Well, finally they've done something potentially "whelming" with Disjecta's Portland 20##Biennial series, which has always been more about the institution's aspirations than anything else. The 2016 version will be curated by Michelle Grabner
, 2014 co-curator of the Whitney Biennial and someone I've known since she was in grad school. Grabner has a knack for getting past the sometimes juvenile local politics so she should well equipped to deal with those chasing the Whitney effect. She will need it as previous biennials have been more social gatherings than strong shows
. Rather than probing looks at what an art scene in Portland constitutes/means they have been adept at showing us things we are already incredibly familiar with throughout the year before and the works themselves never seem to standout (rushed time frame and a sense of low stakes). Other challenges are the fact that the previous versions have included so many artists that this one will likely be forced to finally present new discoveries (something sorely missing previously) and group shows at Disjecta always seem to lose the plot (making the shows at commercial galleries a questionable practice and a caste system step up from the host venue). An outside curator is a good idea, but like their curator in residence program it also means they come in not knowing the terrain. Lately though, Disjecta's group shows have improved to reach unmemorable status (the last biennial mentioned craft but didn't go any deeper than checking off a local buzzword that is both fetished and pushed back at). This scene has been asking for better since 2010 and Michelle might be one of the few capable of pulling off something sophisticated enough to pay attention to. Besides, we cheeseheads tend to call it like it is so I'm curious what Michelle will make of the legendary Portland style passive aggressive tendencies. Also, here is a more exhaustive analysis of why and how local surveys and awards miss the mark, it is older but everything still holds
. We haven't had an institutional survey that took chances and yet made an impact since the 2006 Oregon Biennial at PAM
. As always, execution will matter most in the end... if the institution, curator and artists don't really take care and just let "the process" drive the result, it will resemble itself like these things often do. She has the backbone to counter the false more is more strategy they have been using and being an artist and not just a curator should help her. The question remains why both locals and outsiders have bun unable to contend with the scene here, which has become both increasingly local and international at the same time? Portland in general is tired of being reduced to catchphrases.
I'm shocked but pleased that even the Oregonian's editorial board is seeing the need to preserve important architecture like the Memorial Coliseum and the Portland Building
. We've argued for this constantly for the past decade
... and no the fact that TLC is required and they are architecturally notable is not lost in the cross talk... it is the cross talk.
Barbara Hepworth gets her due in Britain
Francesco Clemente is back in a big way at Mass MOCA
A look at Art Basel's influential jury
in the NYT's.
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