April marks my ninth year in Portland and it is really satisfying to say that
this was probably the single best month of shows I've seen since moving here.
What's more there were strong offerings in every genre imaginable.(list of strong shows ending this weekend below).
A lot has changed since 1999, now there really are several scenes not just one...
Portlanders now have much higher expectations and have grown weary of those
who simply play an ambitious PR driven shell game. For example, giant group
shows (ala 2001-2003) don't get that much attention any more beyond those who show up. We already know we have a scene. Equally telling, I
think most artists now prize a negative review (by local writers) more than an positive one... partially because they aren't looking for local media validation, they have peers, more shows, national critics and curators for that. What they want mostly is to provoke a response... and the more intelligent or at least interesting the response, the better. The artists are educating the city at large and the change is noticeable.
Overall, things are more competitive in 2008, sometimes strangely so. For example every
month there seems to be a new backlash for any young artist who has a high profile
show (rather than discuss the work). Needless to say Portland is not so polite anymore (though
it's still remarkably supportive) and every artist, critic or curator has to
answer to a more engaged audience, which is fine... let's let Corvallis be polite,
smaller cities can afford to be so. It is also strange that there a fair amount of instances of people impersonating
others on online forums (something we try to discourage here). That sort of
activity is a waste of time for anyone who really has something going on, but
it's indicative of a scene where the stakes have risen. For example, even before
it was defunct the Jupiter Hotel Fair provoked a reaction of
and I suspect whatever event takes its place will meet these higher
expectations and be more than just another art fair.
On a positive note, today the proof is in the show
an exhibition simply has to be good (in
which case it will attract detractors and fans). Art isn't a particularly populist
exercise and the stuff that lasts tends to be a provocative exercise that isn't
exhausted by its entertainment value.
In 2008 Portland we now look for results, because merely having a hyperactive
art scene isn't the novelty it was in 2001. In fact, so many locals have international
careers and reputations that it's very difficult to talk about Portland's scene in a
purely local context. That reality was reflected in the wonderful shows this month (some continue into May but the ones below end this weekend).
Personally, I've been very busy between family visiting and my other commitments so I haven't
had a chance to fully take in all of these shows. So some of this is my personal
itinerary this weekend. Yes, Ill publish my promised essay on spatially
in Portland very soon, I'm still tuning it.
Till then here are some shows
that deserve another mention:
Nyla Cheeky, Franco and Eva Mattes @ Augen Gallery
and Franco Mattes at Augen Gallery's Desoto location
: There is something
too convenient and crass about creating prints of idealized Second Life avatars
here but I think that's their paradoxical strength (for now). For all of their
idealized elements they are full of crude flaws (like the bad LA nose jobs)
and very 2006 style graphics make them very different than Bruce
Conkle's video game landscapes
but maybe not better. I'm not certain this
avatar work will hold up over time but that is part of what keeps me thinking
about them... a good sign. Ends Saturday April 26th
Alex Fradkin's Bunkers and Lisa Robinson's Snowbound at Blue
Sky: Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts
Blue Sky seems to be really hitting its stride in the fantastic new space.
Both of these photographers traffic in crystallized isolation, Fradkin isn't as idealized.
Ends April 27th
Modou Dieng's Worksound
is the hottest new space for experimental work in town. It's
large but not stupidly huge and the work is often light years smarter than recent attempts
to create a large kunsthall for emerging art in Portland. This show is all over
the place but has more than a few gems. Ends April 25th
John Cavelli's Remnants
at Clackamas Community College
. John is one of the smartest people in Portland and this is his return to photography.
I need to see this yet but the Alexander gallery is an incredibly nice space
and it should be on every artist's short list because there just aren't many
galleries that are this refined here. Show ends tomorrow April 25
Sousa @ Elizabeth Leach
. I used to be a fan of Sousa's work but he's getting cheesier by the day, with
a softness and cute narrative content not unlike late Rauschenberg paintings.
I need to take a fourth look just to determine if he's just parodying himself
now. Ends April 26th
James Lavadour at PDX
. James is simply the man
and the best abstract landscape painter alive
today. It's his best work to date and there's something stronger about the single
panel works than the often breathtaking multi panel works. Ends April 26th
Scott Wayne Indiana @ Ogle:
All of the pieces like the door man and the Braille piece sing a song of thwarted
yet omnipresent exchanges in understanding that usually get played out in a less absurd way each
day. It's a break out show but the installations as a gestalt don't have the
force they could have had if installed differently. Scott has arrived and he will get past the "door man" if he takes it up a notch and goes 2 for 2 with the next show.
Chris Held's Overstock @ Jace
, it's had people
talking all month
. Ends April 27th
Mark Hooper at Quality
Both Laura Fritz and Mark Hooper produced two really tight and haunting shows. Both surprized
me despite the fact the I helped install one of them
some insider info here
might be able to catch Fritz's Interspace in another interesting location in
town eventually but since it is tuned to each specific site it will change some.
Check it out this version and compare later. Also, Hooper really presented a
convincing body of work here, a break out show for him
I felt older the
Oregon Biennial stuff was too narrative and overcooked, some of this was a tad
overkooked too but as a show it balanced out. This is simply more generous work
than the B&W stuff. Ends Saturday April 26th
Paula Rebsom @ Tilt
Last year's show was so tight I'm having trouble adapting to the new work. Maybe
it's the daylight in these photos but I have to see this without so many people.
Ends Saturday April 26th
Last but not least is BYOTV @ NAAU
This lead off for the Couture
series is an adventurous and demanding hit
; it held my attention for the
entire run. The live
were Man Ray absurd. Ends April 27th