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Tuesday 10.29.13

« Monday Links | Main | Ann Hamilton Weekend »

Portland2014 list analysis

The Portland2012 Biennial was a failure mostly because nearly everyone was in it except the most exciting group of artists in town (all associated with the alt spaces Appendix, Worksound or both), it didn't discover anyone new, it was in too many locations and was installed incredibly poorly at the two largest spaces (Art Gym and Disjecta).

The list for 2014 by LA curator Amanda Hunt should address some of those problems by including some of the scene's favorite practitioners who were noticeably absent last time but there aren't many women on this list:

Zachary Davis (cofounder Appendix)
Modou Dieng (founder Worksound) and Devon A. Vanhouten-Maldanado(Worksound)
Alex Mackin Dolan (curator Appendix)
Travis Fitzgerald (Appendix)
Jessica Jackson Hutchins
Evan La Londe
Ellen Lesperence
D.E. May
Christopher Michlig and John Zerzan
Personal Libraries Library
Publication Studio (often thought of as Appendix's publishing arm)
Ralph Pugay (Worksound)
Kelly Rauer
Blair Saxon-Hill
Richard Thompson

Like a lot of institutions who do regional survey shows it is more than a little aimed at ingratiating the institution into the artist's scene and their contacts. It is a perfectly valid strategy that even the Whitney Biennial engages in... but what that show (and the old Oregon Biennial) also did was serve as talent scouts that in turn launched careers (making the show matter). In the case of this and the 2012 iteration, almost every single artist already has a reputation that precedes them in town or beyond... and keeps this show from making any new discoveries (the best thing any show like this can hope to achieve). Overall, it is good that Hunt must have worked specifically to add the Appendix and Worksound cadres to the list and Jessica Jackson Hutchins is a fine headliner to anchor the show. Still, it looks backwards as this list would have been current in 2010 or at least fresher in 2012.

If Portland2014 manages to be well installed I can see it being a fine show and the list certainly puts the Portland Art Museum's current CNAA 2013 awards in a different light (that well installed effort looks very 80's or 90's compared to something that is just mildly behind the curve like this list).

Who would have improved this list? Recent standout grads like Matthew Leavitt, Derek Bourcier, Paul Clay, Zoe Clark or Stephanie Simek would all be wild cards nobody would see coming. How about a few of the legion of artists that continue to move to Portland and are not affiliated with any local university, gallery or alt space? As it stands most of this already approved list has been extensively curated, awarded and written about.

Perhaps it is just the growing frustration that Portland art institutions are always years (sometimes decades) behind the curve that irks so many? Credit where due, it is a good list that nods to earlier curatorial efforts and reviews but it doesn't facilitate the newness and sense of discovery that such a biennial effort in a dynamic art scene could and should ideally achieve. Maybe I ask too much but somebody has to say it...

Since the passing of the Oregon Biennial the only show that has taken on this role of talent scout is the Tacoma Art Museum's Northwest Biennial, which though hardly perfect... at least adds a sense of movement rather than a close knit knot that is ever tightening rather than discovering new talent (a problem with smaller cities). Thankfully venues like Place, Recess, Falsefront, 12128 and we here at PORT all still make a point of being talent scouts now that Worksound and Appendix are gone. As it stands everyone on this list has some sort of major institutional or hard core constituency associated with them and it is good to keep some stepping stones out there for unknowns.

Still, if Portland2014 can manage to be well installed and present new work that ups the ante for many of these artists it will be a welcome change. Whereas, if the artists just phone it in as yet another group show designed to draw a crowd of their friends then it will just be more of the same. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.


Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 29, 2013 at 13:04 | Comments (0)


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