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Tuesday 03.11.08

« The weekend art openings in video | Main | PNCA gets the 511 building »

Whitney Biennial Backlog

Ok, the typical Whitney rigmarole has given New York something to talk about again (though it seems quieter and less engaging than usual, the Whitney needs to radically change the show to increase its relevance). Frankly it doesn't excite me at all, but so far Ben Davis on Artnet has done the best job of capturing the issue at hand. His best summary, "the whole thing does seem to represent an interest in homeopathic medicine! That is, it offers to simulate a negative effect to cure the larger disease; as if to fend off harsh critical attacks, the show embraces a defensive self-abasement. It is willfully half-baked." Though his Neo-Hippie tag isn't quite news...truth be told the last 4 (including 2008) have all been Neo-Hippie late 60's and early 70's fests. One could point to the adoption of Devendra Banhart into the art world as making it rather official (and therefore dead). That nostalgia also underscores why people aren't that whipped up over this Biennial show, there is no real shift at work here.

Despite that, Portland's own MK Guth is racking up all sorts of critical notice doing the important thing in any group show, standing out (Davis and the New York Times single her out as a favorite). Though Holland Cotter's Times piece labeling of her work as "new agey" seems like a New Yorker projecting funny expectations on a Portlander. Truth is MK pisses a lot of Portlanders off because she isn't very dippy-hippy newagey, she's often hard core but romantic with an eye for entropy and not new agey at all. Instead, she's got this real Grimm Bros. fairytail or mythical sensibility... For example her house is a German half timbered style affair sitting quite awesomely is on the slope of an extinct volcano within Portland's city limits.. it's only hundreds of yards from the crater.

My point is she's more Into The Woods/Sondheim than new age. From what Ive seen of the Biennial installation it looks like an old time Theosophistical salon or spiritualists... that's old age, The Golden Bough stuff... not Portland style Dosha salon new agey BS. It's actually got a lot in common with The Decemberist's aesthetic... Portland isn't just neo hippies we are full of stranger birds who prefer referencing anything around or before WWI aesthetically (like with when Theosophy was more popular).

Guth also took part in a panel with Trisha Brown, Barbara MacAdam, Brad Cloepfil, Susan Seubert and her moderator/boss Tom Manley for PNCA's first non-Portland FIVE Idea studio talk. You should be able to steam it soon, Ill update with a link here as soon as it is available.

Even the Oregonian is paying attention by sending Grant Butler (for comparison Harrell Fletcher was in 2 Whitneys before he was even worthy of a local story... nice they've noticed though lots of Portland artists are getting into major international shows these days... in fact we are getting blase about it.)

Also, I must point out PORT's in-depth interview with MK Guth to the 5 art people in Portland who haven't read it already.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on March 11, 2008 at 9:30 | Comments (0)


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