John Grade's work at The Portland Art Museum's 2011 CNAAs
Congratulations to Seattle based John Grade
. I was happy that he received the nod for the Arlene Schnitzer Prize, which comes with $10,000 and even greater exposure within the CNAA's purview. Though, as I mentioned earlier this week I found this second iteration of the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards
an even bigger (and ghettoizing) restatement of Northwest stereotypes (whittling, smudges, gray haze, fussy handmade craft, politeness and some nature)than the first one
. Quite simply we are more than that... the silicon forest and a region which leads in so many international fields like design, green technology, communications and aircraft etc. Still Grade's work is handsome, engaged and excellent (especially his very large indoor installation pieces).
Grade's The Hunt, not on display at PAM
Of the group of 7, Grade and Suzy J. Lee were the only installation artists (though neither really showed true installation work... i.e. immersive environments that envelope the viewer to the point of blotting out the institutional walls). In this case Grade's more immersive work was represented by photographs of his outdoor work (which is fine but disappointing especially with the Park Blocks right in front of the museum).
It's true Grade's work could have come from anywhere... he reminds me a bit of the Milwaukee artist Roy Staab
and the great Martin Puryear
Overall, I prefer the way the CNAA's give several artists an opportunity to show what they can do... rather than the grab bag Oregon Biennial format but until it can get beyond regional stereotypes (like the 1999 and 2006 Oregon Biennials did) the jury is out as to whether these awards mean much when so called local artists turn up at Tate Modern, MCA, Whitney and Moscow Biennials, etc. The real challenge for PAM is to start being truly ahead of the international curve rather than behind it when it comes to artists in their own back yard. With the CNAA's that means being bolder and less mid career, which I'm uncertain they are capable of.