Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

2019 1st links
2018 Summary
End of 2018 Links
PNCA + OCAC Merger Off
Loss of Material Evidence at Hoffman Gallery
Hoffman Gallery Changes at Lewis and Clark?
1st Weekend Picks
Meow Wolf The Movie
Giving Thanks Readings
Meet RACC's new leader Madison Cario
November Reviews
Early November Links

recent comments

Double J



Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Openings & Events
About PORT

regular contributors


Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman



Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us


Contact us






powered by


Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a


Creative Commons License

Wednesday 07.27.11

« 75 Gifts for 75 Years | Main | but liquor is quicker »

10th Northwest Biennial at the Tacoma Art Museum


The Tacoma Art Museum has announced the details for its 10th Northwest Biennial (see our 2 part discussion of Northwest surveys from last week).

Relevant Details:

This year includes British Columbia... finally! Though the border is difficult to move art works across, this show may help streamline the process (every curator I know who has shipped across that border has ridiculous stories to share).

TAM's statement, "The 10th Northwest Biennial will examine the vital questions of who we are as residents of the Pacific Northwest, what we look like, and what are our aspirations for our communities. The Biennial will seek artworks that address the critical issues that underpin the larger issues of identity and community including the fluidity of regional identity in an age of global capitalism, increased urban migration, and the virtual diffusion of a discernible regional style. Because of the extraordinary complexities of these issues, The 10th Northwest Biennial will focus on the newly revitalized and resurgent forms of interdisciplinary art practices." To these eyes it seems like this Biennial's goals seem more driven by engagement with contemporary issues. That is good if it pans out, the last one got beat up critically for being safe, overfull and not saying much. Obviously the region has seen tremendous changes and as I outlined last week any regional survey that can't address those shifts wont be relevant. The focus on "interdiciplenary" practices is encouraging as that is probably where 85% of Portland's art scene energy is being spent. For example many of the most interesting artists in Portland do not have galleries yet still have national and international careers... by relying only on those with local (conservative) galleries many surveys have missed the boat on Portland... which is NOT defined by its institutions or collectors, so much as by its artists.

Curators are: Rock Hushka (Director of Curatorial Administration and Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art at Tacoma Art Museum) and Renato Rodrigues da Silva (independent curator and art critic) based in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada.

Entries are via email by August 31st but check their specifications here.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on July 27, 2011 at 17:26 | Comments (3)


I don't know about this.

What are "contemporary issues", anyway? I'm exasperated by the pervasive notion that they are those issues that belong exclusively to our time, as if the world were in a continual state of brand newness, consigning all that is not specifically of the moment to obsolescence. Aren't old ideas also contemporary if they express the Present?

For that matter, what is "contemporary art?" Does our world turn over so quickly and completely that old forms and methods cannot be used to express contemporary life? The fact that old art can transcend its moment and speak to us in the Present tells me that it does not. Drawing from life, for example, is an old activity still widely practiced because "as much as it ever was" -- it can be a way to express one's engagement with the world with great nuance, immediacy, and vitality; yet the results are somehow not supposed to be "contemporary." The term is useful as a way of rounding up art made in the present but is otherwise destructive and despicable.

And so, what art is relevant? Is it all about timeliness rather than timelessness now? Is timelessness -- admittedly an impure quality "irrelevant," never mind that much of what is most "of the moment" has the shelf life of a banana, quickly turning into nothing more than an embarrassing historical curiosity and proof to our children that we are idiots?

The museum's description of the 2011 Northwest Biennial's aims sets out the "critical" issues the submitted art must address in order to be accepted and goes on to say that because of their "extraordinary complexity" the Biennial will "focus on" interdisciplinary art forms. It's peculiar that a regional survey would demand particular topics and forms so specific as to exclude the work of many if not most of the region's best artists.

The passage Port quoted is characteristic of the whole but doesn't do justice to its convoluted nature, the long list of acceptable subjects having the effect of emphasizing its exclusivity. If this is an attempt at relevance, as you suggest, Jeff, it's a chokingly narrow conception of it, at heart more of an attempt to appear relevant than it is to be relevant.

Why wouldn't the museum just present the best regional art it can get its hands on? If the art is good it is by definition relevant, if having an engaging and persuasive voice is still enough to qualify work as being good; to try to stuff what is supposed to be a regional survey into a narrow conceptual frame is intellectual overreaching reeking of institutional vanity. It's quite possible that the approach will result in a good or even superior show, but if it is and to be fair, I'm not sure that it is -- an attempt to define or reflect what is relevant in our region it is doomed to failure.

Posted by: rosenak [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2011 09:02 PM

Hey, why did all of my apostrophies and quotation marks come out like that? Writing a readable post was challenging enough as it was...

Posted by: rosenak [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2011 09:10 PM

Well, your skepticism is healthy...

The statement did seem to beat around the curatorial bush (probably with the goal of NOT seeming too exclusionary to any specific genre). For example, it did mention "resurgent" "forms" and specifically mentioned "sculpture" and "painting"... so I don't think they are going to ignore those strategies. Still, there are a lot of very dated nods to identity politics in the statement let's hope it isn't 1992 all over again.

I did take exception to idea that "interdisciplinary forms" are somehow more prevalent in BC. I think LA, San Fran and Portland can match BC tit for tat, in that department (bet the Canadian wrote that).

The true difference is Canada supports its alt spaces and non commercial art forms more directly than we do in the US. So in places like Portland (which is full of the stuff) it has occurred mostly through an act of the artist's or independent curator's will (and unassisted bank account). That's my main criticism of RACC actually. RACC has a very hard time supporting this sort of alt-space activity... though they do support some of it and they deserve credit for that step (yet it's hardly natural, most just avoid the hassle of applying).

I believe the real problem here is that it is still a juried format... either curate the damn thing or don't, which seems to be the source of your apprehension as well. Hopefully they have good eyes and instincts and this will be a good show, ie full of interesting contrasts and different angles of interpretation. Surveys are tough (Im curating one around geology in November at PSU) but with good eyes and instincts it can be done well. Yes a good show will upset a few apple carts because that is the problem of contemporary art. It has to take chances to be valid... not just new. Im a student of William Rubin, so I know that without risk there is no reward (ie the poetic and prescient). It isn't ignorance of the past, it's engaging the received suppositions of that history that open the present to more possibilities. That's all contemporary art is, art that speaks to the present.

Thus, if this is a good show there will be sculpture and painting, but as in all things... they must choose well... because none of the institutions in the Northwest are final (or even major) authorities on what is or isnt relevant in the region. In Portland artists are always several steps ahead of any institution. That is less true in Seattle and even less true in BC which has a comparatively strong public support system for the arts that isn't as commercially inclined.

I am encouraged that they are foregrounding change (or shifts) as a major part of the survey. That is tough to do though without visiting a lot of studios and seeing at least a years worth of alt space shows. The ball has been in their court a long long time and they have made incremental improvements over the years.

As for the quotations etc, that's a problem when using Microsoft word. It replaces normal characters with a proprietary character not recognized in the html format. Type your response in notepad to avoid it. I fixed them for you, thanks for the response.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 29, 2011 12:35 PM

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee