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Tuesday 01.01.08

« 2007 Recap | Main | First Thursday Picks January 2008 »

Best of 2007

It's done now but 2007 was a big year and here is how PORT's Ryan Pierce, ex-PORTer and new Beaverton Arts Comission board member Melia Donovan, Matt McCormick, Micah Malone, Jesse Hayward and my own dull self rated the year.

At PORT's home office with our ever expanding international readership, growing pool of writers, and reputation for relevant in depth visual arts focus we made real strides as a serious publication in 2007. We even got props for blazing new ground as one of the best art blogs on the planet. Please forgive me but this chest thumping is obligatory for publications... of course being successful (both in readership and some adverting $$'s) means that some other publications get pissy, but that comes with success. There is more to do though and it's important that PORT continue our tightrope walk between Portland coverage and international relevance. Portland may be a microclimate corner of the art world but that doesn't mean we are guilty of navel gazing or simply assuming that whatever happens elsewhere is more important. In fact there is a sense that Portland something really important might be happening here. PORT isn't a hipster clique concerned with being cool or a mildly disinterested/interested newspaper. It's a loose confederation of relevant voices from within the Portland art scene who have great enmity for ignorance and love the difficulties, joy and variety art presents. Thanks to our sponsors & staff: Jenene & Katherine (behind the scenes) + Megan, Amy, Arcy, Ryan and Sarah... couldn't do it without you.

So let's get it on, here is what Matt, Melia, Micah, Jesse, Ryan and I thought of 2007:

Jeff Jahn:

(Portland centric)

Tharp at PDX Contemporary Art

Show of the Year: Storm Tharp's We Appeal To Heaven at PDX Contemporary Art. Look it's easy to write reviews like that when the show is that good... Storm has a lot to live up to for his next effort. The show managed to create some international buzz even. It's your basic overnight success story that took a decade.

Runner Up: William Kentridge's Weighing and Wanting at Lewis and Clark College... yeah Storm Tharp outshined Kentridge (once... now do it again to make it stick)

Biggest Year: MK Guth, selected for the 2008 Whitney Biennial and inaugurated a new MFA program at PNCA as its director. Loving how the O pummeled her (insignificantly) with one of their most insipid reviews in late 2006 for the same project and now has to reverse directions because it's something they can't spin negatively. Of course PORT got it right away.

Also notable: Bruce Conkle (shows in New York, Iceland and Rio de Janeiro), Storm Tharp (tons of press and a show in Switzerland), Matt McCormick (simply Portland's best loved creative person who was showing at the Moscow Biennial etc.), Red 76, Terry Chatkupt, Matthew Picton, Jenene Nagy, Patrick Rock (Queens Nails Annex + Rock's Box gutsy shows), Quality Pictures and New American Art Union (both of which threaten to become THE contemporary galleries of note in town... probably spurring better shows everywhere). PNCA which suddenly looks like the most important art institution in town with shows like Beth Campbell, a new MFA program and a 511 building bid.

Best Installation: Hap Tivey's Building White/Eclipse. I loved it when Liz Leach went and did her own unofficial addendum to the TBA festival... a light and space experience on a grand scale this installation really showed em how its done. Of course it was impossible to photograph properly.

Also notable: Chris Johanson at PAM, Bruce Conkle at Linfield College (really engaging and hypnotic use of coconuts & sound.. best use of sound and visuals all year), Laura Fritz's strange, small and fastidiously executed Caseworks 13 at Reed College (it's still up too), Jenene Nagy's False Flat at Linfield College, Marko Lulic's Edifice Complex sign at Reed College. These stood head and shoulders above everything else but were all small or partial shows, whereas Tivey was huge and just as well executed)

Best Photography show:
Scott Peterman at Charles Hartman Fine Art. I regret that PORT couldn't fit in a review of this but these extremely temporary outposts of human activity on ice seemed incredibly relevant to the tenuous position we as humans have put ourselves in.

Also Notable: Elliot Erwitt at the Portland Art Museum

Dianne Kornberg at the Art Gym, J Bennett Fitts at Quality Pictures and Oliver Boberg at Quality Pictures also Jason Fulford and David Hilliard at Quality Pictures... you get the picture QPCA dominated photography in ways you would think only a museum could. Bluesky needs to push harder now that they have their great space... I think they can redirect it as they need some of the edge+cred QPCA has got in spades.

Art publication development: Glare quarterly is a small but excitingly intelligent/relevant indie art publication.

Take note debut solo show of the year: Jenene Nagy's False Flat at Linfield, before this show I questioned whether Jenene (PORT's behind the scenes business manager) could put it all together in a convincing solo. She's real smart but her cutesy post MFA work seemed derivative, then it all changed.

More one's to watch: Joe Thurston (with a convincing all new style) and Adam Sorenson at Liz Leach (now represented by PDX), Matt McCormick's Future So Bright at Liz Leach and Mac Mcfarland at Portland Art Center, Philip Iosca at Chambers & Guestroom and Bryan Schellinger's really impressive Portland debut at Quality Pictures.

Best Show Title: Portland? Fuck Portland, at Rock's Box. It was smart and full of inside jokes about Oregon by hard to find native Oregonians

Curator/Director of the year:
Cris Moss at Linfield College, with Re: Dude's Night Out, False Flat and Usufruct he's really put this beautiful but out of the way venue on the map... but dear hell it's a trek... plan a day trip a hit some of the great wineries nearby (Panther Creek is just across town... and Mcminnville is a small town)

Runner ups: Jenene Nagy and Josh Smith co-directors of Tilt, it's small but THE place in the west side core for serious, consistently challenging art. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn't well informed. Unlike Many of the nonprofits in town they have a program. Also we cant forget Bruce Guenther, Jennifer Gately and Terry Toedtemeier at the Portland Art Museum, their new Director Brian Ferriso is really lettiing them curate and with shows like Damien Hirst, Kehinde Wiley, Wes Mills, Elliot Erwitt and Ursula Von Rydingsvard (which is still up) they had a really solid year. Don't take the museum for granted, every serious contemporary art person in Portland should be a member and if you want great access and openings for the Miller-Meigs series you should consider joining the Contemporary Art Council. It's a great way to get more savvy or just stay on top of the contemporary scene (disclosure Im VP of the council, but many of the top curators and patrons are members, this is an easy way to get plugged in).

New discoveries:
Terry Chatkupt (at Art Basel Miami Beach and Retinal Reverb), Kimber Shiroma (at 114 and It's kind of endless at QPCA), Jason Traeger (he's still in school but It's kind of endless and PCC Cascade in particular serve notice), Gordon Barnes and Shelby Davis and PNCA's Nathan Shapiro

Chandra Bocci, one of the best installation artists on the west coast... where was she dammit?

Best Video show:
Retinal Reverb (part of the PDX experimental film fest. With a lineup like Terry Chatkupt, Vanessa Renwick, Dan Gilsdorf and Laura Fritz... it made this show the strongest all video group show weve seen in years too bad it lasted for only 4 days.

Runner Up: Matt McCormick's Future So Bright... next time use curtains to darken the space more but this was also a solid effort. With lots of international exposure in 2007 was a big year for McCormick.

Most Controversial:
The Hook Up ... amusingly controversial simply because all of the artists will have upcoming solo shows and it was seen as a kind of fated Whitman's sampler amongst these lucky and apparently well connected artists (myself included). Maybe it was the title but but severe resentment and high praise deluged NAAU for the month of June (something engineered from the outset by its curator Jesse Hayward who is amusingly controversial himself). Fact was, The Hook Upwas just a solid "what's up in the studio" show that gave some good indications of what will be important in solo shows to come... basically a celebrity artist dance off that was good enough for people to keep talking about.

Runner Up: Kehinde Wiley at PAM, so he uses assistants, BFD...

Best Group Show: Camouflage, you can't go wrong with Warhol, Hirst and two nice Agnes Martins etc. finally the museum feels like a place I can visit every month.

Also notable: Hear The Wind Sing by Bob Linder and Will Rogan at Small A Projects, Retinal Reverb, The Hook Up, my own effort went over really well too.

Tightest gallery shows: Hands down winner go to newcomer gallery Charles Hartmann Fine Art

(Outside of Portland)

Best day at a museum ever: Hanging out with Robert Irwin for half a day and having ask what I thought???? like I matter?

Worst curatorial farce: Pairing Devendra Banhardt and Paul Klee at SFMoMA for Abstract Rythms. I see what they were trying to do but it was a massive kiss ass failure as a show, though it probably brought some new people into the museum. Klee = genius, Banhardt = whimsical doodler but not good enough to share a room with the best/ most influential draughtsman of the 20th century.

Finally someone designs a car I can Love:
The Jaguar XKR, after spying one in a blur as it passed me I chased one through Oakland's freeways trying to find out what the hell that gorgeous thing was (my old, juddianly boxy but not limp volvo's turbo got a nice workout and kept up). Sure, I know my Love for this Jag is bad. It is a gas guzzling monster but I haven't loved car design since the late 70's till this. I don't care about cars much but design is another thing all together and this thing reminded me why Cannonball Run was such a favorite movie when I was a wee lad. Sadly, I suspect bloggers and curators just don't drive this Jag, or maybe Gary Garrels has one? (ha) At some time every intelligent person has to ask, should I be culturally relevant or dedicate my life to the avarice that makes supercar ownership justifiable?

I also found driving down Sunset Blvd to see Eden's Edge at the Hammer Museum to be enlightening. I like visiting LA a lot but Portland is where certain things are happening in the US that aren't happening elsewhere. I also saw that LA is just destroying New York in terms of architecture, no Jean Nouvel can't save you... for many of the exact same reasons Jaws was so much better than ET.... LA already is the next New York.

Most important "in their prime" artists of 2007
Karen Kilimnik- the Dean of informal, laser accurate fence riding kitsch/nostalgia painting. The child of Claes Oldenberg and Velasquez and aesthetic mother of NADA

Rachel Harrison - the Dean of informal, laser accurate fence riding turbocharged kitsch sculpture. Also the child of Claes Oldenberg and Velasquez

Isa Genzken - Poet laureate of informal, laser-accurate fence riding kitsch sculpture. The child of Rauschenberg erasing a Rauschenberg who gets pregnant by that and births Genzken

Daniel Richter - makes Hernan Bas, the Leipzig painters etc look weak. The child of Jorg Immendorf, Edvard Munch and Georg Grosz... Peter Doig bores me by comparison.

Cao Fei - Most chinese contemporary art is derivative and too eager. Conversely, Fei is one of the best new media artists on the planet.

Most Overrated: Richard Prince, with so much buildup only someone like Serra could deliver. I saw this coming years ago, a spent force. He's not bad, just not Warhol.

Worst show: Cosima Von Bonin, I can see how she's influential... the ideas just don't survive the in depth lookthat her large retrospective at MoCA put on.

Artist who is good but maybe still too aware of his "audience" Olafur Elliason ... he's going to get better

Totally unscathed: Damien Hirst, no artist has controlled his own destiny so well since Picasso... for both it was all about the making the game of art better and no artists in the history of this planet can claim similar success at said game.

Marko Lulic's installation in Reed's quad

Ryan Pierce:

In no particular order...

Outside of Portland:

1. Christian Marclay's Guitar Drag at PS1 in Organizing Chaos
The most chilling and poetic 'art piece' I saw this year. Made in 2000, it recreates the brutal murder of James Byrd Jr., who was dragged to death behind a truck by white supremacists in Texas. Marclay substituted an electric guitar, which howls and moans though tortured humbuckers during its arduous 14-minute death.

2. Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution at the Geffen Contemporary in LA.
Porn, paint-pours, and power dynamics looked freshly shocking and more relevant than ever. The resurgence of a dialog about feminism was quickly consumed and relegated to an art-world trend, and that's sad. Here's hoping reminders like this can occur often enough to keep us boys from feeling comfortable.

3. Huang Yong Ping, House of Oracles, Vancouver Art Gallery
This retrospective showed the Chinese- French artist's penchant for spectacle: ambitious sculptures that made one wonder if the side of VAG pops off for installation. It included documentation of the controversial critter-fight piece that was yanked from the show and a space for the visitors to express their feelings on the situation. How considerate.

4. Eden's Edge: Fifteen LA Artists at the Hammer Museum, UCLA
No one from LA seemed particularly impressed by Gary Garrels' first regional survey as the Hammer's new senior curator. But I appreciated an introduction to Rebecca Morales' creepy drawings and Matthew Monahan's museum-sandwich sculptures (which looked even better at MoCA). There was also good work from Elliot Hundley, Liz Craft and Jim Shaw, who was everywhere this year.

5. Steve Kurtz (lecture) at SFMoMA
The government did their satanic best to ruin this guy's life and instead of talking about his own tribulations, Kurtz gave a modest and hilarious tour of Critical Art Ensemble's various encounters with authority over the years. This included being mistaken for terrorists in Nova Scotia, violating German brewing law, and concluded with the assertion that, as artists, our own internal censor is the most dangerous authority of all.

In Portland:

1. Storm Tharp, We Appeal to Heaven, PDX Gallery
He just keeps getting better and better. Tharp tightened up his look for this show and it worked: a strange and beautiful portrait gallery complemented by emptier textual musings. We appeal to Tharp to keep bringing us the unexpected and sublime.

2. Reggie Watts, Disinformation, at PICA's TBA Festival
I left this performance feeling inspired, violated, confused, high, and possibly pregnant. It turns out that what I presumed to be the most tightly scripted dance/ video/ rant/ dinosaur-beat-boxing extravaganza in memory was largely improvised. Reggie took part of my soul that night.

3. The Winter Solstice Puppet Show, Liberty Hall
Made by an ever-changing collective of geniuses with ever-changing names, it's not really advertised or even rehearsed much. It's always free and funny and amazing. This year was dedicated to the 'former' planet Pluto and featured the most elegant shadow puppets yet, as well as a hand puppet skit where the Pope, Deepak Chopra and Starhawk are looking for a housemate on Craigslist. Viva Pussymouth!

4. Mirah and friends cover Fleetwood Mac (at Holocene)
Have I died? Is this heaven? Why is Stevie Nicks wearing spandex? "Women, they will come and they will go," but Mirah, you will always have a place in my heart.

5. Double bike lanes on the Hawthorne Bridge
If this isn't art, well then I dunno...I think there's room for at least eight more bike lanes there. Now, if they would just put a little jump in the middle so cyclists can cross the river when the bridge is up, while the rest of you sad saps sit in traffic. Welcome to Portlandsterdam, fuckers!

Melia Donovan
Claire Cowie Homunculus (queen) 2007
foam, Aqua Resin, urethane resin, gesso, watercolor, sumi color, and ink

Best Solo Shows
Claire Cowie at Elizabeth Leach
The sweet, drippy abject horror of motherhood made real.

Shawn Records “At a Loss” at Nine Gallery
Making space for humor in sincere pursuits.

Best Group Shows

Model Behavior, Organism
Quite engaging, I’m sincerely looking forward to more.

“Thoughtless…” Kevin Abell, Alex Felton, Mitzi Pederson at small A
An inspired bounce around the room resulted from the tangle between Abell, Felton and Pederson.

White Light at Motel
The sad fact that we won’t be seeing Jenn behind the counter at Motel makes the walk to 5th and Couch seem pointless. Odd and sweet shows like White Light were worth the effort.

Habit Forming at the Feldman Gallery, PNCA, curated by Joel Leib
This was an interesting peek inside the living rooms of those that collect contemporary art.

Best collaborative curatorial effort
Peter Kreider/Marco Lulic/, Curated by Kristan Kennedy and Stephanie Snyder at the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College
The best result possible from slamming two systems of visual dialogue together and finding an active engagement between the two.

Best Artist’s Lecture
Chris Johanson at PAM
A layered socio-political performance, which on the surface seemed naïve and cluttered revealed a thoughtful and consciously pointed pursuit

Best new Portland Art Blog

Despite a wish for more people to comment and a desire to see more than paintings (even though that’s their focus) this could be a great place to “discuss” the work that’s up now.

Best New Gallery
Charles A. Hartman Fine Art
Buttoned up and serious, this small space is comfortable, bright and welcoming.

Matt McCormick

top seven for 2007:

the Fourth Annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta
Since 2003, the annual regatta takes place in Taulatin Oregon and pits the regions giant gourd growers against each other in a competition of size and speed. While it sounds both impossible and crazy, it is in fact what the name suggests; it's a boat race, but the boats are giant pumpkins. The competing farmers/captains grow giant pumpkins, carve and hollow them out, put them in a lake, get in them, and then race them as if they were kayaks. Qualifying size for race eligibility is 600 lbs, but most of the giant pumpkins competing in the regatta weighed in at twice that (the biggest pumpkin was 1408 lbs). They all had to be lifted into the water with the help of a forklift, and many of them were decorated with designs ranging from airplanes to turtles to giant mushrooms.

the 2007 west coast giant pumpkin regatta from matt mccormick on Vimeo.

Waldren Island Sunset

Portland Trailblazers
It's been up and down and mostly down for Trailblazers fans over the past seven years, but the current team, which is the third youngest team in the history of the NBA, is giving us cause for hope. Whether they actually win more games or not, these youngsters play their hearts out, are fun to watch, and seem like a decent bunch of dudes. And they are actually starting to win, which makes it all the more fun.

the Shins covering Pink Floyd's 'Breathe'
embed this:

breathe (the shins covering pink floyd) from matt mccormick on Vimeo.
(the shins covering pink floyd)

abandoned trailer in Wendover, Utah

the Crown Motel Sign (and efforts to save it)
The Crown Motel, along North Interstate Avenue, is slated for demolition in January of 2008. Interstate Ave, the old highway which was the main north-south thorofare through Portland before I-5 was built, was once populated by numerous art-deco and neon-clad motels, diners, and other road-side American ephemera such as the Crown, but today the icons of that era are gone or going fast. A last minute, grass-roots push to save the Crown Motel sign is underway, and hopefully will be successful.

sweet old dog!

Jesse Hayward:

Larry Bamburg... TBA
Took my 3 year old son. He didn't want to leave. I didn't either.

Rembrandt... PAM
Forget about it. The self-portraits just kill. Seriously, forget about it.

Tony Labat... ROCKS BOX
Centered around an Easy Rider BBQ, this was a had to be there.

Dudes Night Out... LINNFIELD
I had to mention Bruce Conkle's crsytal encrusted coconut -bucket sound system.

Bryson Gill... JACE GACE
This was drawing that carved out space for thought. No hipster projection here.

Marko Lulic... REED
A great pun with perfect placement, "Edifice Complex"
was also stunning formally.

Hank Willis Thomas... ORGANISM
Through deft use of toys, the work pulled you in to what became full-on tragedy.

Micah Malone:

1. The Wire
Of all the cultural hubris I witnessed this year; no book, sculpture, painting or film captured me as much as the television series "The Wire." The HBO series is by far the most intelligent, captivating series on television, perhaps ever. The ensemble cast is fantastic, however, the most important character representations do not come from individuals, but the fucked up post-modern institutions that make the police department, the street, the shipping port, the political offices and the education system in Baltimore as crooked and frustratingly parallel as they are.

2. Chris Burden's "The Other Vietnam Memorial"
I saw this well-known piece for the first time last month. Although 16 years old, this "memorial" stands as relevant today as it did when Burden reacted to Maya Lin's version. It captures the arbitrariness of war and the monuments that pull at your emotional heartstrings. But like most of Burden's work, his emotional content is simultaneously void of "real" emotion and inexplicably tied to the exact mechanism that triggers it. In other words, he displays how one is "supposed" to feel in front of a memorial, yet uproots that feeling with cold, calculated details (names from a phonebook) that make you shutter.

3. Tino Sehgal
This rising British artist choreographs ridiculous gallery moments that reading about make you cringe with suspicions of triteness. In one, a paid security guard dances around when people walk in exclaiming, "This is so contemporary!" Other performances consist of dancers subtlety recreating famous kisses from history paintings. While the discourse around Sehgal is often about "interaction" and the "temporal" moment in an exhibition space, I find this aspect somewhat familiar. However, no one has so explicitly laid out how one must pay for this temporality. Since ANY documentation of the performances is forbidden, Sehgal's true creativity is in the very structure of his dissemination. With nuanced and specific exchanges to purchase a piece (one must speak the exchange in front of a notary), Sehgal has developed the most disciplined approach to economic distribution and production. Best of all, if people get bored with them, there is no cumbersome storage; they will just not be performed again.

4. The Nine
Jeffrey Toobin's fabulous biopic narrative of our current supreme court is probably the best book on the subject. Toobin did extensive interviews with all of the justices, leaving out attributions as to who said what, giving readers an inside track on the inner workings of our current high court. Toobin has spent a career covering the court system making the balance between public and private knowledge wonderfully balanced. All of the justices become human, no matter how atrocious some of their ideologies might be. My favorite justice is David Souter, or maybe Kennedy.

5. Rachel Harrison
She's makes the most spellbinding sculptures that ultimately frustrate more than "give." However, if Harrison's last show at Greene Neftali proves anything, it is that she is far ahead of the game in terms of forcing viewers into good old-fashioned connoisseurship. What does it mean to have Dick Cheney's face on the back of a mannequin? How do these beguiling sculptures actually embody their referents? She plays fun games, but ultimately has embedded so-called "social critique" within her sculptural practice.

6. Changing of the guard?
While the majority of the major New York galleries still reside in the art mall that is Chelsea, the lower east side has demonstrated that if the mall isn't moving, then at least different models of operation can exist. I love the sensibility of a number of these spaces, including the fact that most are open on Sunday. See www.sundaynyc.com

7. "if this were art…"

I don't know who scrawled these sayings across North Portland, but they make me smile every day I drove by. The propositional nature of "if this were art you'd be in a gallery right now" or "If this were art you'd be rich" says many things about the role of public art, but also, given that they were executed on construction sites, made me think about 1% commissions, the hope of democratic "pure" art in the public realm that everyone could "own." However, these works (if they are works of art that is) do not presume anything. In fact, they presume to not be works of art at all, making their poetry all the more satisfying.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 01, 2008 at 13:26 | Comments (5)


thanks for asking me to participate, but now i see that my list is probably not exactly what you were looking for! thanks for posting it anyhow, and great seeing everyone else's list. and FYI- it's the subjects in the pictures on my list that are the 'best' and not the pictures themselves!

happy new year!!!

Posted by: matt_mc [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2008 08:24 PM

jeff-just a quick correction....

i am not a beaverton art curator. i am, however, a newly minted board member of the beaverton arts commission.


Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2008 08:24 PM

aaggh thanks... sorry Melia, it's fixed (anyone who complains about blogs and fact checking misses the fact that they are open for massive peer review).

PS I'm not going to tell anyone how long it took to get this together... especially since we had a server that needed to be rebooted at one point.

It is awful nice to see so much info in one place, thanks everyone!

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2008 09:22 AM

Awesome lists everyone. Arbitrary end of the year lists are the best! There is nothing worse than a list that tries to be too serious.

And Matt, your list is great. Sometimes there are things in life that are much more interesting than art... in fact, most things in life are more interesting than art. :)

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2008 02:26 PM

Awesome lists everyone. Arbitrary end of the year lists are the best! There is nothing worse than a list that tries to be too serious.

And Matt, your list is great. Sometimes there are things in life that are much more interesting than art... in fact, most things in life are more interesting than art. :)

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2008 02:28 PM

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