibility of being stale and somehow I suspect neither will be. Either exhibition scenario will be laughed at if they don't deliver fresh new work that challenges Portland viewers and both Ruth Ann Brown and Jennifer Gately know this.

One of the biggest problems in Portland is that many of the arts patrons don't know the score (this effects funding from new donors) and PORT is challenging the O to do a better job there. Right now their coverage is part of the problem, we are talking about a publication that once compared conceptual installation artist Matthew Picton to a painting elephant, sevaerl weeks later Christopher Knight at the LA Times gave him a glowing review. All I'm asking is that our local paper be at least as clued in as those in Seattle and LA are?

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 09, 2007 at 11:56 | Comments (0)


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