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Friday 07.18.08

« Experience into Art: Robert Rauschenberg's The Lotus Series at Blue Sky Gallery | Main | Rearranging at PAM: Newman, Murakami, Dunham etc. »

Disjecta: Rematerializing?

disjecta_logo.jpg

It's Disjecta, again... and again... and again. Long time Portlanders are probably pretty familiar with this promotional routine, and have already formed their opinions. For those of you who don't know the history, PORT takes a look back and a look forward:

A Brief History
(dis-jek-'tuh) n. Latin. 1. Scattered remains or fragments.

In 2000, Disjecta opened on NE Russell St., in the site of a former Masonic lodge. Early programming was almost entirely composed of scrappy group shows, yet the venue's first incarnation had the strongest visual arts focus and most frequent exhibition schedule to date. In the summer of 2003, Disjecta leader Bryan Suereth partnered very briefly with Gavin Shettler to create the Modern Zoo, an aptly named group show that invited everyone and anyone who wanted to show in a massive St. John's warehouse. Halfway through that summer, Suereth and Shettler decided to create a nonprofit called the Portland Center for the Advancement of Culture (PCAC). Disagreements split the pair in under a year, and the board sided with Shettler, forming the Portland Art Center (PAC), while Suereth pursued his vision with Disjecta.

Infrequent, chaotic group shows, parties, and landlord troubles unfortunately set the tone for the Disjecta's future: In 2004, in the midst of applying for 501c3 status, they were forced out by a landlord change. It's worth noting that the Masonic lodge currently holds the Secret Society Ballroom, which can be rented out for parties and events... much like Disjecta 2.

In June 2005, Disjecta the non-profit reopened downtown in the Templeton building, under the Burnside bridge. This was a considerably larger building, and probably too ambitious for an arts venue without deep pockets. Disjecta turned to music events and rented parties, struggling to fill the walls with a hodge-podge of very infrequent awkwardly curated group shows. Two years later, they were ousted again by a landlord change. The Oregonian speculated that Disjecta's closure was related to founder Bryan Suereth's inability to raise sufficient funds to run a non-profit. In retrospect, this raises questions about the relationship between Disjecta's and PAC's financial struggles as non-profits. The founders of both institutions lack an art background or a respected reputation amongst the established arts community, but Portland is also a notoriously intractable city for arts fundraising. Although it's difficult to identify the line between inexperience or incompetence in a tough environment, those interested in promoting the non-profit arts community in Portland would do well to learn from the financial problems encountered by both venues.


Bryan Suereth: Asset or Albatross?

A successful arts organization needs a successful leader. While there's no definitive list of qualities that make a good leader, it is fair to say that an individual should be savvy in finances, PR, and the arts - or able to work closely with those who are. A good relationship with the arts community, and the ability to navigate art world politics, is essential for the leader of an arts organization, particularly a non-profit, which is especially reliant on good will for programming and finances.

Disjecta founder and leader Bryan Suereth has become notorious for a rash of personality conflicts with artists, curators, and the press. In 2005, visual arts coordinator Paul Middendorf left the organization the same week that they opened in the Templeton building. (Middendorf, who denied the opportunity to comment on his departure, went on to create the successful eastside Gallery Homeland.)

What's more, Suereth gets defensive and has been known to frequently resort to insults and vague allusions to litigation in response to critical press. Suereth's surly personality even attracted the attention of the OLCC, leading them to deny him a liquor license in 2003 (it's worth noting that Disjecta was later able to successfully obtain a liquor license). Suereth is a highly vocal and active spokesman, and his temperamental reputation has become linked with Disjecta itself. An instance where Disjecta's relationship with artists soured significantly occurred after a 2006 auction in which Suereth ignored minimum bids at the end of the night, underselling a lot of work and leaving many artists feeling angry and betrayed.

But there is a positive side to Suereth's stubborn personality. He's demonstrated incredible perseverance, continuing to pursue his vision for a community art space through eight years of dramatic ups and downs. Suereth has also created a truly alternative space by refusing to be beholden to traditional authority. This asset can also be a limitation, however, when taken to the point of alienating donors and letting inexperience lead to weaker programming.

Perhaps Suereth's biggest mistake is refusing to step down, or even step back. Behind the big personality are a board of directors comprised of a lot of well respected and competent members of the Portland arts community. The board stands behind him as "smart, thick-skinned, driven, honestly interested in offering artists opportunities" (according to Meagan Atiyeh), but therein lies the problem: They continue to stand behind him. When PAC was facing closure, the board stepped down due to what they saw as a fundamental mismanagement of the organization. Disjecta's board needs to step up, address the personality conflicts that have plagued Suereth and the organization, and take a more active role in public relations. As a member of the Oregon Arts Commission, Atiyeh herself has excellent PR experience, and a strong relationship with the Portland arts community. I'm not calling for a change of leadership, but Disjecta would benefit from Suereth sharing the limelight and drawing more attention to the other active members of the organization.


Disjecta 3: Rebirth or rehash?

Disjecta is reopening this weekend on N Interstate, in the Kenton neighborhood, about a mile away from a smaller, but highly successful, alternative art venue Rock's Box (a personal project, and not a non-profit). Once again, the emphasis for Disjecta 3 is on SPACE. The new building, formerly a bowling alley, has 12,000 square feet, with 1,600 square feet of rehearsal space, 3,500 square feet of exhibition space, and planned additions of offices, residency studios, and a café/bar in January 2009.

The close relationship of studio/rehearsal space and exhibition space is a questionable decision. As I mentioned above, Disjecta and Bryan's strength has been in the creation of an alternative space that promotes the development of new artists. For most artists, success means exhibiting away from their, and others', studios. The physical closeness of PAC and surrounding studios in its 5th Avenue location worked because they were entirely separate entities (and the studios remain). With MP5 and Working Artists, live/work and work/show space is an increasingly hip venture in Portland, but it's an unproven model. Inextricably linking studio/rehearsal space with exhibition space tends to devalue the programming, and depending on space rental for any significant portion of revenue is a financially risky proposition (especially in a recession).

And, of course, there's the problem of filling all that exhibition space. The promise of space has proven to be a limited one. It's not how much you have, it's what you do with it. Disjecta 3's inaugural exhibition is another group show (details below). This fall they're picking up two solo shows formerly scheduled at PAC, Diane Jacobs and Dan Gilsdorf, but the field remains open from there. However, one key change to the Disjecta model leaves me optimistic for future programming, if they follow through. In 2009, they plan to begin hiring independent visual arts curators for year-long tenures – then again, Disjecta is known for promising plans. Hopefully they will be able to find good people willing to work with Suereth, and not suffer another split like the 2005 departure of Middendorf. If they can hire the right people, and back up 8 years of promotion, we may see a dramatic improvement both in visual arts programming and in Disjecta's relationship with the visual arts community.


immaterialized.jpg

This weekend, come see Disjecta launch their third incarnation. They're opening with Immaterialized, a group show curated by IGLOO co-founder Damien Gilley. It features six works by six Portland-based artists and/or artist teams: Gordon Barnes & Shelby Davis, Ryan Burghard & Dean Spella, Justin Gorman, Damien Gilley, Rebecca Steele, and Makerlab (Paige Saez, Anselm Hook, Marlin Pohlman, and Ben Foote). The works run the gamut of installation, drawing, mixed-media, and "mobile technologies," tenuously anchored by the themes of "abstraction and architecture, spirituality and artifice, ephemera and decoration." The artist list is promising, but the curatorial focus seems, well, unfocused, in classic Disjecta style. Regardless, it promises an intriguing beginning to what will hopefully be a brighter chapter in the history of alternative Portland venues.

Opening reception • 6-9pm • July 19
Disjecta • 8371 N Interstate AVE • 503.913.6884

Posted by Megan Driscoll on July 18, 2008 at 8:45 | Comments (15)


Comments

while noting Bryan's tenuous relationship with some local artists, it should also be noted that many local artists think highly of him. he has always worked very hard and has created opportunities for many artists. disjecta has always sported an energy and spontaneity that most local art orgs lack, and i for one am very happy to see that disjecta is continuing on.

Posted by: matt_mc [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 18, 2008 01:57 PM

"live/work and work/show space is an increasingly hip venture in Portland, but it's an unproven model."

If you look at many of the emerging/early-career artists (by which I mean 15 years or less of serious exhibition) in Portland - they were all involved early on in their careers in shows at the Everett Station Lofts, which is a work/show and live/work space. So, I don't think that's a limitation of the model.

The opportunity to take risks through exhibitions in that kind of environment gives artists room to refine ideas in a venue that doesn't live or die based on sales.

If anything, I think the art world can only benefit from more opportunities to set the art free from commerce - to de-commercialize the work and the process, etc. Which in the end should be the point of an arts non-profit. To provide a space for work that doesn't attract commercial interest.

After all, we can't forget that commercial interest doesn't mean it's good art or even interesting. Look at the crap people buy in the rest of their lives...

So by that token, commercial success - or even funding success, doesn't really suggest anything about the quality of artwork or curation... Unless you want to concede that the ultimate authority on art are the people with the most money.

Posted by: MOR [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2008 12:49 AM

The Everett Station Lofts are an undeniably successful example of live/work space. But it's all about location, location, location. Many of the galleries are barely open except during the First Thursday artwalk, and their proximity to the Pearl galleries (and each other) gives them invaluable walk in traffic. The same cannot be said for MP5, Working Artists... or Disjecta's new location.

I completely agree that a non-commercial environment gives artists "room to refine ideas in a venue that doesn't live or die based on sales," but it's not the studio space that makes it that way. (To the contrary, selling studio space commercializes it more.) Rather, it's the fact that Disjecta is a non-profit. In order to preserve that rarified space, Disjecta must be able to raise the funds to support itself as a non-profit, and that means keeping up a good relationship with the art community and having consistent, quality programming. Disjecta 1 & 2 failed to do both- but I think that we would all like to see Disjecta 3 succeed, especially after the failure of PAC, because non-profits can and should play an important role in Portland's art world. It needs to be approached with a healthy skepticism because of the venue's history, but not without hope.

Posted by: Megan [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2008 07:23 AM

You bring up an interesting point about proximity to the pearl and foot traffic.

I wonder if 1st thursday foot traffic lead really leads to success or even interest in art? It does serve as a social glue for the arts community - but any space showing good work should get the attention of the critics and other artists easily and attendance at an opening, no matter the location. And they do, this was proven by Haze and continues to be proven by the Art Gym.

If studio space is going to be offered in a space that also hosts exhibitions and provides other support for artists, and I contend there's nothing wrong with that - I think there are some great models for how to do it. For example, you can curate the studio space - so that artists who take on space become sort of artists in residence. Smack Mellon does this (http://www.smackmellon.org) - and this is also part of the vision on Gallery Homeland's web site, so it's an idea that's already in practice in Portland.

And both the Brooklyn Artists Gym and the DUMBO Arts Center rent out their exhibition space to fund their programming - they even rent to weddings and corporate events. And I almost think that doing something so totally commercial for a few months to fund the rest of the years programming in totally non-commercial exhibition, it a nice way to keep the money and the art apart.

Posted by: MOR [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2008 10:50 AM

In Portland where anything more than 5 minutes outside of downtown is seen as a trek, location does matter.

A sustained level of quality exhibitions is the only way to make the outpost model work but it is challenging. Rock's box is doing a really good job... and the univeristy galleries at Reed, L&C, Clark, Clackcamas CC, the PCC campuses and the Art Gym all still struggle with the location issue. It requires a budget for outreach... PORT tries to keep everyone informed about worthwhile far-flung events too.

In Vancouver BC the addition of the Belkin downtown space gives the UBC a dowtown presence... same with Redcat in LA for Calarts.

As far as the Everett Station Lofts... those are artist run spaces that last 1 year or two at best. They are undeniably the most important art incubator in the city of Portland and yes their location does help them get crossover traffic, which is ever increasing due to the nearby desoto building. Still there is a glass ceiling associated with artist run live work spaces. Recent example: Jenene Nagy made her big move by showing in McMinnville, though she co-curated the top space in the lofts (ending this month). The plan is simple with the lofts, you get people's attention then you move out und up after paying your dues.

As for earned income... yes most non profits do rentals etc. as earned income but it's usually supplimentary. Still all organizations are somewhat defined by the priorities set by their funding sources... it is why private funding based on the quality of exhibitions is key, it is self-perpetuating. For example PAM recently reassessed all of its non art programmatical elements.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2008 01:27 PM

"Disjecta founder and leader Bryan Suereth has become notorious for a rash of personality conflicts with artists, curators, and the press."

"What's more, Suereth gets defensive and has been known to frequently resort to insults and vague allusions to litigation in response to critical press."

Never met the guy, but I already like him...

Bryan, if we ever meet, please let me buy you a drink.


Posted by: Sean Casey [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2008 02:01 PM

I loved going to shows at Disjecta. It was always lively and made me want to work harder. The work I saw there was hugely unpredictable and interesting. Seasoned artists took big risks, and untried ones were given crucial support. That's rare in a city where there's so much hand-wringing about careful, informed support of the arts. Portland has had a lot of savvy, discerning, and promising venues, but none with the reckless vitality of Disjecta. Taking artistic risks is messy, unpredictable, aggravating and often ugly. I'm grateful Disjecta has done it as decently as they have.

Posted by: Matthew Stadler [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2008 12:14 AM

Megan,

I think you're wading into some dangerous revisionist history in your comment about the Everett Street Lofts in regards to Disjecta's relationship to programming and local artist.

Disjecta 1 was badass. If you look at it through the narrow lens of visual arts then no, it didn't have consistent, quality programming.

But Disjecta wasn't a visual arts venue, it was an arts venue. Music, performance, theater, dance, art parties and yes sometimes visual art. As I've often told Jeff, I think this blog could benefit from a similar holistic view of the Portland art scene.

Disjecta 1 was crucial to the development of a generation of Portland artists. I saw amazing bands, the coming of age of groups like Red76, House of Cunt and the Charm Bracelet, and was empowered on it's stage to experiment with my own voice. It was a space that was open to programming any kind of experience and somehow always delivered what the arts need most, an audience.

I would argue that Disjecta 1 had inconsistent (in the best way), but very high quality art programming and had an amazing relationship with the arts community. It no doubt pissed a few artists off. But it was a place where you could do, and people did, just about anything, many of whom went on to national and international stages. And I think to a lesser, shorter extent that same could be said about Disjecta 2.


Posted by: Andrew Dickson [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2008 12:25 AM

Andrew... please note, PORT is (and has always been) concerned with purely with visual arts and Megan's independent findings are bourn out by the critical record of the time as well. It's all we do, it's what we get paid for and she made some very good points.

Thus, Megan's statement about Disjecta 1 are by your own admission completely within bounds. Being honest about a series of scrappy and later more infrequent/scattered group shows is important. Back then there were lots of scrappy (rather unpolished) group shows in 5-6 venues including Disjecta... claiming otherwise is revisionist history. I might add that Megan's account was extremely fair. Scrappy isn't bad, neither is infrequent but to pretend otherwise doesn't help anyone. Disjecta doesn't need excuses and people covering for it if it truly seeks to fullfill a more important role. I remind everyone that I was one of Disjecta 1's biggest advocates on the visual arts side... so I know what I'm talking about. I want Bryan to succeed... a fact that Bryan himself seem's to have unable to understand during Disjecta 2. Maybe he's grown up some?

All that said the new space is a break with that unpolished track record; it is impressively demanding in a way that will force the organization to plan more and be more professional if it hopes to succeed in filling such a space. This new exhibition space pretty much swallows most work... but that can be a good thing... it just takes a lot of forethought, planning and curatorial skill to pull off. That hasn't been Disjecta's history and it's important to be honest about that as a visual arts venue.

Maybe it's a new era? Maybe they can overcome a reputation they have worked hard to earn? Some very good advice: it's gonna take some very talented and professiional people because that space is so demanding a lot of art will look underwhelming by comparison. Serious curatorial and funding chops are the only way to do it. The space begs the question and the shows will answer.

For example, the current show has a very MFA feel mostly because it is indeed populated by artist who are currently MFA students or very recent graduates. That isn't bad... I noted Barne's
and Davis' tank last year, and though it looks good here it's somewhat less sucessful
than it was a Jace Gace
. It is sort of a stunt in this setting, highlighting more of the flaws I noted lat year. A strong curator would have opted for more nuanced approach than pure showmanship. Of all the work, Damien Gilley's piece was the most convincing... he's a PSU MFA to watch and though the wood grain has been done too much already it's a step up from his show at the Portland Building. Great execution but needs more development in terms of concept and materials... that isn't a bad thing at all and a deft placement decision really was the highlight. Overall it's better than any group show ever ever put on by Disjecta or the Portland Art Center... it's MFA level (that's MFA at a good school).

A curator gives young artists a guiding hand or a sounding board, especialy in such a dominating space (it makes the Western Bridge's main gallery look much less ambitious, but what about the work?). Programming is a monster that requires intense feeding scheduals.

At 3 tries the time for making excuses and trying to gild the past is over.

Congratulation's Bryan, now for the hard part... rebuild all of the burnt bridges and work with some very talented programming oriented visual arts people so you can move forward.


Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2008 01:35 PM

i would like to second Andrew's comment, and say that Disjecta deserves healthy recognition as one of the most important "art things" in portland over the last decade. i say "art thing" because it was much more then just a gallery or exhibition space. Disjecta 1 was both of those plus music + performance venue, meeting space, party destination, and softball team!!! it was the epicenter of Portland's artistic youth culture, not unlike places such as Fort Thunder or Space 1026.

The DIY ethos of Disjecta set the stage for so many things in Portland that followed; from Core Sample to PAC to Port to name a few. It's too bad that this article focuses on Disjecta's failures and negative personal opinions of Bryan while overlooking the organization's important contributions to Portland's artistic landscape.

-Matt McCormick

Posted by: matt_mc [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2008 12:05 PM

Megan,

Thank you for recognizing that Disjecta is run by a board of directors. It's a fact that has been missed by many reporters over the years. And you're right, we should be more evident in Disjecta's relationship with the arts community. It has been difficult to get past what I see as an infatuation with Bryan that has become kind of ridiculous and really unfair. It is a caricature. He gets the blame for everything real and imagined. I'll get tediously specific just to make my point: I was responsible for lowering minimum bid prices at that auction you mentioned. Of course, it was because of a miscommunication and nothing I did maliciously. Yet no one questions that it must have been Bryan's fault.

There are thousands of hours that Bryan has spent building stages, hanging lights, organizing events, writing grants, making little or no money, and trying to make opportunities for artists that go largely unrecognized. Our board does recognize his successes, his sincere dedication to quality programs, and that Disjecta would not continue to exist with any other person in the lead at this point.

We have repeatedly asked the press to not write another Bryan-as-villain/hero story. Since board members also have demanding day jobs, we can't be the point of contact on press releases, but we're not hard to reach. You took the time to contact me, thank you. I've communicated with the press a number of times and rarely been quoted. Bryan has personally requested that DK stop referring to us as "Bryan's crew".

As I mentioned to you previously, we have been working non-stop for four plus years to realize our vision for Disjecta. I've worked on at least twenty business plans and seen more than my share of commercial real estate. We've had ups and downs, which is natural for a young organization. This has been harder than most people know, and I think we deserve to make some mistakes providing we are willing to recognize them and make corrections. The road to stability has been paved by missteps, challenges and, yes, nasty fights, for a fair share of our city's beloved arts organizations and leaders. As I mentioned to you Saturday, I really believe we deserve far greater slack than has been given. Thanks to Matt, Matthew and Andrew for putting it out there that taking risks results in more energy and also more trouble.

In hindsight, having been through the past four years of developing our business plan, our curatorial intent, our skills and our identity and taking our knocks has been of great benefit. We knew enough when we saw this Interstate building to understand how well it could work and to choose it over other buildings and relationships on the table at the time. And now, the payoff is that we have an affordable home that has room for everything we want to be doing.

We are always willing to hear informed criticism regarding the organization, programs, and the space. As we grow our staff, some of the burden of being the "it" guy will be taken off of Bryan, and with less pressure to be everything to everyone he'll probably be in a better mood most of the time. In the meantime, we ask folks to look beyond the old easy front-man story, and to consider the more important issues of how we carry out our mission.

Best,
Meagan Atiyeh
Disjecta board member

Posted by: me_gs [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2008 01:18 PM

Disjecta definitely helped me a few years back by hosting Donut Shop 2, and then Donut Shop 9.
Portland was able to see work from various artists including...
John Torreano (NYC), Frank Parga (NYC), John Harris (Australia), Melissa Dyne, Molly Dillworth (NYC), Seoungho Cho (Korea).
Locations are only listed to highlight the fact that Disjecta provided a venue to house work by some damn fine artists that might not normally been seen in Portland.

And conflicts between artists and venues; that happens sometimes. Portland�s turbulent art scene is no exception.

Disjecta has withstood some highs and lows.
I am glad to them surface again.
Cheers.

Posted by: cmoss [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2008 02:09 PM

Matt... one correction, that's apples and oranges, PORT and Disjecta have very different styles.... we are a focused visual art publication written by people with extensive backgrounds in visual art. We even have an old pile of seething emails from Bryan over the years (most but not all which Bryan added a privacy clause) that prove just how different we are. Many have had worse experiences. What's more nobody can challenge the fact that other artists, donors, volunteers and press have experienced similarly head scratching treatment... this isnt new news and the Portland Monthly article brought up similar issues some 2 years ago. PORT gave the subject an update with a more visual arts centric analysis (as befitting their avowed aims as an exhibition space).

Instead, of his way we chose a very civilized course, acknowledging the importance of other opinions like yours. It's good that people feel strongly for and against Disjecta but all we care about are results ie... good visual art shows.

Also, good to hear from you Meagan, it seems that the board is getting more involved. PORT is not like general interest publications, for us personalities only matter when it effects the art and the ability to present it.

One idea: maybe instead of relying on apologists who cut him slack Bryan should simply just apologize and move on (maybe not to PORT but to Portland?) Maybe It would be a start? Then again the best apology is turning over a new leaf and sticking with it.

Also Matt, that is interesting agiprop but Disjecta simply can't take credit as THE epicenter the whole renaissance in the Portland art scene, they havn't been that all that active since 2004 and even before that, they were kinda just one of several gritty projects... for instance the hall gallery was just as important.

Seriously, the visual art shows in the original location were all a mess except for Bovee and Blanc's "Save Point." The reason it was different was Bovee and Blanc insisted on sprucing things up to their standards.

The cold hard fact is, Disjecta was simply one thing among many, they did a lot of good things (especially before becoming a non profit).... but of everything that has happened (and continues to) only the Everett Station Lofts can claim to have been indispensable to the visual art scene here. That's reality.

It would not be PAM, not PNCA, not PICA, not Alphabet Dress, not Haze, not PADA, not Albina Press, Not SAVAGE, not Reed, not NAAU, not core sample, not the Hall Gallery, not PORT and not the WWeek that could begin to claim they have been the chief advocate in such a diverse scene and sea change... but if one did the Everett Station Lofts would be THE only entity that could make such a claim.

It is a more accurate and mature realization to consider Disjecta's past as both an asset and a major burden. To do so is crucial for them to switch from being the Bryan show to something more. If the press has focused on him it's because he has been the most consistent tone setting element of the organization.

Because PORT isnt like other press we care purely about one thing results in the visual arts. We are tough but fair.. to Cris, sure Disjecta showed those artists in a disjointed group show or 2 but did it show them well in a way that had much of a thesis? Mostly not, instead the work was swallowed by the space. Donutshop 1 at the Hall gallery was better than 2 and 4. Also it is very accurate to say the loss of Middendorf was a tremendous blow to their visual arts coordination, just as losing Stuart Horodner was an immediate step down for PICA's visual arts. Im certain somebody will argue it but the shows or lack of them absolutely proves my point.

I'm just asking people to be honest in their assesment. Megan made hers independently and if it sounds a little like the Portland Monthly and O articles it's because there is something very true there.

One last thing that can be said... the visual arts attract some difficult personalities because they are somewhat tolerated, especially if they do good work. People are willing to forgive talent but right now there is a big let's wait and see regarding Disjecta.

The new building's rather challenging space practically begs us to expect more than we've seen in the shakey past... so I'm obliging. What they have done in the past visual arts wise simply isn't good enough in this new space. It is obvious Bryan kinda lives for the struggle but I think Megan has it right... he will need some help to plan and execute visual art shows, an exhibition space is a monster that requires regular feeding.

I honestly hope Disjecta finds the people and good will they need to pull that off...it going to take a lot of work and bridge building that no haggling about the past can change.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2008 05:41 PM

jeff, really... if PORT is only interested in reporting on visual arts, then why is this article such a hatchet job on Bryan's personality? and Bryan apologizing to the entire city of Portland??? come on, your personal bias of this individual is just seeping through, and that is not objective journalism.

and i think you missed my point- i agree that the differing styles and whatnot between PORT and Disjecta are huge. my point was that it was Disjecta that really pushed the DIY envelope as an arts organization. It was certainly not the first DIY Portland arts group in town, but what Disjecta did was infuse the Do It Yourself ethos of the punk/music/youth scene and apply it to an arts organization. Without Disjecta there would have been no Modern Zoo, without the modern zoo there would have been no Core Sample, etc. Sure, there were and have been better curated DIY visual arts exhibitions, but few (if any) of them had the energy, crowds, and sense of community that Disjecta was able to garner.

and the Hall Gallery was great, but you just can't compare it to Disjecta. I mean, there just isn't another venue in town where you might have seen The Chromatics and The Locust playing while Chandra Bochi's first solo show hung on the walls. to truly understand the radness of Disjecta you had to be there in the early days (2001-2003) - Disjecta was not just a venue, it was part of the local culture. It was a scene amongst itself.

If you want to say that Bryan is an asshole, then just say it (and i won't even argue with you on that issue!). But you are doing a disservice to everyone by overlooking the important contribution that Disjecta made in shaping the current landscape of today's local art scene.

Posted by: matt_mc [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2008 06:55 PM

Matt, this was hardly a hatchet job and Megan did a very objective, independent study of this. I stand by her work. That said Bryan's personality is an issue because he's made it one and Megan made a lot less of it than other publications have while pointing out how it has become something to address. I don't really expect him to apologize... I wrote as much actually, it was done to make a point about bridge mending.

PORT also spent a lot of time looking at Dijecta's exhibition history, it's way more balanced than just a personality expose... even Meagan Ateyah seemed to see this.

Note, the thesis is very similar to the old Portland monthly article and not dissimilar to the Oregonains tone (but with less focus on personality and more on exhibition standards).

Matt, as a personal aside, you misread me... as one of Dijecta 1's strongest advocates I simply want Bryan and the organization to move forward (which means addressing the history honestly). I'm actually feeling a bit warmer towards Bryan these days with a non trashy space and some interraction ( and especially after several days without any wierd emails etc... he has learned some restraint and it is a good sign)... I honestly hope he can bring it together but the things Megan outlined are vital.

I also appreciate and understand your sticking up for him, but couldn't his track record of personal dealing just do it instead?

Not to give too much of a Portland art history lesson but Chandra's first solo show 100% garbage was at the Daydream Cafe coffeeshop on Hawthorne. Shortly thereafter I think Jacqueine Ehlis giving Chandra her first major group show at Pacific Univerity (with an Oregonian review) and her awesome Haze solo show did way more for her reputation than the Disjecta show which was kinda underwhelming but promising.... an important step but key?... c`mon? I have pictures which dont lie.

Furthermore Hall Gallery had the first (and best) Donut Shop show. Other shows like Maritime and the portait show got more critical attention too than anything at Disjecta 1. All the while the Everett Station Lofts were collectively the largest node of activity. The Albina press was a scene as well and better suited to art exhibitions. I don't need to go on and on about this but the art scene of the past 9 years has been a group effort with many nodes. Anything else is biased PR-convenient-Hermenuetics.

Why deny the true histories of the many spaces and individuals who did a lot of the early groundwork?

(Note after a flame-ridden anti-Disjecta comment was removed, things need to calm down so these comments will be turned off. They willcome back on in a day or so... Also Matt has changed his mind about the "hatchet job" term... things get heated in comments and I think it's good to have things pull back a bit for now.)

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2008 07:21 PM

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