The Portland Art Museum has announced the 2013 Contemporary Northwest Art Awards
to be held in October; Anne Appleby (MT), Karl Burkheimer (OR), Issac Layman (WA), Abbie Miller (WY), Nickolas Nyland (WA), and Trimpin (WA). Congrats to everyone.
Well this is isn't the complete train wreck retro-list we saw last time around
but if you hunger for a true bleeding edge contemporary look at what is going on in the Northwest art this will still look dated. It is a solid if typical list as all the names here qualify as craft heavy (highlight the object) makers. That isn't a crime but it is like only eating butter and sweets and many expect more variety from a sampler like the CNAA's. Earlier this year the Tacoma Art Museum's 10th NW Biennial had lots of conceptual and experiential work... many of which needed to be plugged in to operate.
Facts are, there is a sizable amount of contemporary art that is not about calling attention to the way an object is made even if it happens to be well made. For example, most video and installation art is heavy on ideas and perception over the primacy of the object and form. The closest any of these artists comes to this kind of conceit is Layman... but his photographs are very much highly crafted simulacra that operate as the original objects. In other words this show still plays to regional stereotypes rather than challenging them, which IS a missed opportunity. Also, where is the surprise? Appleby and Trimpin are very known quantities. Does a "Contemporary" show with only 6 artists really need 2 elder statesmen? One adds depth, two says we are going with what is comfortable. Layman has already won a Betty Bowen and has a solo show up at the Frye Museum so he's the familiar ringer (on the regional awards circuit). Burkheimer is solid fixture and distinguished educator in Portland as well but also familiar and not likely to surprise anyone. That leaves Nyland and Miller who are made to look like youthful inclusions in a rather mid-career show. It just feels too stable (for fun let's say they take out Trimpin and add Kyle Thompson
, Zachary Davis and or a real darkhorse Chase Biado
and suddenly you have some wildcards and anticipation for what might happen). Stable doesn't say "Contemporary" to anyone and the fact that this is taking place in a city littered with very contemporary energy is not going to be acceptable to the new wave in town.
Another continued problem is the way the CNAA's keep turning their back on a very internationally active and youthful art scene in Portland (which is installation art and video heavy). Thus, 2013 and 2011's lists just do not seem tuned into their own back yard... perhaps it is the nomination process? Asking mid to late career arts professionals whose jobs don't put them in contact with cutting edge and new developments means you wont get a very adventurous list. Also, only being able to choose one name to nominate also slants things in a conservative direction... picking 2 or 3 names allows the nominators to throw the dice a little more.
In the end, execution matters but considering these names the exhibition will have a difficult time building any real excitement in Portland or Seattle. Overall, I still find it difficult to distinguish the APEX shows from the CNAA's. One series needs to be more adventurous than the other and that's just not the case.
TILT hearts Karl Burkheimer! Karl! Karl! Karl!