The Portland art scene is ever shifting with new artists arriving every day but it is the often thankless role of being a facilitator (as curator or programming director) that greases the wheels of the machine. For example, if I want to point out an artist I simply write a review but admins are a different story. Also, the level of artistic development of these individuals varies a great deal and is perhaps secondary to the contributions they represent (for now). Also, some new admins like Jeffrey Thomas (Director MoCC) and Bonnie Liang-Malcolmson (Curator of NW Art PAM) have been around for over a decade and have only just recently switched roles (not prominence), so I'll skip over them. I also vet the list for people making an impact beyond expectations (so I don't always pick new hires at PAM, they have to earn it). Also to make my list one has to curate or work on several shows, do more than draw attention to a few of your friends or throw a hipster party... so without further ado here are 9 newish faces you should get to know before they take your job:
Jason Brown @ Half/Dozen
If you can find Half/Dozen then Jason Brown's face is already familiar to you and your gallery hopping skills are well developed. In his time as assistant at Half/Dozen (since 2010) he has helped director Tim Mahan reach a new level of sophistication and presentation at the space (a catalog for the shows, etc). These things are always team efforts and I like Brown's view that, "the role of the artist philosopher is on the cusp of a grand revival.... I am happy to be positioned in Portland, where these new dialogs are consistently being considered. In other words, topics are shown, made, and discussed without the baggage that the larger 'art hubs' have with adhering to ideologies or aesthetic considerations." With a degree in intermedia from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and some time developing a studio practice in Zagreb Croatia he has fresh roll up your sleeves approach and he's interested in improving the arts ecosystem in Portland with hard work. I'm told they are working on the difficult to find aspect of H/D. Both Jason and Tim understand that following through is something Portland's alt spaces and other institutions need to improve on and by having a good team they are a great example of how to do that.
Chloe Womack, Brennan Broome, JP Huckins, and Tori Abernathy
Last year's "Best New Alternative Space" Recess is run by 4 very capable and enterprising admins; Brennan Broome, JP Huckins, Chloe Womack, and Tori Abernathy. Recess is like a miniaturized P.S.1 with its unlikely warren of corridors and and rooms. I particularly like how they have been doing a catalog for each new show. According to the team which prides itself on being both young and professional, "We aim to foster new forms of cultural inquiry and spark a discourse of change within the art community and the community at large." Though not conducive to the tightest shows Recess has a rambling experimental feel to it and I like the fact that though 3 of these 4 are students they have chosen to leave the art school bubble. All four are very intelligent and critically minded.
"Brennan Broome was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He is a PNCA grad. His practice includes video, installation, publications and printed materials.
Tori Abernathy is an artist and curator from Miami. She is founder and co-director of RECESS and the director of of this year's Reed Arts Week:Rupture. She studies art and anthropology at Reed College.
J.P. Huckin's work plays with human interactions and how these exchanges can be influenced by context. Most recently J.P. has been examining the role of the artist as curator and vice-versa. He is currently pursuing a BFA at Portland State University.
Chloe Womack's work spans printed material, sculpture, video, installation, and contextual art practices through the utilization of simple gestures, iconography, and intervention. Her curatorial and artistic practices examine the simplicity of human experience through the exploration of personal and public aspirations. She is Co-Director and Curator Of RECESS, and Curatorial Coordinator at the Littman & White Galleries. She is receiving her BFA from Portland State University in the spring of 2012."
Gabe Flores is the Director/Curator of PLACE & Settlement, two alternative space in the Pioneer Place Mall, which now is one of the most active and unlikely art spots in Portland. Early shows were definitely very rambling and hit or miss but things have begun to tighten up as he's figured out how to make an empty Pottery Barn store work. A native Oregonian raised in McMinnville Gabe graduated from Portland State University with a BA in History (very versatile degree for artist/curators).
What I find refreshing about Gabe is how unguarded he is about the PLACE/Settlement project. He knew he needed to learn and with each show it is apparent he has done so. That unflinching curiosity about what does and doesn't work makes him one of Portland's most valuable examples.
Kyle Thompson at 12128
Kyle Thompson hails from Prescott Arizona. He is a founder and director of 12128, an arts space in Portland on a crab fishing boat in the Willamette River (moored near Linnton). He is also an Assistant Chemistry Professor at Lewis & Clark College, and works on commercial fishing boats in the Gulf of Alaska. His practice is centered in performance and sculptural work, and is influenced by scientific thought, punk rock, and hard work. Last year his work definitely got my attention and its clear he looks at the big picture by creating such an interesting alternative space on a boat.
Avantika Bawa has been flitting in and out of Portland as a visitor for over half a decade now (even guest contributing to PORT in 2006) but in 2010 she finally laid down some more permanent roots here and even became a naturalized US Citizen just recently. She's opinionated and smart, takes no guff and has become a supportive voice of reason in Portland, which 5 years ago had too many promoter types making wild claims with too little art experience.
Avantika is an artist, curator, and educator with an MFA in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1998) and a BFA in the same from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India (1995). She was a participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2008). Most recently (2011) she curated
Hold On – Co-curated with Celina Jeffery, Gallery Maskara, Mumbai, India. In April 2004 she was part of a team that launched Drain - Journal for Contemporary Art and Culture.
She is currently Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Washington State University, Vancouver, WA and will have a solo show at Seattle's Suyama Space in May 2012.
Todd Tubutis (photo Christopher Rauschenberg)
Todd Tubutis arrived in Portland as Executive Director of Bluesky... over half a year after our first new faces in the Portland art scene post in 2009 so this is a catch up. I have to point out that the hang of Blue Sky's exhibitions have improved tremendously since Todd became Executive Director in October 2009. He joined the organization from his position as Exhibition Project Director at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. During Todd's tenure at the Field, he led the design and institutional strategy teams for more than 20 temporary and permanent exhibitions of varied scope and subject matter, including "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years-Selections from the John F. Kennedy Library," "Maps: Finding Our Place in the World," "From Prairie to Field: Photographs by Terry Evans," and "Evolving Planet." He holds a M.A. in Anthropology from the University of British Columbia, for which examined Native American participation in Jim Jarmsuch's 1996 feature film /Dead Man/.
I think Todd's presence gives the institution a greater sense of not just being Christopher Rauschenberg's pet project and that greater professionlization and delegation is a tremendous example to other aspiring mid-size institutions in town. Bluesky has grown into being one of the 3 really substantial & programmatically first rate (not just opportunistic with 1 or fewer full time employees) art presenting institutions in town. The others being PAM and the Museum of Contemporary Craft (also in the Desoto Building).
We are so impressed with her that we wanted to list Tori twice... Tori Abernathy is PORT's newest staff writer handling both our calendar and taking on other much longer feature stories. Though she's still a Reed student studying anthropology and art history (plus the already mentioned co-ordination of this years Reed Arts Week and as one of Recess' 4 co-directors) it was her focus, maturity, commitment and broader view of Portland's art ecosystem that put her at the top of my list of potential candidates. You should still send all of your Press Releases to Calendar (at) Portlandart.net... just like before. (Tori has been getting emails from this address for several weeks already).
She claims her own work, "adopts the methodologies of advertising, surveillance, city planning, and other institution to expose their limitations on individual agency while championing the capacities of human subjectivity." Which BTW sounds a lot like PORT. Watch for her posts in the near future (after Reed Arts Week is finished she'll be very present).