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Monday 02.21.11

« An Alphabet Is Not a Book of Poetry: Elspeth Pratt at Reed's Cooley Gallery | Main | Indweller »

2011 CNAA's whittled down

Well PAM has whittled down their hand crafted list of artist for the 2011 Contemporary Northwest Art Awards

Chris Antemann

John Buck

John Grade

Jerry Iverson

Suzy Lee

Megan Murphy

Michelle Ross

This is an overtly politically motivated list including someone from every state in the award's territory and therein lies the problem. It is all very approachable, even soft stuff and really reiterates a ton of Northwest stereotypes of fetishing the hand-made or at least humanly approachable art works. As a curatorial argument it seems retardé, as even our very own museum of Contemporary Craft with its Ai Weiwei show moved away from such a provincial definition of craft last year. We expect PAM to be better because Portland as a whole IS better than that.

I'm certain this will provoke a stronger response as artists are already grumbling that the Ford Fellowships, Bonnie Bronson awards etc. tend to reward work that is overtly hand made, family or community oriented rather than conceptually strong or visually piquant. The thing is, PAM isn't the institution that the Whitney and other institutions with an international outlook look to when searching for artists from this region and even the Tacoma Art Museum plays less to stereotypes. If the CNAA's are supposed to be our answer to the SECA awards PAM just missed a major opportunity to vary the discussion and become more relevant to an art scene that often exhibits a more international outlook than its museum. This saddens me as PAM has made great strides in showing contemporary art like Ed Ruscha, Mark Grotjahn, Pierre Huyghe and Catherine Opie... but reiterating stereotypes of NW Art as some kind of handmade craft ghetto is beyond disappointing. I am anxious to see what John Grade does but had his Puryear-esque craft been balanced with something less handmade and fuzzy It would have made everything stronger and more CONTEMPORARY. This list is the equivalent of eating salmon every day and frankly our visual arts cuisine is much more varied than that.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on February 21, 2011 at 8:17 | Comments (4)


I agree with you Jeff, PAM has missed the boat! Is it not interesting that a former president of an art college can be come the curator for the Portland Art Museum's Northwest Art Awards? I wonder if it could go the other way around.
All of this is so very disappointing. I am tasting milk toast!

Posted by: Art Girl PDX [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2011 12:53 PM

Often the institutional process provides a false positive where the process is trusted perhaps too much and insulates the decision making from reflexive internal critique because it assumes the process is infallible.

Also, being an admin is different than being a curator, which requires knowing your audience. Portland is extremely dynamic and thus hates to be categorized so neatly in terms of formal or genre groupings.

Also there is a general annoyance that artists at the very top of their game do not get awards (except David Eckard last year). Instead our awards seem to show how the institutional politics of the area don't work so well. It has gotten better but it IS an area that could use a lot of work. After sitting on national level jury panels lately I can see a real difference that I always felt but can now attest to. Our local institutions have a problem with identifying and supporting the international level excellence we have here. Luckilly we are in Portland for other reasons that allow us to side step local politics and do things at at National level.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2011 03:42 PM

You put it best Jeff. Tacoma Art Museum is representing our region better than PAM is. That's embarrassing.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2011 11:22 PM

What is the purpose of the CNAA?

Find artists working to an extent nationally that are ready to expand their national and international careers?

Endear regional artists to the institution?

Expand institutional collection into the craft realm?

Find artists outside the usual suspects of interest to collectors who endow the position? (Thank you, by the way)

I'm for #1.A third of the starting list, and none of the above, would qualify for #1, in my opinion.

Posted by: Criticaleye-notpen [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 22, 2011 05:38 PM

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