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Interview with Kengo Kuma
Holiday Links
Weekend Links
Blair Saxon-Hill talk at PSU
Susan Seubert Talk
Tuesday Links: Museum Building Edition
On Understanding and Being Understood: Interview with Anna Craycroft
Dana Schutz and Ryan Johnson Talk
Sean Healy's Smudge at Pacific University
Streams and or support?
Monday Links
Weekend Picks Youth Edition

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Thursday 11.28.13

Interview with Kengo Kuma

Portland has many connections to Japan including; intensive volcanism, a climate with ample moisture, earthquakes, tsunami and of course a strong Japanese community. Still, it is Portland's world class Japanese Garden that truly seems to transport us to another culture (see the current Samurai show at PAM then visit the garden for a complete day of immersion).

Kengo Kuma

In 2010 we were thrilled that Kengo Kuma was chosen as the architect for the expansion of the Japanese Garden. He is perhaps the world's foremost architect of subtlety and materiality. Frankly, most of the other famous architects I've spoken to revere his work in much the same way guitarists like Eric Clapton and George Harrison would speak of Jimi Hendrix. His work is startling for its unpretentious clarity while still being adventurous. As a bridge between Japanese tradition and the (global) future he perhaps has no equal in architecture. He is considered a philosopher of the site and his buildings always integrate themselves rather than stand out as context-less novelties.

In October I had the rare privilege of speaking with Kengo Kuma and his Project Manager for the Portland Japanese Garden's expansion, Balazs Bognar. We all left feeling as though something significant had come out of it.

Great (Bamboo) Wall (photo Satoshi Asakawa, courtesy Kengo Kuma and Associates)

JJ: I could ask you about so many of your projects, the Great (Bamboo) Wall is fantastic in the way the semi transparent bamboo walls seem to make the walls hover in space. But perhaps the Wooden Bridge Museum is the one with the most connection to Portland's project since they are both on steep mountainsides forming an enclave that draws people up the slopes and they both have a similar wooden lattice overlay.

Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum (photo Takumi Ota, courtesy Kengo Kuma and Associates)

KK: The Wooden Bridge Museum... the site is a very deep mountain with a small village. The main industry of the village is forest products and as the forest industry of Japan is getting worse and worse so they develop some new designs which activates the new forest industries... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 28, 2013 at 23:07 | Comments (0)


Monday 11.25.13

Holiday Links

We will have an amazing interview for you to digest before and after Turkey Day this week but till then here are some links:

One of my favorite critics Matthew Collings interviews Swedish painter Hilma Af Klint. It is on the spiritual and art... and the interview is... surprisingly, great.

At what average age do most great artists start to enter their most productive and influential age.... about 42 according to this. Yet in the US most attention is paid to the very youthful (under 27) and the quite old 69+. That productive mature middle area isn't all that neglected in Oregon, which seems to focus on the same mid career names over and over again (perhaps too much for a place swimming in new talent who are often focusing on showing outside of Portland).

Curators Bacigalupi and Alligood have already been through Portland a while ago but they are in LA this week working on the rather ambitious State of the Art exhibition, a survey of contemporary US art. I like the "boots on the ground" approach they are taking because it gets one out of their institutional bubbles. One thing is for sure... it will have to be exceptionally good (ie not fomulaic and predictable) in the way most "toss off" regional art surveys tend to become (cheap blockbusters to draw eyes and attendance). The connection to Walmart only ups the ante here. To be relevant it can't afford to merely ok or capriciously acceptable the way that things like The Whitney Biennial tends to be... ie put a ton of artists in the room and 2-3 stand out. Instead, if this actually produces great work and new names that we will remember 15-50 years from now it will be worth it. Also, depending how rigorous/adventurous it is I might like their approach of teasing out art historical threads using tropes in "American" art (the Whitney is a little like American Idol). If they go bold it will give the project weight and that shock of the new that is often missing in surveys. If it is conservative it will contend with massive indifference or worse. Right now the art world is VERY distracted by the commotion of commerce but I've found that great work, if given a chance and a few resources makes the best case for itself. By using their own curatorial staff this project is putting the institution's fledgling (with huge endowments) reputation on the line... when is the last time any major museum had the guts to do that?

Quitting NYC at age 24... Part of what I like best about Portland is that nobody sees this city as an endgame.... its a rebel base that is supportive with a lot of great people that one can manage. Perhaps it is healthier to consider no one place a defining destination?

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 25, 2013 at 10:11 | Comments (0)


Friday 11.22.13

Weekend Links

The LA times considers JFK as arts patron in chief...

Can formalism be political?

I love this half invisble shed in the desert... not as wild about the night time lighting but during the day this is just an outstanding project.

On KBOO Eva lake conducted a discussion of women in the visual arts... some provocative things here. *Note if you look at PORT over the last 12 articles (what we have on our mainpage: 4 images feature women artists, and 4 feature men. The two major articles are split between 1 man (Sean Healy) and one woman (Anna Craycroft).

Gender equality is a complicated issue to be sure... The 2014 Whitney Biennial wont have very many women and Jerry Saltz ruminated on the MoMA problem with women earlier this week. It is a hot topic that opens a local can of worms too. For Hallie ford fellows only 5 out of the 12 awardees have been women (I'd guess about 60% of the active/highly eligible artists in Oregon are women) and the Portland2014 biennial is far lower than that. The CNAA's this year only have 2 women in the 5 person field though last time around 4 out of the 6 were women. For the Betty Bowen awards this year no women were selected. What gives?

Well, for one the gallery system favors men and even though most of the galleries around here do not represent many installation and video artists (a majority are women) they seem to be given precedence in determining who gets awards and into surveys (only 1 of the already scarce woman in the Portland2014 survey is unrepresented, whereas many of the men are not). Seemingly every detail and distinction is fraught with peril, for example the premise around the last ladies only survey was, well... annoying to many women as Amy's review made clear (language like swelling bodies in the essay made it seem like motherhood or potential thereof was somehow necessary). It is a complex discussion that involves the art market, questions regarding self promotion, cliques and whether the response to art is simply too sensationalized (around money and dude-style attention stunts) to give the most worthy female artists their due? Clearly Madonna and Lady Gaga do just fine in music but visual art as a field certainly favors men, even when a majority of gate keepers (curators, gallerists, critics) seem to be women (like they are in Portland).

Ana Mendieta... did things her way

Yet all is not lost... Isa Genzken will have a looooooong overdue survey at MoMA. I prefer her to Gerhard Richter any day.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 22, 2013 at 17:19 | Comments (0)


Thursday 11.21.13

Blair Saxon-Hill talk at PSU

Installation view of From the Beginning (Yet Further On) (photo Jeff jahn)

In support of her exhibition at PSU's Littman Gallery titled, From the Beginning (Yet Further On) the whip smart Blair Saxon-Hill will give a talk on her work Friday November 22 at 6:00 at Portland State University's Shattuck Hall. She's clearly influenced by influential art history so parsing this exhibit should be like visiting old friends.

The exhibition is on view November 14 - December 12

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 21, 2013 at 18:54 | Comments (0)


Tuesday 11.19.13

Susan Seubert Talk


The latest of the Art Clark lecture series is award winning photographer Susan Seubert. Seubert has recieved both an Eisenstaedt Award and an International Photography Award and exhibited in the 2009 Northwest Biennial at the Tacoma Art Museum, among other things.

Artist talk | PUB 161
November 20th from 7 to 8PM
Clark College>br> 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver WA

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 19, 2013 at 20:18 | Comments (0)


Tuesday Links: Museum Building Edition

David Chipperfield's new Jumex Museum seems like a cross between Renzo Piano and Louis Kahn, which sounds rather ideal. Still it is yet another white box within a marble box, which also seems a tad backwards thinking just like Moneo's MFAH wing did at the time. Still, it is definitely nice and this interview with Chipperfield with good images seems to lay out the architectural thought space for the project nicely.

Jerry Saltz and Justin Davidson discuss the new Queens Museum in this entertaining exchange... really is Queens the New Brooklyn? The fact that they don't feel like the museum speaks to the youthful energy flooding into Queens is a Problem. Portlanders can relate.

Museums have gone through a building boom in the past decade and a half but the best new projects seem to be far more egalitarian and more flexible in program... coupled with strong curatorial voice that is equally flexible. The question is simply, does this building look to a future it cannot predict or is a bunker for the past? Overall, I have a hard time finding a better institutional model than the Des Moines Art Center whose director I interviewed earlier this year.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 19, 2013 at 10:34 | Comments (0)


Sunday 11.17.13

On Understanding and Being Understood: Interview with Anna Craycroft

The opening lines of the press release for Anna Craycroft's C'mon Language reads "C'mon Language is an exhibition in pursuit of an artistic vocabulary." In conversation, Craycroft indicates that she had never intended to create a community. Instead, the exhibit operates as an immersive inquiry into epistemology, pedagogy, and delivery. Drawing corollaries between alternative educational approaches and the artists' creative practice, she built a space for participants to explore how they/we/I might 'make ourselves understood'. Brooklyn-based artist Anna Craycroft's work plays with the symbols and methods employed within different didactic spaces. Craycroft received her MFA from Columbia University School of Arts in 2004 and her BFA from the Slade school in 1998. I had the pleasure of speaking with Craycroft one Friday morning in September as the exhibition was preparing for its culminating presentation.

C'mon Language, Installation View, Anna Craycroft, 2013, photo by Jeff Jahn

TA: It seems like the guiding question here is ‘How do we make ourselves understood’ so maybe that’s a good place to start. Who do you see as the ‘we’ in that question and to whom are we making ourselves understood?

AC: In this case the word ‘we’ actually means ‘I’. The structure of the sentence sets up a reflexivity - the ‘we’ applying to the process of ‘making ourselves’ – that replaces collectivity with plurality. The question frames the question ‘how do I make myself?’ as a like effort to be performed independently by multiple individuals side by side.

TA: As a provocation, the question presumes some barriers to understanding-

AC: -limitations, I would say-

TA: -yeah, limitations. I’m wondering what some of those might be and how you or some of the others involved have tried to negotiate that here.

AC: Any vocabulary or lexicon has a set of components. It’s limited for practical purposes, but there’s always the potential to expand. The question of ‘how’ is more of a process of accumulating options or alternatives or existing forms rather than pointing out their limitations. The how is kind of equivalent to saying what are all of the different ways in which-

TA: -we might make ourselves-

AC: -we attempt to make ourselves understood...


Posted by Tori Abernathy on November 17, 2013 at 8:40 | Comments (0)


Friday 11.15.13

Dana Schutz and Ryan Johnson Talk

Dana Schutz, Reformers (2004)

November has had a glut of great art talks (including Josiah McElheny and Lynne Cooke this Saturday) but the latest of OCAC's Connections series with Dana Schutz and Ryan Johnson at the Portland Art Museum is a must attend for any figurative painter or sculptor working in Portland.

Schutz, one of the world's top painters (and a hoot btw) is known for her somewhat apocalyptic, tragicomic scenarios while Johnson explores a slightly similar existential comedy in 3d... the two have been in conversation for a long time and should make for an engaging talk.

Dana Schutz & Ryan Johnson
November 18th | 7:00PM
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 15, 2013 at 16:31 | Comments (0)


Thursday 11.14.13

Sean Healy's Smudge at Pacific University

Sean Healy's Beer Breath

It has been over 2 years since Oregon has been treated to a Sean Healy exhibition and Smudge, by virtue of the fact that it is a non-commercial show is perhaps the artist's most satisfying effort to date.

With its smart graphic and material sensibilities that... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 14, 2013 at 13:36 | Comments (0)


Wednesday 11.13.13

Streams and or support?

Tonight The Portland Art Museum is convening a panel to discuss the "streams of support" that Northwest institutions provide for artists. The tough question is do these institutions simply use the artists to create attendance and a job for themselves or do they catalyze challenging work and make it possible? Yes and No... it depends which one you are talking about but none of them should ever charge artists for their consideration.

Something oddly defensive and prophylactic always happens at these regional art panels and I've discussed this kind of navel gazing at length here before... it is the definitive post on the situation, including the 10 ways regional survey shows fail. It also stands true for art awards.

More recently, the Betty Bowen and Portland2014 lists have drawn a bit of criticism for heavily featuring men and not so many women... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 13, 2013 at 17:05 | Comments (0)


Monday 11.11.13

Monday Links

John Yau is right about Karl Wirsum, read his review.

Tyler re-reports that the Dia co-founders are now officially suing the Dia over their plan to auction off Cy Twombly's Poems. As we have discussed before, Poems isn't some redundant piece... it is a crucial Twombly work that any museum would want badly. At the same time I see why Dia Director Phillipe Vergne would want the cash to do more current things at the Dia... but there should be another way. Can't the Dia live in the present and be a steward of its past? Why the last resort move?

50 bits of advice from Wim Wenders. Good for everyone to read, not just filmmakers.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 11, 2013 at 11:16 | Comments (0)


Friday 11.08.13

Weekend Picks Youth Edition

Last Spring recent PNCA grad Matthew Leavitt got my attention with his PDX Window Project as a promising artist to watch. Tonight he opens a show caled Inviolate promising, "Fine textures and materials. Hanging. Purple."

Inviolate | November - December 2013
Reception: November 8 7-9PM
Ristretto Roasters
3808 N Williams Ave.

Tony Chrenka is another one of those promising young artists worth paying attention to and he has turned his new apartment into a gallery for a day. I like the pluck.

Here is his PR statement, "It is going to be bright saturday. Don't you think it will simply be a great day to view art. A warm home with a warm hearth, and a large picture window with diffused light streaming through. There is a view to the east of Mt. Tabor. Looking to the interior of the apartment you will notice an arrangement of sculptures, paintings, and friends. They are all shuffling around on the shag carpet, orbiting the sculptures with sun tea in their hand. Joining them will be simple. Take the pressure off (osmosis). It is saturday afternoon after all."

New Apartment and New Work | November 9th
Reception: 2:00PM to sundown
47th and Stark Apartment 8

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 08, 2013 at 13:42 | Comments (0)


Thursday 11.07.13

First Thursday Picks November 2013

November is a very short month for art exhibitions but it packs serious cultural firepower this year. For example, as a continuation of last month's top pick, be certain to check out MSHR's collaborative phase 2 of Brenna Murphy's show at Upfor. Here's what else is new:


Ann Hamilton's Stylus.Hand

Gallerist Elizabeth Leach can do great things when she focuses and Ann Hamilton has always been an artist she has spoken about passionately. Though Hamilton is more known for epic and immersive installations she also has a knack for poetic objects. This is the must check out show this month.

Ann Hamilton | a reading
November 2, 2013 - January 11, 2014
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
417 NW 9th


Somewhat related to Ann Hamilton in their unrelenting literalness, conceptual pranksters Ryan Wilson Paulsen and Anna Grey take on the institution of institutions in their latest show A Series of Rectangles. It looks like their most focused work in years.

RYANNA | A Series of Rectangles
November 5 - 30, 2013
PDX Contemporary Art
925 NW Flanders


Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 07, 2013 at 10:45 | Comments (0)


Bridge naming bailiwicks, Rothko?

Peter Korn over at the Portland Tribune sure had a great time writing this piece on potential names* for the exciting new pedestrian and transit bridge designed by Donald MacDonald. Everyone seemed to pick someone from their experience, Mayor Hales wanted a politician (seriously?) and I've forwarded Mark Rothko. I have no idea why Steve Novick wants more Simpsons character names associated with Portland (it seems redundant but if pressed I like Lisa better than most other options, though its still a cop out when Portland's most famous son continues to go unheralded).

Rothko, as Portland's most accomplished/famous resident is the most serious bridge naming choice as I've detailed here and you can learn about his relationship to Portland in this important post. You can vote here.

Trimet used a somewhat older photo, the undeveloped areas have been filling in fast (all the more reason to dig up this history)

Overall, I like the idea of an artist who happens to be the the most celebrated person to ever live in Portland... a person that some of old-school Portlanders spend a great deal of energy trying to forget, could get his due in the place he grew up? I have no idea if it will work but I'm all for putting our best case forward and it has traction. Rothko lived to the highest of his ideals and his work showed that commitment. He suffered here in character forming ways, had his first solo show at the Portland Art Museum and lived near, worked under and painted Portland's bridges. It's an appropriate honor considering the possibility of a Rothko Museum in Portland is financially improbable.

2012 Rothko retrospective at the Portland Art Museum (photo Jeff Jahn)

School children should grow up knowing a great painter grew up here and though last years Rothko retrospective at the Portland Art Museum did accomplish those goals for a short time a more lasting acknowledgement, one that could also tell the story of how a young struggling Russian immigrant Jew and outsider who made good is a powerful thing.

It is also a simple acknowledgement in a city of artists and designers that doesn't seek to do anything other than understand itself through its most accomplished resident. Portlanders have a hard time with greatness, so this is more a test for Portland than for Rothko.

Overall, Rothko always seems to challenge and polarize people and in Portland this bridge has become a new way for us to reassess ourselves and examine what we value.

*Note, Rothko was never arrested for public nudity when camping in Washington park... merely rousted by Portland Police for that reason.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 07, 2013 at 1:00 | Comments (2)


Tuesday 11.05.13

Wednesday doings


Pacific University's Katherin Cawien Gallery presents Sean Healy's first solo show in the Portland area in over two years. Titled Smudge, the work according to Healy, "is fabricated from cigarettes, beer, and ash. It is about vice, the youthful belief in invincibility, and the inevitable consequences of the merging of those two volatile elements."

Smudge | November 6-26, 2013
Opening Reception: November 6, 4-5PM
Kathrin Cawein Gallery of Art (Scott Hall)
Pacific University
2125 College Way, Forest Grove, Or


PSU's MFA Lecture Series is one of the strongest in Portland and this Wednesday Amanda Ross Ho discusses her work, which is often concerned with detritus, clutter and negative space (or lack thereof). She has exhibited at MOCA and MoMA, two of the world's greatest art hoarders.

Amanda Ross Ho | November 6, 2013
Artist Talk: 7-9PM | Shattuck Hall Annex
Portland State University
entrance is on SW Hall at Broadway

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 05, 2013 at 12:58 | Comments (0)


Monday 11.04.13

Monday Links

Billions in Nazi looted "Degenerate Art"... aka modern art has been found.

Arch Daily looks at the top light festivals and the way they activate cityscapes.

FBC looks at the Mike Kelley retrospective.

Seldom do museums put out internet content as intriguing as what the Tate has done here for Paul Klee.

and last but not least here is Mike Rathbun's entertaining talk for his large scale show at the Archer Gallery.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 04, 2013 at 0:58 | Comments (0)


Friday 11.01.13

Friday Links

I've updated the both very popular and controversial post on the Rothko bridge naming. I see it as cutting a provincial gordian knot... so many (especially those who have been in Portland a long time) put a lot of effort into denying that the city's most famous and accomplished resident ever lived here or had any real connection. The sentiment doesn't hold up to the facts and illustrates why Portland has a hard time acknowledging highly ambitious people (provincialism). It is a good thing to get over.

What the demolition of Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago can teach us for the preservation of historic modernist buildings.

...apparently this Levis artist train non event was such an epic fail, that I'm only just now hearing about it. It is a good study in how not to promise an art extravaganza only to produce a series of video interview stump speeches.

In case you haven't heard Chistine D'Arcy is out as head of the Oregon Arts Commission... "something" has been brewing for a while and the question is whether further changes would strengthen or weaken an already strong program? The arts community is very concerned because it doesn't seem to be driven by anything from the arts community (which means it is likely political... hmmm).

Posted by Jeff Jahn on November 01, 2013 at 12:24 | Comments (0)

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