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Groundbreaking at Portland Japanese Garden
Suggested Reading
Jim Dine reading and installation
Monday Links
Lecture on Ai Weiwei
Melody Owen at Hand-Eye Supply
Monday Links
w a r e @ Surplus Space
First Thursday Picks August 2015
Get on it

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Monday 08.31.15

Groundbreaking at Portland Japanese Garden

Today, city leaders broke ground on the Portland Japanese Garden's new expansion (see the designs here). You have just over a week to catch the garden before it closes on September 8th till next Spring.

Shrine Maiden ceremony


Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 31, 2015 at 12:48 | Comments (0)


Suggested Reading

A review of a second book that is about the writing of a first book on Francis Bacon. Sometimes the art is in that which survives the transcription into history.

An excellent interview regarding a great late Barnett Newman exhibition.

Ralph Rugoff comes off as a deflecting pedant when talking about his 2015 Lyon Bienniale but the shift in taboo word of "modern" is interesting. Rugoff is a practiced contrarian when it comes to language and these festival shows are frequently intellectually capricious. In many ways he is a very right way to strip Alfred Barr's progressional timeline from what should be a very common and useful word "modern". All the School of Paris artists were trying to do is something current and yes "Modern". They didn't form salons devoted to "Modernism"... that was bill of goods the world was sold after the fall of fascist regimes involved in WWII. That's why the swipes at modernism and an attempt to rehabilitate the term is a bit of a straw man arguement.

Hyperallergic looks at writing art criticism. We at PORT see criticism as an experimental form that actually prioritizes challenging communication that embodies the challenge of communicating something about the challenge ...whew. And no academic diplo-dialects that never take a stance aren't so much... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 31, 2015 at 1:01 | Comments (0)


Friday 08.28.15

Jim Dine reading and installation

Jim Dine

Jim Dine is a legendary artist whose heart series became perhaps too popular in dorm room posters in the late 1980's and 90's. I prefer his odd pop assemblages of the late 1950's through the 60's... extremely underrepresented in the art historical cannon and on museum walls. He will be at Passages's Bookstore this weekend for a reading and book launch for Dine's, "Poems to Work On," published by Cuneiform Press. It is in the Towne Storage building (their last event there) so it is a back to roots sort of event rather than a dead museum setting.

Jim Dine Reading and Installation | August 29th 12-3PM
Passages Bookstore
17 SE Third Avenue

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 28, 2015 at 12:37 | Comments (0)


Monday 08.24.15

Monday Links

Here is a fascinating article on the arts and development/gentrification from Great Britain. Part of the problem I see with Portland's very knee jerk reaction to gentrification is the way it is prophylactic... as if change can somehow be halted. Needless to say that isn't realistic and Mayor Hales announcement last week was a step in the right direction but it needs to also incorporate the additional amenities that cultural spaces add to a displaced community that is trying to re-seed itself. Portland needs to embed cultural amenities into new development and provide the economic incentives to make it happen. Still, these re-seeded communities are kind of a consolation prize though we also need to protect those special artistic micro-ecosystems that take place in buildings. What's more the city has big red "U"-s on a lot of buildings that though not up to seismic code could be put to some use... just like artists have always done (they know the risks). Also, that means we should reward artists who take risks in Portland... for as progressive a city that we are we are programmatically very conservative on the institutional and awards level. Part of how Portland maintains a competitive edge is to help foster those artists who contribute to the "fine edge" that our city currently enjoys. Portland has to get over its phobia of individual achievement... often letting institutions from elsewhere (museums, publications, awards) be the first to give a national platform to artists from Portland.

A fascinating article on the crisis that art schools currently face, in this case San Francisco's AAU. One problem that nobody ever seems to bring up is the way fundraising for these schools do not endow specific teaching positions and programs (it is all about buildings and creating new programs rather than strengthening current ones)... that's the reason many of these schools have under experienced professors, tenure and depth of support has evaporated placing all of the pressure on enrollment.

Ah, lets get back to the art... Richard Diebenkorn was born here in Portland Oregon and here are images from his sketchbooks. He didn't grow up here in a formative way like Rothko did but we hardly need that to appreciate the seeds of his practice in his sketchbooks.

There was a little news on Converge 45, an international arts festival for Portland beginning next summer. Though the title theme "You in mind" sounds like a "curatorial selfie stick" of an umbrella idea that has been done to death already (there are far smarter concepts we could and should highlight and hopefully the component shows can rescue it from anonymity).

Here is an interesting look at Snohetta, the architecture firm that is designing the planned James Beard Market in downtown Portland. Currently that preliminary design strikes me as somewhat generic Nordic architecture but the devil is in the details of these things and I'm certain they will give it a more Portland personality. *(Hint more eclecticism that heightens the bizarre cacophony of a bazaar... Portlanders don't easily grow fond of unified textures/treatments.) Both this market project and the new Japanese Garden expansion set the bar for design in Portland (PAM & Portland Building projects take heed).

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 24, 2015 at 12:39 | Comments (0)


Saturday 08.22.15

Lecture on Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, on display at PAM (photo Jeff Jahn)

Portlanders love a good lecture and it can't hurt that wildfire smoke has made outdoor activities difficult so a lecture on Ai Weiwei by Lilian M. Li on The Zodiac Animals in the Garden of Perfect Brightness: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and Cultural Patrimony in a climate controlled museum might be just what you need this weekend. We interviewed Mr. Ai here years ago but it should be interesting to most to find out how this art piece is more of a reflection on the rest of the world's familiarity with Chinese culture than Chinese culture itself (a majority of Chinese restaurants have something related to their zodiac so instead of something like the Three Friends of Winter he parrots back a Western version Chinese culture back to the West). It's a bit like me wearing a plastic Viking helmet on the Irish Coast (something I'd never do btw)... it recalls a kind of cultural invasion/subjugation that has been turned into tourist fodder. Most non Chinese know little about their history and other shows like Margie Livingston, Gods & Heroes and Anish Kapoor make it a good time to visit the museum.

The Zodiac Animals in the Garden of Perfect Brightness: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and Cultural Patrimony
Lecture: August 23 2-3PM
Portland Art Museum
12129 SW Park Ave.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 22, 2015 at 12:44 | Comments (0)


Monday 08.17.15

Melody Owen at Hand-Eye Supply


Generally artists are most effective as speakers when they are discussing the particular and often esoteric interests that fuel their practice. That is why the latest conversation at Hand-Eye Supply, Cut Away World, with artist Melody Owen looks intriguing. For years she has collected cutaway cross-sections that reveal the anatomy of the subject... creating a kind of intimacy and an illusion of objectivity. The thing is they are essentially maps and like all maps they have a certain subjective angle or set of world view assumptions that they are derived from. I also feel this is the opening salvo of the new season in Portland (things kinda go on hiatus or at least become very "volitional" from July through mid August in Portland's art scene.)

Cut Away World | Melody Owen
Talk: August 18 6-7PM
Hand-Eye Supply
427 NW Broadway

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 17, 2015 at 14:26 | Comments (0)


Monday 08.10.15

Monday Links

Spanish artists rig ATM's to spew drachmas. Things are tense everywhere and somehow Greece, the cradle of western civilization is at the top of any attentive person's radar these days. It seems like a full circle civilization question... do people serve the system if the Kantian contract is broken between economies, governments and people? Seems like this Fall will bean social and economic roller coaster. Good that artists are inserting themselves, they are kinda the cartilage of a civilization's body.

Artists and writers creating crosstalk at the Guggenheim... hmmm. Carol Bove is probably the best of this genre at the moment, one where bookshelves are used constantly in installation art (add the extensive use of white if the artist is really gonna run with the cliche). Most writers just use art to an excuse to make words though and the writers who wish they were good artists usually just rip off Carol Bove these days (Bove is better because she isnt just a twee quotidian who makes one or two moves, there is a relationship to Giacometti that is actually more than just namedropping and posturing). Frankly, very few have done anything interesting with shelves on walls since Judd (partly because they weren't actually shelves).

Museums like the Tate are trying to engage and provide more experiences... but I think the real problem is not having enough immersive installation work. Let the Francis Bacon be a great painting (they work fine) and collect some great sensory stimulating installation art if the institution doesn't seem relevant, varied and current enough. Square peg round hole situation. Nice try but its a bit of a band-aide for a more endemic engagement/edifice problem. The art is current but the art market which defines patronage doesn't value experience as much as branded precious objects. It's a problem with Western thinking... best of luck with solving that my museum friends. Participation isn't the answer, promoting concentration and appreciation are and it takes curators who are philosophers not just ingratiator/careerists to do that.


Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 10, 2015 at 18:02 | Comments (0)


Saturday 08.08.15

w a r e @ Surplus Space


Site responsive, specific and spatially engaged art is a major part of Portland's art scene and the latest show at Surplus Space, curated by Will Elder titled "Ware" is the latest in a long string of shows. "w a r e" features works by Eli Coplan and Rose Dickson and promises to explore, "themes of spatial relations and synchronicity." This makes sense since over the past 15+ years Portland has experiece a major influx of new residents and a building boom, but the question of sucessful work isn't just "responding" to site and using space so I'm very interested in all of these shows. There are poets and philosophers of space and then there are those who simply take it up. As the planet has become quite crowded this question of space has become a defining issue for humanity.

w a r e | August 9 - 21
Opening: Sunday, August 9, 3-6PM
Closing/Panel Discussion: August 21, 7PM
Surplus Space
3726 NE 7th Ave

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 08, 2015 at 13:46 | Comments (0)


Thursday 08.06.15

First Thursday Picks August 2015


Ellen George is simply one of the very best artists in Portland... if you don't know this it is likely because she is a woman and doesn't teach/or an alumnus of one of the local art schools. She's one of the very sci-fi/design savvy artists I keep mentioning (Damien Gilley, Avantika Bawa, Laura Fritz, Jordan Tull, Paula Rebsom, Laura Hughes, Tony Chrenka, Wendy Given, MSHR, Matt Leavitt, Nathaniel Thayer Moss, Jenene Nagy, the former Appendix guys etc.) The genre is significant because they thrive on the shifting uneasy future of civilization as channeled by the Portland ethos, which isn't restricted to Portland). Also, her projects with Jerry Mayer are consistently very strong as well, and their latest "Formation" at NineGallery looks like another winner.

Formation|Jerry Mayer & Ellen George
August 5 - August 30 2015
Opening Reception: August 6th 6:00 - 9:00PM
Nine Gallery (Enter through Blue Sky Gallery)
122 NW 8th Avenue

PNCA's Low-Residency MFA in Visual Studies is one of my favorite programs in Portland and the thesis exhibition for the 2015 is something you should catch.

Drift: PNCA's Lo-Rez MFA Thesis 2015| July 30 - August 9th
First Thursday Reception: August 6th, 6:00 - 8:00PM
Regular Viewing Hours: Mon-Sat, 9am-10pm, Sunday, 10AM-6PM
Pacific Northwest College of Art| Lemelson Innovation Studio (ground floor)
511 NW Broadway

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 06, 2015 at 14:06 | Comments (0)


Saturday 08.01.15

Get on it

It is you final notice, today is the deadline to apply for the Betty Bowen award. Last year Ralph Pugay won it... a very rare thing for a Portlander to get this Seattle award despite Portland's Contemporary Northwest Art Awards' Schnitzer prize always going to Seattle artists. I chock that up to Portland's only true envy of Seattle... institutional patronage and I wish we would be less overt about it. Of course, Seattle would do well to seem less threatened as well. Just get over it. Overall, Portland and Seattle are true sister cities that find different approaches to similar concerns. Call it more sibling rivals that are all in the family than pure rivals. Lastly, the $10 application fee is still lame. Deadline: August 1st

Tomorrow is the application deadline for the Portland2016 biennial, curated by Michelle Grabner. Ive made no secret that I dislike how most of these institutional survey shows are handled and this series is no exception. It is more about an institution ingratiating itself and the artists as a collection of names, rather than anything with intellectual integrity. In other words its just the gears of a process, which produces exhibitions that don't tell us much more than a list of names. In this case that misplaced "list lust" has been consistently behind the curve... focused ob "names" who were breaking out 4 years ago (two show cycles). Michelle is a very bright old friend and I'm sure she will find a way to do something more interesting than "reheated regionalist Whitney Biennial leftover artist casserole" here. These things should pull surprises, introduce some new names etc. to be relevant and so far it hasn't had much of an effect on artists career in Portland (more like something that tagged along after the fact). Hopefully, its a good show and not just another list, the Portland art scene is far more sophisticated/dynamic than that and this is an opportunity for Disjecta to step up sophistication wise. Yes, there is an even lamer $20 entry fee. Deadline August 21st, apply here.

Just a reminder the next round Precipice Fund grants will open August 17, Deadline October 9.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 01, 2015 at 11:49 | Comments (0)

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