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Wednesday 06.01.11

« First Thursday Picks June 2011 | Main | First Friday Picks June 2011 »

PORT's 6th Anniversary


Today is PORT's 6th anniversary and I like to use these annual occasions to draw attention to all of the excellent writers who have helped make this ground breaking publication what it is. PORT is much less a business (barely a business) and more of a community service as a venue for cogent, decisive information and critical discussion. With 1,000,000+ unique readers in 2010 alone the site is infinitely more popular than we ever imagined it would be when Jennifer Armbrust, Katherine Bovee and I started it back in 2005. With notice from Art in America, The Walker, Andy Warhol Foundation and The Whitney... PORT is arguably the most influential art publication in the history of the Pacific Northwest. Just yesterday Amy and I were chatting about how strongly we feel about this (though we seldom dwell on it, anniversaries give us pause to do such) ...but with the demise of full-time art and design criticism in newspapers it is obvious. Also, PORT does things that traditional journalism has always struggled with, namely levy relevant criticism, rather than mere glad-handing praise or disinterested heckling. For example, in 2010 PORT published the major and timely review of OCAC's fantastic new arts buildings and delved into what it might mean for the school. It was a milestone in that school's historic development and Portland's design ecology but the newspaper was MIA. Fact is, when you don't have staff critics and just rely on freelancers you miss major developments. At PORT we can't miss such things because they are central to our lives as citizens of the area's arts ecosystem.

Our often in depth interviews have no equal in the region:

Catherine Opie interviewed by Megan Driscoll

Charles Atlas interviewed by Gary Wiseman

Alison Saar interviewed by Gabe Flores

Deborah Kass and Jessica Jackson Hutchins interviewed By Amy Bernstein

Robert Storr and Ai Weiwei interviewed By Alex Rauch

Mark Grotjahn interviewed by Arcy Douglass

Our reviews probe more of the Portland art scene with depth, going beyond exposition and influences to do truly critical reviews like:

My critiques of Collect Four, Hung Keung and Dan May (I felt he had never received an adequate review). Then there was a trio of architectural art shows that exemplify a major school of artists in Portland

Matt McCormick's Great Northwest by Megan Driscoll

Patrick Collier's thoughts on No Painting Left Behind, Vanessa Renwick and Open Engagement

We even do more complicated/experimental reviews where the curator is involved in the show as an artist sch as Amy's You'll Never Walk Alone or my review of Reader on a Black Background... not everything needs to be unpacked, simple or even fully digested to have value and that is where a publication that caters to a visual arts savvy audience is important. Sometimes we like it when things are recursive, frayed and elliptical. PORT is about the art and our world, not about writers using art as an excuse to effuse.

This year Ill be sad to lose the irreplaceable Megan Driscoll and Alex Rauch to post graduate studies in other cities. Megan will be attending UCLA for her PHD in Art History (which means PORT is looking for a new calendar person, it's a challenging job that pays a small amount but opens a lot of eyes and doors... email me: Jeff at Portlandart.net). Alex will begin his MFA at the University of Illinois Chicago and has a kickstarter fund for his cross country bike/art project you should consider.

Like any publication, PORT's success puts demands on everyone, asking our institutions, other publications and galleries to step it up a notch or two. Somehow PORT evolves fast enough to stay at the bleeding edge of where Portland's art scene and the international art world mix (kind of like the treacherous Columbia bar). Perhaps, PORT stays supple because each writer is encouraged to pursue their own particular interests rather than a series of assignments? It's an approach that engenders a core-level of integrity and passionate interest since it's hardly a lucrative endeavor. Overall, we all try our best and everyone involved makes sacrifices to make it happen.

Overall, it's career defining reviews that I enjoy the most though... also, PORT isn't about ingratiating ourselves or heckling it from outside, we simply care about relevance, critical ideas and how the entire arts ecosystem can thrive through excellence. To put it bluntly, if there's a problem worth fixing we will do our best to point it out and if there is a moment of real excellence we will be there too... thank you readers and sponsors for supporting and counting on us. We do our best to return the favor, without pandering (something rare in the art world).

Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 01, 2011 at 12:11 | Comments (0)


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