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Thursday 01.31.08

« Spiral Jetty Threatened | Main | First Friday Picks February 2008 »

Portland Curatorial Roundup 2008

Whether you are an artist or an art lover, curators are the people in your community that you need to know and the job involves a lot more than simply selecting who gets to show in a space.

Last year's roundup was hugely popular and this 2008 roundup will take things even farther. It is still by no means comprehensive as Portland has seen an explosion in interesting alternative spaces. It goes without sayimng that there is a whole new crew in Portland these days.

Participants for 2008 are: Bruce Guenther, Linda Tesner, Josh Smith, Nathan Gibson, Patrick Rock, Namita Wiggers, Kristan Kennedy, TJ Norris, Paul Middendorf, myself, Stephanie Snyder, and Damien Gilley.

Bruce Guenther: Chief Curator Portland Art Museum

How did you get into curating?
Started a summer season gallery with friend in high school featuring abstract art in a "red barn" kind of town ( Jacksonville ).

It continued from there pretty seamlessly.

How do you define the role of curator?
Look, process, link, present, interpret.
Look, preserve, sort, catalogue.

Curatorial dislikes?
Imitation, pretense, historical ignorance, confusion of skill with idea

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
Seven it appears.

What gets your attention?
Fresh resolution to a skillfully asked set of aesthetic questions.

What are you reading?
"How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness" by Darby English

What are you listening to?
The Portland Cello Project

What are you looking forward to most in 2008?
Richard Deacon in Portland ; Marlene Dumas at MOCA , LA ; 55th Carnegie International.

Favorite shows in 2007?
Jasper Johns "Gray" in Chicago ; Martin Puryear at MOMA; Annette Messager at the Centre Pompidou in Paris .

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007?
Opening the Desoto Building - reinventing the public's awareness of BlueSky and the Museum of Contemporary Craft .

What is your best advice for an artist?
Look and think; train the hand and fill the mind.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
Raft of the Medusa; Les Demoiselles d'Avignon; Rodeo

Who are your heros?
Picasso, Freud, Robert Rauschenberg, Martin Luther King, Annie Gerber.

Nathan Gibson: Jace Gace
How did you get into curating?
By chance, really. I finished art school a few years back in the Bay area at CCA and continued working at the schools library. It was actually an amazing opportunity. I had the night shift, and I would just sit there every night reading art books and talking to the faculty. I received a better education working at the schools library than I did in the classroom. During this time, I had two other jobs. I was an assistant to the Poet Michael McClure and I spent my mornings as a bread baker at a local artisan bakery. Needless to say I was busy, but I wasn't making much art, and I was just scraping by financially. I got word that some old friends had moved to Portland and had rented a space. They said the magic words "we're saving a studio space for you too", and I was sold. My "soon to be wife" and I wanted a change so we followed the migration north to Portland for greener pastures. The space was much larger than I had imagined, and after months of renovations we had a beautiful new space to show art, and I blindly jumped into the role as curator.

How do you define the role of curator?
I'm still trying to make sense of it, and the definition changes daily. Today, I see it as a chance to facilitate opportunities and to hopefully show the public something new in the process.

Curatorial dislikes?
Delusions of grandeur.

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
I've only been here for little over a year, and I've curated 7 shows.

What gets your attention?

What are you reading?
The manual for my furnace. It isn't working right and it's getting way too cold.

What are you listening to?
Sean Smith, The best solo guitarist since John Fahey.

What are you looking forward to most in 2008?
A new Jesse Hayward show.

Favorite shows in 2007?
Bailey Winters, Bryson Gill.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007?
It stayed relevant.

What is your best advice for an artist?
Make sure your doing what you do because you love it, and just because you love it, it doesn't mean that anyone else does.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
John Constable, Leon Kossoff, Frank Auerbach.

Who are your heros?

Michael McClure, Franklin Williams, Steve Mason

Linda Tesner, Director, Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art, Lewis & Clark College

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

I've worked as a curator since I was in graduate school at The Ohio State University in the early 80s; I worked as a graduate assistant curator at what was the precursor to the Wexner Center for the Arts. In 1983 I became the director of the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington State, so I've been doing curatorial work for my entire adult life-more than 25 years. I've been responsible for about forty exhibitions while I've been at Lewis & Clark College.

How do you define the role of curator?
I like to think of a good curator as a good essayist in that building a solid exhibition is like presenting a well-conceived concept or argument, only within a visual vocabulary. I believe, too, that a curator's role is also as educator and maybe facilitator-a person who makes visual art accessible in a certain way, and maybe uses his/her skills to enlighten the viewer about some aspect of visual art. But: I definitely don't subscribe to the aggrandized delusion that curators are arbiters of culture. And I really can't abide the cult of the celebrity curator.

Curatorial dislikes?
This isn't a "curatorial" dislike, but arrogance and rudeness get under my skin.

Favorite part of the curatorial role?
Studio visits and writing catalog essays, hands down.

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
I've been in Portland for the past 15 years, ten at the Hoffman Gallery.

What gets your attention?
I feel rather old-fashioned saying this, but exquisiteness in craft means a lot to me. I am still seduced by beauty (in the broadest sense). If an artist has a thoughtful expression, well-executed, I'm interested.

What are you reading (or listening to)?
Nothing overtly cerebral . . . I've got three books going right now: David Attenborough's exhibition catalog for Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery (we're back to beauty and exquisiteness of craft, here). An anthology of essays by Guy Davenport called The Death of Picasso (Davenport wrote a marvelous treatise on the tradition of still life called Objects on a Table which I refer to time and again-by the way, one of my most treasured "art writings" is Mark Doty's Still Life with Oysters and Lemon). And, a book titled Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg, a lovely, slim book on the Buddhist practice of metta. The book was a gift from Mary Priester, the public art collection manager of Tri-Met and one of Portland's great and gifted, but under-recognized, arts professionals. With all due respect, I actually think the world needs more kindness than art right now.

What are you looking forward to most in 2008?
I am really looking forward to a public art project at Lewis & Clark College called the York Memorial Project. The College has determined to commission a memorial to York, William Clark's African slave, an integral member of the Corps of Discovery but an individual who has not been adequately remembered for his role in history. I am very interested in issues of public art and public memory, and this project has some particular challenges. The selection committee has just been appointed and we are working with RACC to develop an RFP to launch a national search for an artist to tackle the concept. I'm also looking forward to our September 2008 exhibition in the Hoffman Gallery, Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art. It is an exhibition organized by Independent Curators International. Even though this is a traveling show, Beyond Green is a stretch for the Hoffman Gallery, but I think the subject is an important one to address in the gallery setting.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007? Where does it need work? Favorite shows of 2007?
Well, the opening of the commercial galleries and the Museum of Contemporary Craft in the Desoto Building have to be the triumph of 2007. I am just so impressed and delighted by the Desoto project. If more arts organization/private sector partnerships can follow suit, so much the better. I am so saddened by the recent troubling news from the Portland Art Center, especially the loss of valuable and much-needed exhibition space-I guess I would say that that's were the "art scene" needs work-physical space for artists to be experimental and grassroots, and, of course, the funding that goes hand-in-hand with that quest. Favorite shows? Outside of Portland, I thought the Richard Serra show at MoMA was just amazing; the Bill Viola installation Ocean Without a Shore at the Venice Biennale was terribly affecting. Here in Portland, I think the Debra Beers show at Mark Woolley, which technically opened in 2007 but runs through February 2nd, is sublime. And, the Darren Waterston and William Kentridge shows at the Hoffman Gallery were personal favorites as well.

What is your best advice for an artist?
This is advice one might expect from a schoolmarm, but I really believe this is very practical; I have to give credit to Stuart Horodner for putting it something like this (I'm paraphrasing, here): In an artist's creative life, i.e. what one does in the studio, is the artist's alone-one has ultimate creative freedom, and has only oneself to credit or blame for any artistic merit. A career, however, is intrinsically different from one's studio practice, and an artist ultimately owes his/her success to someone else-a teacher who offers word of encouragement, the coffee shop owner who allows a small grouping of artwork on the wall, a curator who takes the time to do a studio visit, a gallerist who agrees to show the work, etc., etc. Literally, ever step in any career is thanks to someone else who says "yes" instead of "no," "no," "no." Obviously for every opportunity, there are endless "other choices" (other artists to pick for inclusion in that thematic group show, for example). So, my advice to an artist would be to think about the folks who create the tiny (or not-so-tiny) steps in building your career, and at least acknowledge that. Maybe even express some gratitude for the leg-up, if appropriate.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
That's a moving target, but today it would be Pablo Picasso's Guernica, the Giotto frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel (Padua), and a tiny watercolor called Red Squirrel by Hans Hoffmann (16th century) in the Ian Woodner Family Collection. I know, I have no business being a curator of contemporary art.

Who are your heros?
Well, if it's supposed to be an art hero, I'll cast my vote for Julie Bernard, the KBOO radio personality who has brought Art Focus to Portland's art community for more than 20 years. She is well past "retirement" age, but she is generously and fully engaged in celebrating the arts in Portland. Her enthusiasm is not only infectious, it's downright inspiring. I would like to grow up to be like her.

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

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows?
I began curating in graduate school, so technically I'd say about 13 years. I have probably curated 10 exhibitions that involved longer-term research and organization. But there have been many other projects that did not require that kind of development. It's hard to say! OK, how about a million.

How do you define the role of curator?
The meaning of the term "curator" has changed radically. It means so many things, maybe too many things .... organizer, care-taker (back to its origins in Latin), historian, protector, etc. Technically, it refers to an art historian who manages an art collection, but things have shifted. I used to make art, I no longer refer to myself as an artist because I no longer have a practice as an artist. To refer to myself as an artist now seems disingenuous to me ... if you organize a few shows in a warehouse, are you a curator? Somehow referring to oneself as an "organizer" sounds a bit banal, utilitarian, I understand why people prefer the term "curator" ... Hey, sometimes I feel like I am curating my son's room when I help him organize his books ... that's a collection isn't it? Does making these distinctions even matter? Essentially, I want to support the wide range of work created by the people here and abroad whose work I respect. If they call themselves curators yet their process it very different than mine, that's just fine with me. My "tradition" and my practice is only one way of going about the process.

Curatorial dislikes?
Yes, the art market. I am irritated and annoyed by the overwhelming preponderance and growing importance of art fairs -- as curatorial platforms. I dislike the schizophrenic nature of experiencing art at art fairs - I barely call it an experience - and I dislike the hoopla of the art market in general. I think that the art establishment should start doing things for artists to support them, to delight them ... none of this would be happening without them. Instead of making more and more money off of their work ... fund their development! But it's different here, the level of exploitation that I am talking about happens much more in a place like NY ... because what we actually do need in Portland is a groundswell of capital ... more collectors. And I hope that we can all work to develop develop collectors (and institutional PATRONS) who will buy the work they genuinely respond to, not play the market for investment. But we're in a low-overhead art market here ... buying a painting at PDX or Small A really does support the artists showing there ... so on the one hand I would like to see us grow, we desperately need to bring more money into the arts here ... but lord help us if we end up like Chelsea.

Also, I was on a panel recently with Jon Raymond and he said something that we really need to remember ... that supporting artists means giving them time to work, and essentially leaving them alone. Supporting artists-or writers-means being political, it means voting for affordable housing and medical care for freelancers. It means working to keep bicyclists safe and caring for our freedom of expression. I really want the broadest possible range of our community to get this and live this ... supporting the arts means supporting cognitive activity at the slowest possible pace.

Favorite part of the curatorial role?

Amazing, well made art objects... collaborating with artists and other institutions, being in an academic community, and writing!

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
I left Portland in 1991 and returned 4.75 years ago to become the curator and director of the Cooley.

Is it different curating in Portland?
Yes, and it's wonderful, because our scale is more intimate, people absorb your work, your program. And people reach out, talk to you about what you do ... introduce themselves, forge connections. The cost of shipping work here is out of control, that is the only problem.

What gets your attention?
I am amazed by and a bit obsessed with the many endeavors being enacted all over town. (And by the Reed students who never wear shoes, even in the snow.) My attention is ready.

What are you reading (or listening to)?
I am reading the Buddha series by Osamu Tesuka, and through the documents that I collected last summer, in particular the Documenta book series, and reading through material on the history of the art world in San Francisco in the 1970s (which relates to research on food and art) to give a talk at the Tate Modern in early April. I'll be giving the same talk at PNCA on April 29th. Also, "Torture and Democracy" by Reed professor Darius Rejali, amazing.

I am listening to the soundtrack from the Darljeeling Limited, and I am listening to the Blow, and to Yacht, and to Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother. I love the new Watery Graves album. My son Theo and I rock out to Calvin Johnson's latest big time (and slow dance to Pink Martini). Tara Jane O'Neil handed me a beautiful CD at the back room the other night and we have all been relishing that too! I am still in love with Sarah Dougher's "Harper's Arrow" ... based on the Odyssey, how beautiful is that? What else? OH, well there are amazing podcasts everywhere now... Princeton has a whole philosophy series that is fantastic. The world is sits in the palm of your iPod.

What are you looking forward to most in 2008?
I am looking forward to many things, here are a few: the Portland Art Museum's new regional programming coming to fruition; Nan Curtis having her first solo sculpture exhibition in a long time at Linfield College in April; the Pat Boas exhibition at Marylhurst; this year's TBA and related PICA programming; working on the Bonnie Bronson Fellows exhibitions with Linda Tesner and a bevy of regional colleagues; More, and space from Organism; MK Guth's project at the Whitney Museum of American Art; the speakers programs at PNCA and PSU; Vanessa Renwick realizing Swap Meet somewhere soon! And working on the Cooley's Andy Warhol photography show for the fall of 2008. And everything else locally that I simply don't know about yet that will be engaging and surprising. Nationally, I hope to travel more this year. And can someone tell me when Kristan Kennedy is showing her next body of work? I really want to see it. All this, and I am greatly looking forward to meeting and learning about more people in our expanding community.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007? Where does it need work? Favorite shows of 2007?

As a recent PORT article deftly iterated, we need a college/university museum within the city limits. I think that it should be on the East side. Jeff, you're right, only so much time can pass before the issue becomes more pressing. But we have a museum, and its right here, moving into the future. Affordability is still an issue, but Brian Ferriso et al seem to me to be doing an excellent job securing the institution in order to protect its ability to dream big in the future. We need to support one another while growing a richer criticality. But no more mean, anonymous blogging, it is so unsavory. We need to make sure that PICA survives, thrives and reaches its goals; we need to act more quickly when organizations we believe in are struggling, whether they are young or old; we need to enlist our neighbors to support the arts; we need to give in small amounts consistently if that's what we can do ... we need a broader collector base ... and we need the type of central kunsthalle that every mid-sized European city supports-is this PICA's new space? PNCA? We need much more city money going to support art education, artists, and arts institutions. What did we do well? We survived and moved forward, and many institutions that desired growth realized their goals. Look at PNCA's growing transformation. It's happening quickly, skillfully. And we have a wonderful new warren of arts institutions in the Pearl, the new Contemporary Craft Museum, the new Blue Sky, and the surrounding galleries are such a critical addition to the city.

Shows I admired locally: Corin Hewitt at Small A Projects; Jessica Jackson Hutchins at Small A Projects (or was that 2006? No matter, it still rocked); Melia Donovan in the lobby of the Wieden and Kennedy building during TBA; Sincerely John Head, Peter Kreider, Marko Lulic, Larry Bamberg and Ina Archer at TBA; Cynthia Lahti at PDX; David Eckard at Mark Wooley; Sarah Horowitz at Froelick; Paul Schiek at Elizabeth Leach; Storm Tharp at PDX; Michelle Ross at Elizabeth Leach; Diane Kornberg at Marylhurst; I love the "Living Room" project at Contemporary Craft; and also Gary Wiseman's community projects and Rudy Speerschneider's food cart / art mart, Junior Ambassadors, and the M.O.S.T.'s Olympics; and Michael Brophy at Laura Russo; Laura Fritz in the Reed library cases; Beth Campbell at PNCA. Tilt had a great season of programming (Stephen Slappe and Jesse Hayward to name two) as did NAUU ... culminating in a Couture bang. PLAZM's End of War project was fantastic... if only Josh Berger could really stop the war, because he has the passion and intelligence to do it. And I agree with your yearly round-up that Cris Moss did a wonderful job at Linfield this year.

Nationally/internationally: Documenta 12-everything about it, it was superb. I'll argue this unpopular perspective until I am blue; the Yves Klein retrospective at MUMOK in Vienna; the Seurat Drawings show at MOMA, and the Martin Puryear show there; the George Stubbs exhibition at the Frick in NYC; Louise Nevelson at the Jewish Museum, NY; the Joseph Kosuth installation at the Venice Biennale; the programming at the Western Bridge in Seattle, in particular "Kit Bashing" and "Into Black"; and the excellent rotation of smart exhibitions at the Henry Gallery in Seattle.

What is your best advice for an artist?
Be honest, work hard (or don't) but think through your ideas and read and then read some more. And get everything in writing.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
This year, since you ask, I would like to bring into my home:

Michael Knutson's largest, most colorful, mind-warping oil painting, preferable in red and carnation pink.
A family of Jessica Jackson Hutchins' teetering clay (and paper and wire and paint) sculptures.
One of Jesse Hayward's large leaning tower clusters. They vibrate!

The Portland Art Museum's exquisite, truly unique Cezanne: "Paris: Quai de Bercy - La Halle aux Vins," ca. 1872
This is a very special Cezanne, a portrait of the city as a living organism, the pictorial space is flattened into geometric bands, and the stacked wine barrels become temporary patriotic swaths...

Who are your heros?

I'll list three people that I admire greatly, people who inspire my work:
Ruth Noack
Moira Roth
David Hammons

Josh Smith: co-directorTilt
You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows?
Two years and over twenty shows

How do you define the role of curator?
In my experience it seems that the base role of the curator is as facilitator.

Curatorial dislikes?
Unprofessionalism and excessive ego…..I guess these are my personal dislikes as well.

Favorite part of the curatorial role?
The conversation

What gets your attention?
Dedication, sincerity, professionalism, and loud noises

What are you reading (or listening to)?
I just finished Paul Auster's book Mr. Vertigo and I'm now pushing through the Situationalist City by Simon Sadler and The Beehive Metaphor by Juan Antonio Ramirez

What are you looking forward to most in 2008?
Well this is kind of a squishy thing to say…but I think Jenene's show in the Apex is about the most exciting thing on the horizon for me.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007? Where does it need work?
Scrappy hard work was a strength in 07. We need work transitioning from scrappy+hard to savy+sustainable.

Favorite shows of 2007?
Bruce Nauman at the Henry
Camouflage at the PAM
Unmonumental at the New Museum
Martin Puryear at the MOMA

What is your best advice for an artist?
Spend more time in your studio than you want and ask for studio visits from people that will challenge your assumptions.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
Roberto Matta: I Shame Myself/I Ascend
Katsushika Hokusai: anything from his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series
Mathew Barney's: The Cremaster Cycle and a theater to watch them in

Who are your heros?
Takashi Murakami (superflat is supercool)
Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, (aka. Le Corbusier)
My cat Bear (because he is supersmart and doesn't take no for an answer)


Kristan Kennedy: Visual Arts Program Director, PICA
How did you get into curating? It got into me.

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows? 3 years, I manage about 20 artist projects a year- most result in exhibition, most are commissions or residencies which result in the development of new work.

How do you define the role of curator? Make it happen, make it meaningful, follow the artists lead.

Curatorial dislikes? Ownership. " I saw it, I showed it, I understood it first"

Favorite part of the curatorial role? Same as last year... Saying yes.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? 13 years in Portland / 3 years as the Visual Art Program Director, PICA

What gets your attention? Darkness + Comedy

What are you reading? You don't love me yet. Jonathan Lethem / Saveur Magazine / Liam Gillick / Lawrence Weiner, A.R.T. Press / Interviews By Mike Kelley: 1986-2004 / The Brooklyn Rail / Dangerous Angels, Francesca Lia Block / The Rise and Fall of My Roman Empire: A Romance in Three Chapters. by Philip Iosca.

What are you listening to (music)? The new Lupe Fiasco / Rocky Erickson / Wu Tang Clan, 8 Diagrams/ Health / Ice Rod / The Beach Boys, Holland / Kiki + Herb , Do you here what we hear?

What are you looking forward to most in 2007? Same as last year - Political Upheaval + The "NEW" New Museum

Favorite shows in 2007? Charles Ray at Regen Projects, Alex Felton + Kevin Abel at Small A, Eden's Edge at the Hammer, Storm Tharp at PDX, Mark Manders at Tanya Bonakadar, Mac McFarland at PAC, Li Yan at Platform China, Refresh at the Zendai Moma, All the Case Works shows at the Cooley- and although not an exhibition certainly the best piece of art I saw in 2007 was Todd Haynes' new film "I'm not there".

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007? We admitted our own ambition. Where does it need work? More $$$, More Collectors, Less Whining.

What is your best advice for an artist? Love the one your with.

Who are your heros? The people who show up.


Namita Wiggers: Museum of Contemporary Craft

How do you define the role of curator?
My answer from last year's roundup covers most of my background and my general thoughts about curatorial practice. Right now, I am focused on how to exhibit contemporary craft within a museum. This is challenging - and exciting -- on a number of levels. Craft is an unstable category, and the presentation structures of the art museum do not always address the specific qualities that separate craft from other visual arts. Glenn Adamson argues that "craft should be treated as a subject, not a category . . . that craft is not something to be pushed into the background or seen in relationship to other objects, but rather a topic for conceptualization" ("Handy-Crafts: A Doctrine in What Makes a Great Exhibition?). To recognize this difference between craft and other forms of visual production requires a critique of craft - and art - museum practices, and the development of new and experimental exhibition strategies. My role at the Museum of Contemporary Craft is to develop an exhibition program that addresses these questions in a way that strengthen the public's access to knowledge about craft practice, artists creating craft-based work, and about the unique aspects of experiencing an exhibition within a museum setting.

Curatorial dislikes?
So many amazing objects and ideas - and so little space, time and money to address them all

Favorite part of the curatorial role?
Constant and new challenges

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
In portland since 1998. Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Craft since Dec 2004

What gets your attention?
Anything that makes me think, notice or understand something about the world in a different way

What are you reading (or listening to)?
I am trying to finish Shantaram right now, just finished The Namesake and Water for Elephants. Good plane reading materials. I read a lot for work - art magazines and books related to upcoming exhibition and publication projects, so my spare time is filled with Project Runway (LOVE IT!), dreaming about time and space to sew and make jewelry, and running around with my family. A recent trip to India launched a cookbook buying spree -- but few actual dishes so far.

What are you looking forward to most in 2008?
Continuing to "settle in" at the Museum of Contemporary Craft and presenting the exhibitions our staff has been working on for the past two years in our new space. Continued interaction with the many visitors who have discovered or rediscovered our institution since our move into the Pearl District in July 2007.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007? Where does it need work?
Portland continued to grow, change, and strengthen its art scene on many levels over this past year - this is an energetic and exciting place to live and work. Portland's art spaces are fluid, nimble, and creative - more recognition of Portland as a model for alternative art practices for other cities of comparable and larger size would be great to see over the next year. There was - and continues to be - active collaboration and merging of resources that brings a strong and provocative caliber of thinkers to the region to share their ideas - and to learn what Portland's art community has to offer to those outside the region as well.

Favorite shows of 2007?
Don't have a favorite exhibition this year. The opportunity to see both Global Feminisms and W.A.C.K. was amazing - but the conversations I had about the exhibitions, and throughout the year with people from all over the art arena were what I will remember most from 2007. Visiting the Calcutta Museum (one of the oldest in the world) and the Asiatic Society in Kolkatta were particularly memorable.

What is your best advice for an artist?
Step out of your studio, out of your comfort zone of artists who think and work like you, and experience work that is different from what you might typically choose to experience. Broaden your frame of reference to develop new questions, ways of working, to strengthen your own practice(s) - and to be an active participant in the dialogue going on around you. And remember that curators cannot engage your work we don't know what you are doing.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
Still coveting the same works from 2006. Last year's list: A readymade by Marcel Duchamp, a Noguchi sculpture, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art by John Baldessari
I bought a book on Duchamp, a small Noguchi lamp, and a scarf printed with Baldessari's piece on it. A scarf is a really sad and unsatisfactory substitute for the real thing. Sigh.

Who are your heros?
Active risktakers


Jeff Jahn: Organism
How did you get into curating?
I wont reprise the details from last year, but the crux of it is the role sought me out and made some interesting demands of me. It wasn't my ambition to curate, though I had worked in a museum doing curatorial things like condition reports and essays before moving to Portland. I had the requisite post grad historical knowledge base. Once here, others liked how I contextualized and arranged shows and more work needed to be done, I grew. It is stunning how acting on those demands has helped change Portland and in turn it changed me (If I make some slackers crazy, it's completely intentional. I got over being outwardly self-conscious for the good of the art scene, we needed a lightning rod in 2001, now we have many more... so my role in the community is still changing. I just do what is needed). The fact is I like making things happen for artists, that's the only payoff. Yesterday, I was arranging for a great deal of Camembert cheese for Philippe Blanc, you never know what you will be called on to do.

How do you define the role of curator?
I think it's used as a catch all but there different types, alt space, museum, artist organizer, academic gallery etc...it's more than just someone schedualing shows. A curator selects and facilitates shows as a type of very conscious custodian. It's a conversation that over time becomes a program. The more institutional the role the more that program arc matters. First, curators consider the programming needs of a space and the community that will view it. For example with Jarrett Mitchell's show last year for Organism: we lead off with something very challenging and it would have been a very ideosyncratic show in London or New York (politics meets roadkill and life changing enounters). For Portlanders used to defining shows by medium or genre it was asymmetrical or kaleidoscope of a show... rather than just being an installation, video, painting, photography or social practice show. I like that kind of genre bending and since we focus on up-and-coming international artists it was a nice introduction to what art can do by not playing by genre based rules. That was a fun curatorial decision because it discombobulated the press (who needed some serious discombobulation) and those who thought they knew what to expect. I knew Jarrett would spin people's heads around and as a curator it was my job to make certain he could do what he does best. It's still one of the strangest shows to ever hit Portland, along with William Pope L.'s Erascism in 2003 and it traveled here from England. An alt space like Organism should be challenging and fearless. Our last show Model Behavior featured the video re-enactment of a real murder, it didn't pull any punches.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? Ive lived in PDX for nearly 9 years (7 years as a form of curator here but I've been producing shows since 1996 so 22 years total curatorial experience)

Is curating in Portland different?: Like every other part of the scene it's less formalized than most places (but that has been changing rapidly as of late). Yet, it's still the wild west. It is strange in Portland, some very adept people know the score, many don't and it's surprising how many of those who should be more clued in aren't. Still, with that there is a lot of freedom. It's definitely more sophisticated and hard working than it was 7 years ago (with geometrically more artists and spaces). The 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, subculture fronting and supposedly tired genres.

Curatorial dislikes? Lack of consideration for key context in the work and letting critical details like space go unaddressed. It is even worse when the show is covered up by so many artists that they all become anonymous. I don't kneel at the altar of craft like a lot of west coasters do. Instead, I think about Jimi Hendrix who was a virtuoso but not that fussy about technical execution of the notes. He was a brilliant risk taker, so for me the heuristics are what matter and I like the raw frayed edges that contrast more highly tuned and controlled elements. The two can work together. Control freaks often crush those frayed, delicately chaotic subtleties. Still, there is a fine line to walk between sloppy and risky. I like variety and often dislike monogenic strategies.

What are you reading (or listening to)?
I'm reading Mellville's "Typee", Seeing Is Forgetting The Name Of What One Sees", and lots of magazines at AnnaBannas. Listening to Black Francis' Bluefinger, Led Zepplin BBC sessions, a demo of Fleetwood Mac's Song #1, Live Lou Reed, Kings of Leon and Battles (I like the EP best), Afghan Whigs, Wilco's Sky Blue Sky and Townes Van Sant. I seem to like very paired down music that is recorded in a very up front, unprocessed way (I love great drummers too, up front virtuosity) . Ive been working out some interesting musical ideas on guitar, synth, drums, viola and sax and might record my first album since 1998.

What are you looking forward to most in 2008?
China Design Now, Fritz Haeg at Reed (he's really incredibly important), Kirchner Street Scenes at MoMA, an announcemt of a major Lynda Benglis retrospective (???), Jenene Nagy at PAM and the Art Gym, my better half Laura Fritz at Quality Pictures (I can't remember the last full-on immersive installation in a major Pearl District gallery and right now Laura's the best video installation artist in the Pacific Northwest, yes I'm taking Gary Hill into account... she's channeling Hitchcock, Judd and Hesse into something different and she's impressive how she works), Jesse Hayward at the Art Gym (he needs to gel things now), all of the NAAU Couture shows, Sean Healy in September at Liz Leach, Storm Tharp, MK Guth at the Whitney Biennial (she's the first Portland artist I identified with, plus we are both Wisconsin transplants with these scary cheese head secrets.

Personally, I enjoy putting on Organism's shows (which are going to become more frequent with our permanent space in the works), This weekend there is Limelight and my solo show at PNCA in April (It's a highly loaded show and I need to make it count, Still I'm more of a curator than an artist [because I prefer to be an agent rather than the author]...but some like Jesse Hayward disagree). Apparently Im also unveiling my atypical architectural photography in the Pearl District in May.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007? Where does it need work?
I think we welcomed a lot of interesting rising stars/venues like Jenene Nagy, Nathan Shapiro, Rererato, Rock's Box and Jace Gace. It was a hard lesson but Portland stopped celebrating mediocrity coated with good intentions in 2007 (exhibitions, writing, institutions, mayors) because we realized just how much the rest of the world is watching us. Most major patrons here wont support unsophisticated or depressing efforts... those were some tough lessons learned, but qualifications matter... it allows one to juggle things more effectively on the job. Also, our politicians want to be involved in the art scene but need to learn more before acting. RACC needs to support upstart alt spaces too, they do some good things but they often aren't as sophisticated as the art scene and most of the very serious artists just don't bother applying (which is a missed opportinity and I encourage people to apply). We need a suitcase fund for our artist ambassadors travelling outside of Portlandtoo. Lastly, people are harping too much on the money issue, a watched pot never boils. Money is a red herring, simply do good shows (leave fundraising to the fundraisers).

Favorite shows of 2007?
Robert Irwin at MCASD, Jason Rhoades' installation in Eden's Edge at The Hammer the rest of that show was good but Rhoades had it all

What is your best advice for an artist?
Ask for advice and input from very knowledgeable people, not because you need it or are stuck but because it points you in new directions.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
This week it's: Clyfford Still's Untitled (PH-382), 1940.
Sarah Meig's untitled Donald Judd 1963... I made this in response to it, the tips are irregular as a way to do something more chaotic and true to these times.
Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

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

TJ Norris: Independant
How do you define the role of curator?
Curators are conceptual artists, and tastemakers. A bit like Willy Wonka.

Curatorial dislikes?
Laziness. Picking up from where everyone in the glossies have left off.

Favorite part of the curatorial role?
Selecting a dream team of folks to work with. Trying to (un)tie, reveal common threads.

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
Going on seven years, haven't broken any mirrors (or records...yet!).

Is it different curating in Portland?
As opposed to in Williamsburg, Lithuania, Boise? Nah, it's really all quite the same. Though it does make good sense to mind your p's and q's while off your own turf. When in Rome....

What are you reading?
Art Papers, The New York Times (online) and Wire Magazine are standards.

What are you listening to?
Sounds rush through my life rather quickly, so I mostly catch what's in the ever-shifting nearby stack at any given moment. This week my desk is covered with works by Peter Duimelinks, Frank Bretschneider (so funky and minimal), Gintas K, Howard Stelzer/Frans de Waard, some amazing new re-issues of Christina Kubisch (one of my favorite sound sculptors), and the latest Fireworks Edition by a trio made up of Michael Esposito, Leif Elggren and Emanuel Swedenborg called 'The Summerhouse'.

What gets your attention?

What doesn't? I'm a bit of a cultural sponge. Kinetic work always interests me, things that move. Cyberart like that honored annually at Prix Electronica. My major soft spot is for successful collaborations, where people from different media combine talents to form something greater than its basic parts. Great draughtsmanship is always on my radar. And though film/video requires time and attention of any audience, and can often be passed by in a gallery or art fair situation - I will always appreciate time-based art that you won't "get" unless you stop, look and listen.

What are you looking forward to most in 2008?

Curating the 4th Annual International Photo Exhibition at Newspace Center for Photography. Finally heading to show in Sweden in collaboration with Leif Elggren. But most of all, presenting my 'Electric Pictures' show at NAAU in May.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007?
Patronage was really what stood out to me. That seen on behalf of Hallie E. Ford and her Foundation benefitting PNCA as it kick-started its new MFA program with director (and Whitney Biennial '08 artist) MK Guth at the helm. This is extended to Ruth Ann Brown and her efforts to stretch the commercial gallery white wall footprint by developing a unique vision for the New American Art Union with its 'Couture' stipends. Henry Hillman, Jr. kicked things up a notch by helping resurrect the community to come together to assist the growth-pain phase of the Portland Art Center. Here's hoping that this is the tip of the iceberg, and whether a recession is imminent or not, that those with will grant to some of those without.

A special nod to the PICA/TBA Festival which had a stronger inclusion of visual arts programming, not to mention a pretty tight fest overall.

Favorite shows of 2007?

You'll have to refer to my unBLOGGED.

What is your best advice for an aspiring curator?
First off, Portland could use a few more risk-taking curators who take the role with the utmost of seriousness, and then f' it up however you see fit. I mean, without the spirit of chance how exciting can another retrospective of a dead artist truly be? Well, maybe that didn't come out exactly right - but crossing t's and dotting i's is really boring. Stir things up a bit (or a whole lot), because there is no time for wasting. As the elite cultural class looks deeply into our fishbowl, give them a surprise - sharpen those teeth like a mighty pirhana. It doesn't have to be loud, brash, big. Make it intimate so they have to kneel, squint, touch and read! Bring about a new way of looking at something. Take your leanings from diverse fields of philosophy, physics, architecture, fluxus and present it so the audience takes pause. Make me stop and think.

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

A very small etching by Dürer to oogle every detail line by line, a Duchamp readymade sitting alone in the center of the space and a González-Torres to light up the entire room.

Paul Middendorf: Gallery Homeland
How did you get into curating? I started hanging work for a Gallery in Chicago while I was still in school. The guy had a huge collection of Andy Warhol and other factory artists. After several years I convinced him to let me curate a show of these pieces. Warhol and Friends was a rather amazing collection of works. Slowly I started producing more and more shows.

How do you define the role of curator? Well I think this is a loaded title. In all fairness anyone can say what they like and don't like. Background sure does help but isn't always needed. Finding the right rhythm among works is definitely important.

Curatorial dislikes?
Crowded spaces and saloon style. The first job I had as a curator type, I had to hang saloon style. Man that was awful. One inch between all works, it was a terrible sight. We had a lot of auctions which is why we needed to hang that close. Not to mention my boss was greedy and wanted 300 works in a show.

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
I started curating in Portland back in 2002 and later became the assistant curator for The Modern Zoo. I have been in love with Portland ever since.

What gets your attention?
I am really into those works that don't fit into the mold. Any artists that surprises me with a new body of work from left field is a start. I think it is important for artists to
work in several different mediums and I love seeing these new mediums come to life.

What are you reading? I just finished reading No Country for Old Men before I saw the movie. However, I love outside the box reading like
Thats The Way I See It by David Hockney, Working Space by Frank Stella, and several books by Robert Irwin.

What are you listening to? I am working my way into the podcast scene. I know I know I am so far behind. Casually though I love jazz and really miss the 3 dollar jazz nights at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. Worldwide free jazz!

What are you looking forward to most in 2008?

There are so many things to look forward too this upcoming year. Locally there is so many venues that are exploding at the seams. Nationally I am excited to attend the Whitney Bi-Annual to support our peeps, as well as several large international travel trips we have planned for ourselves and our artists. But to list throught them quickly.

The Met and there many drawing shows ( I am a sucker for drawing)
The Golden Age of Holland
Abstract Expressionists

David Eckard's new performances
Marc Dombrosky's Apex show in June
Tilt's amazing 2008 lineup Ethan Rose and his player piano
Rock Box's amazing lineup - Natasha Snellman and Bruce Conkle
The Suddenly Project - mixing up local and international cohorts
What PSU, Reed, and PNCA have in store for us.
Organism's new lineup
There is so much to be excited about!

Favorite shows in 2007? Art Basel Switzerland, Munster Sculpture Project 07 ( riding around on bikes looking for hidden art...it was like a treasure hunt at camp ), TBA's kick ass visual arts, Rochelle and Bettina at The Life, Mark Wallinger's Sleeper on the side of the Whitney, Ryan Jeffery at PDX, Larry Rinder's curated show at Elizabeth Leach, Joe Thurston's Break Out at Leach, David Eckard at Woolley's, Bruce Conkle at Jack the Pelican, Harvest Henderson at Ogle, Scott Wayne Indiana's ongoing project in Joshua Tree, and many many more. I know I am forgetting so many.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007? This year I saw a lot of artists get some really deserved shows. It is great to see so many artists here in town making there stamp on the world. It was reallyrefreshing to see so many of our hard working artists going international this year. Every year I think we work together to keep raising that bar.

What is your best advice for an artist? Keep plugging away and get out of Portland once and a while.

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

Who are your heroes? You know who you are. Its usually the same few,those that keep plugging away regardless of the BS that may be happeningaround us. We have such an ass kicking force to be reckoned with here in town. Those that get the big names into town, those that put on showafter show after show, the promoters of Portland and its arts scene, and the financial backers of our institutions and artists. I do get really excited about being part of Portland and its creative economy. Its a really exciting thing to have a conversation with a German collector and have them light up when you mention Portland. Portland is making some waves.

Damien Gilley: Co-Director of IGLOO

How did you get into curating? My friend Bryon Schroeder and I opened up IGLOO. We wanted to have a simple artspace that we could offer to show work we find important, with a new show every month.

You have been at it for how many years and approximately how many shows? Almost a year. We have had seven shows through January. We have shown people from Portland, New York, Wisconsin, California, and Korea. We are going to try to get more Portland area artists to utilize our space in the coming year.

How do you define the role of curator? Ideally, the curator should be invisible, facilitating the presentation of the work to promote the ideas contained within. You try to gather artists that are making work that speaks for itself. The curator always has preferences, but when good work is presented to you, you can't deny that.

Curatorial dislikes? Unprofessional artists.

Favorite part of the curatorial role? Watching the viewers react to the work in the show. Some people love the work, and some hate it, and some are vocal. You really learn about how people perceive artwork.

Years in Portland (in your current role)? Is it different curating in Portland? I moved here last January and we started in April as White Elephant. We moved over to our new spot at IGLOO two months later. We are so green! No experience curating, but we both have our own histories with art. Curator babies.

What gets your attention? Risk taking artists that produce work consistently, that develop their ideas and make work that makes you think. I don't care for artifice, virtuosity, or craft unless it has strong conceptualization.

What are you reading? Jorge Luiz Borges' short stories, B. Alan Wallace's Choosing Reality

What are you listening to (music)? Everything. Recently Panda Bear, Pink Mountaintops, Ulrich Schnauss, Neil Diamond, Fucking Champs, and always ELO.

What are you looking forward to most in 2008? Two downtown MFA programs putting work out. The PNCA+ FIVE lecture series is putting some great lectures together, plus PSU's great lecture program every Monday.

Favorite shows in 2007? William Kentridge at Lewis and Clark's Hoffman Gallery.

How about favorite galleries? Motel, will be missed. Tilt is great. I love the small ones.

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007? Where does it need work? It is cool that a bunch of alternative artspaces are popping up. That also can be problematic in ways, offering too much and thinning the work out.

What is your best advice for an artist? Produce a lot, make mistakes, think a lot, and look around.

If you had to choose, whof art would you pick?

Jeremy Blake's Winchester Series videos are mesmerizing! Olafur Eliasson's 360° Room for All Colours. Erwin Redl's Matrix of LED light sculptures.

What are you watching? Films by legends like Jeunet, Fassbinder, and a little Wes Anderson.

Who are your heros? Alan Watts, David Lee Roth, Mom

Patrick Rock: Rock's Box
How do you define your role as curator?
White mini-van endurance driving fat man.

Curatorial dislikes?
There aren't as many blow jobs as I thought there would be.

Favorite part of the curatorial role?
The artists. It is about the artists right?

Years in Portland (in your current role)?
Oh fuck you.

Is it different curating in Portland?
Yes, all of my important papers get wet here.

What gets your attention?
Leather bound books, the smell of pipe tobacco, my psychiatrist dressed as a man.

What are you reading (or listening to)?
Reads: I HEART DARKNESS - Natascha Snellman, GLARE - Jeanine Jablonski, RUIN - Thomas Moecker (ROCKSBOOKS), The Point, Orphans, The Dead Fish Museum - Charles D' Ambrosio, Le Stade du Miroir - Jacques Lacan, Phenomenology of Spirit - Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, On Narcissism, The Ego and the Id - Sigmund Freud, La Peau de chagrin - Honore de Balzac, Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences - Richard Pryor, Moby Dick - Herman Melville, The Art of War - Sun Tzu, Onania; The Heinous Sin of Self Pollution - anonymous,
How to Build a Hot Tub - Arlene Mason.


What are you looking forward to most in 2008?
Getting a washer and dryer, a ticket to Berlin, crushing this disabilitating depression and overall feeling of low self-worth, narcissism, and that asteroid hitting Mars

What did the Portland art scene do well in 2007? Where does it need work?
It stepped up, took the bull by the horns, ate nails, schooled 'em, became a player, was original, let 'er rip!, gave 'em hell, crushed our enemies, shook off its chains of provinciality,
showed 'em how its done, stepped up.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Favorite show of 2007?
CULT CLASSICS NOT BEST SELLERS: Keith Boadwee and Patrick Rock at Queen's Nails Annex, San Francisco, CA, April - May 2007
Galatas 6: Biblia Sacra Vulgata "de cetero nemo mihi molestus sit ego enim stigmata Iesu in corpore meo porto"

What is your best advice for an artist?
Essai sur la Nature du Commerece en General - Richard Cantillon, Bodhistattva, NYSE, Yoga, Jeet Kun Do (JKD), Mossberg 500 Riot Gun, Black 600 Thread Count Egyptian Cotton Sheets.

If you had to choose, what 3 pieces of art would you pick?
The next one, the one after that, and the next one after that.

Who are your heros?
Tom McCall " Vortex I: A Biodegradeable Festival of Life"
Mr. and Mrs. Oaks Park
Mr. Randle Patrick McMurphy

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 31, 2008 at 2:15 | Comments (2)


Jesus TJ! "A bit like Willy Wonka." That is quite possibly the best description of a curator ever uttered.

Thank you to everyone on this list for keeping Portland a "relevant" art scene. Without all of you keeping it strong and assisting in the evolution of this fine town of ours, I would have had to move off to NY by now.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 31, 2008 08:59 PM


I think you're right on about the Cezanne...one of my favorites at PAM. About as urban as Paul gets.

It has a silvery quality that reminds me of another work of art (albiet musical); Dylans "Blonde on Blonde". Not sure why.

Always enjoyed the darker, brooding quality of his early paintings (1860's-1870's). "Paris...", like most of his work, is analytical, unsympathetic, and without a trace of nostalgia, embellishment, or "fluff" (using the technical term). And despite it's age, it still looks like it was painted yesterday.

Posted by: Sean Casey [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 14, 2008 01:17 PM

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