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
. There is also the issue of choosing the same artists over and over again because the selection committees seem to rotate members throughout the region (understandable but it leads to foregone conclusions because these same selectors choose those they are most comfortable with... rather than those that challenge their tastes and assumptions). The 10th NW Biennial at the Tacoma Art Museum (disclosure I was an exhibitor) did have too many artists but at least it brought lots of new names to the Northwest on an institutional platform.
Lastly, most of these shows are installed horrendously (PAM's CNAA's may be safe as safe can be but at least it is well installed, whereas Portland 2012 was a terrible muddle... making even good work look bad at 2 of the largest venues).
Overall, it sets up a schism... do you play to regional tastes (overtly hand crafted?) and politics or do you play the international game based on sophistication? In Portland at least, the most cutting edge artists see regional institutional organs, except PICA and The Henry's Brink Awards as places of benign neglect. Most really aren't out there looking for the next new thing or the artists producing the strongest, most compelling work and are looking more at their own programmatic arc. Most damning, in Portland I rarely see institutional curators at alternative space shows (Kristan Kennedy, Blake Shell, Cris Moss and Mack McFarland excepted) while outsiders like Peter Plagens can claim to have seen far more than most
. Instead, institutions from outside the region seem to be paying closer attention... at least to Portland's scene (lots of studio visits this year folks). Thus, artists get their big breaks at major institutions elsewhere. Until, the regional presenters make a point of being great talent scouts I'd say that yes there is a stream... but how is the water pressure?
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