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Thursday 04.24.08

« Public Art Opportunity | Main | They Say Everything's Bigger in Texas »

9 years & last chance for an impressive April gallery junket

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… improve or go away… 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 involved art 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

Eva 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

Al 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 Contemporary Art. 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 at Jace Gace
Chris Held's Overstock @ Jace Gace, it's had people talking all month. Ends April 27th

Mark Hooper at Quality Pictures:

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…you 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 broadcasts were Man Ray absurd. Ends April 27th

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 24, 2008 at 16:36 | Comments (0)


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