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Wednesday 05.02.12

« Among Friends; Joe Macca's Two Man Show at Marylhurst's Art Gym | Main | First Thursday Picks May 3rd 2012 »

WSJ asks if Portland is America's next art capital?

Peter Plagens visiting 12128 2 weeks ago

The Wall Street Journal has just published a fascinating report on the Portland art scene by noted art critic Peter Plagens. I was his Sacagawea, er... guide... so yes he's seen infinitely more of Portland's scene than DK Row (or any institutional curator besides Cris Moss and Blake Shell). So yes odds are he probably saw your show if it was up two weeks ago in an established venue. Plagens is a machine and a tough discerning customer who doesn't buy any BS. The first day alone we took in 9 shows scattered throughout the city. There will be some images in the print edition tomorrow but let's just take a quick once over the words right now.

Nice that he reiterated the "Capital of Conscience" term that I coined in an Op Ed for the Portland Tribune a few months ago. Because Portland is not a financial capital, NO we wont be a traditional art center like London, New York or Paris of yore. Instead, think of Portland like Weimar during during the Bauhaus years or perhaps Leipzig (the best 25 artists are definitely world class discoveries to be made, maybe only 6 are already known in Chelsea). Overall Portland is full of idealistic people doing idealistic things for the sake of ideals... giving things time to develop before money kicks in and changes things (for good and bad). Portland is a rebel base where art for art's sake is made. We have international art stars who live here too because it is a good environment to work and enjoy the company of other like mindeds.

Accurate in that it discussed Portland as a city where creatives work very hard... not just a bunch of slow paced hipsters who are already retired and eat Voodoo Donuts. The truth is most are working very hard to stay afloat and make work... yet some are carrying on an international career.

It is true, the alternative spaces are so much more adventurous than the commercial galleries... that could be said of most cities but it's my sense that many retreated quite far in 2008 when the market crashed. Instead of trying to drum up excitement by trying new artists (when nothing was selling anyways) they went for safer stuff. Honestly that makes sense, the gallery business is so difficult but perhaps this article will catalyze a way to narrow the schizm? Collectors might be more involved if they knew what Portland's larger scene was like? As it stands Plagens has seen more of Portland than most Portland collectors, curators and art dealers and he's right the installation art and some video is our strongest suit.

He loved Crystal Schenk's Artifacts of Memory (the last show we saw) and Laura Fritz's Entorus (he spent an hour with it... 45 minutes in silence), because frankly they are two superlative exhibitions that outclass everything but the Rothko show at PAM (yeah that good). They would stand out in Chelsea and you can still catch them both, do so. *(update, both closed now)

He gives Joe Macca... hell. It's karma time Joey??? PORT's Patrick Collier just reviewed Macca's show too, and didn't go easy on him. He did think Ralph Pugay was hilarious so there you go.

Yes he went to PICA, Reed, PNCA, Portland2012, Worksound, Gallery Homeland and PCC Sylvania (bought a t-shirt for the gym) but not PAM (his trip was pretty focused on alt spaces). He did miss PLACE (in Pioneer Square Mall), Half/Dozen and Milepost 5 etc... one cant hit everything. Lewis and Clark College was a "well we are close to it so let's go" that he ended up digging... L&C's visitor parking is terrible and we were on a schedule so didn't have time to walk 200 yards to the meter and back. Luckily we didn't get a ticket. Basically, it was his call where to go. He toured the Pearl District with nothing but a PADA guide (I didn't need to show him around that area, it isn't hard to navigate like the alt spaces and university galleries are). Besides who wants to spend THAT much time with me?

Yes the arts vote matters for whomever becomes mayor... candidates... I've been too busy to engage you much but that will change in the next few hours... check your inboxes soon... *Update None of these 3 will get 51% so after this primary we will engage the two candidates left standing.

Mr. Robert Dugay may go down as Portland's most heralded non-existent artist, but Ralph Pugay will probably make something of this gaff.

I'll add more here as I think of it.

*Update: First of all I think the article revealed the various often unrelated stata in Portland's difficult to pigeonhole scene and even those alt space people not in the article felt it really rang true. Some artists clearly calibrate their work for a national audience and expectations (Schenk, Fritz, Pugay, Speer) others are playing the Portland game. I think the article was important in how it pointed out those two camps. The point being Portland's profile is so high internationally now that it odd when our commercial galleries and other institutions program as if nobody is watching but those from their own back yard. My message for 13 years has been... be ready. Well were you ready? Also the strata that doesn't know the score needs to fix that.

Speaking of strata. It is hilarious that the hopelessly irrelevant Oregonian thinks Plagens is a blogger... No, he's one of the world's top critics (you embarrass me)... do your due diligence, he wrote Sunshine Muse and knows the early stages (and greatest stages) of LA's art scene in the 60's and 70's intimately. He was also was here multiple times during the heyday of the PCVA. He's also capable of conversing more about the Portland of right now more than the entire staff of the Oregonian combined. You've been PWND, lick your wounds and learn something. Your article revealed how the Oregonian IS one of the weak links in Portland... I sincerely wish it wasn't.

Something we can learn from this is the fact that these alternative spaces and non-commercial university galleries are what the international art world is interested in. Currently RACC and the OAC do not directly support the Alt spaces at all (funding a specific artist's show one every year or two at such a space doesn't count, Im talking operational support). Besides the alt spaces are better at choosing who is worth giving support to than any RACC/OAC committee is anyways.

Instead of Making RACC/OAC (neither of which has ever personally awarded me a grant in 9 tries over 13 years... Note, I actually get paid to sit on national level grant panels) I suggest finding a way to vet certain alt spaces with a committee then disperse even token amounts of money to them $500-5000 depending on the scope of the operation would be of incredible help and the kind of validation or attaboy that they require to persevere. Right now it's just benign neglect but that isn't good enough... Houston lured Paul Middendorf of Gallery Homeland away.

Im not trying to be harsh but I want Portland to take this opportunity to learn what it's true successes, strengths/weaknesses are and act accordingly. Mayoral candidates... this subject is a microcosm of what you will need to be a great mayor.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on May 02, 2012 at 14:53 | Comments (2)


hey Portland, so sorry I am, I guess, in the dark. See you when I see you.

Posted by: Mack McFarland [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 9, 2012 06:51 PM

Stop Jerkin our Chain...

Posted by: TCK [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 11, 2012 07:46 PM

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