Randy Gragg and I have a long history but his history with the city of Portland's
aesthetics goes back much farther than that. Though he wasn't the first to write
about me here, he was the first to pen a true review on a show I put together way back in 2001. I remember he asked me, "so who is the ringleader?" My half-idiotic
response was, "I suppose that would be me?" Undoubtedly he thought
I was a yutz but wrote the review anyway (bet he wishes he could have that one
back eh?). Still, some of the art was good and that's all he cared about. Now after
leaving the Oregonian Gragg's the ring leader of the brand new Portland
magazine a kind of Dwell
for Portland. First Gragg was an
art critic, then an architecture critic and now he's an editor in a city that
is rapidly reimagining itself. If there was ever a time for such a thing it's
Sure Gragg's departure from the O did prompt some major civic leaders to query
if the O will just abdicate architectural and design criticism altogether but
I suspect they will need to do something to compete with Portland Spaces for
relevance sake. Though Randy and I don't always see eye to eye (mostly because
we differ on important minutiae) I've always respected the guy and like the
fact we offer eachother the opportunity to disagree (critics live for this).
Also, Randy has an excellent nose for news and always seems to know where the
action is... which makes his new Portland Spaces magazine tantalizing.
The inaugural issue of the bimonthly has an interesting modern home by rising
architect Jeff Kovel built for Karen and John Hoke (Nike VP) on the cover. Its
a solid, not flashy design that's a far cry from Kovel's earlier bachelor pad
effort for Lenny Kravitz. There are also a lot of nice pictures preeminently
showing off art by Kevin Burrus, Michael Brophy, Brian Borrello etc. The photos
of homes and collections alone will be good for Portland galleries and artists
as a kind of cultural scorecard that Portland has needed. My favorite bit the
is the King household, they've got good taste in art and a killer 1920's solarium.
Good design never gets old.
The magazine also covers restaurant spaces, mass transit, greenspace, green
living and Portland's architectural history (which most Portlanders are completely
The premier issue also has more mundane but informative bits on gardening and
paint colors for your walls but it also includes progressive things like the
"urban uprisings" bird's eye view piece which looks at Portland's
fastest growing neighborhoods (upwards = density). The graphics are nice, the
neighborhood nicknames like PsuDo are a little cute but it will be good fodder for Portlanders
who love to kibitz about how Portland is changing. They even had a little bit of coverage of Bonnie Serkin and Will Emery's office (but sadly not enough to show off their nice art collection in the space.
Overall, Portland Spaces isn't the light "mostly short attention span"
stuff that its parent magazine Portland Monthly puts out and I'm genuinely excited
for and proud of Randy for doing something generally intelligent. In the next
10 years Portland will either become the US leader in livability and a progressive
exporter of innovative ideas, or a missed opportunity. With an effort like this
Randy Gragg wont be guilty of neglecting that challenge.
So, can Portland support its own Dwell (called "Yuppie Porn" by one
of my favorite baristas)...? Well if there is one thing I've learned about Portland
it is a place where being houseproud and talking about the design of new restaurants
has nearly unequaled cache... its a religion here. I think the magazine will fly
but some of Portland's less ambitious will resent its commitment to quality over
the typical dippy feel good talk'n neohippy jive, which also has its adherents
here. Portland Monthly could launch a magazine called "Portland Hangin Around"
for those people. Portland Spaces is a new and much needed theater for the intersection where aesthetics and life meet in Portland.