It is that time again the 2016 Contemporary Northwest Art Awards and according to the video above there is a subtext of welcoming those who were not born in the USA featuring the work of; Willem Volkersz, Samantha Wall, Victoria Haven, Lead Pencil Studio (Daniel Mihalyo and Annie Han), Dana Lynn Louis, Helen O'Toole and Akio Takamori. So, will that chamber of commerce kind of ideation be enough to head off the oft repeated nickname of the Conservative Northwest Art Awards? True, many artists in the Northwest are from elsewhere but there is also a tradition of rewarding those who don't shake things up so much... even when Portland and Seattle are dynamic places. True, Seattle's top troublemaker Jack Daws won the Betty Bowen award last year but that should have happened a decade ago! Overall, we may be welcoming but for whatever reason we don't rock the boat much at the institutional level with few surprises. Usually it is just a lot of Northwest cliches of like nature, craft and figuration without much interrogation of what kind of nature, craft and figuration? At the same time so many artists have international careers so I ask, why? Frankly most group surveys have a similar problem where the announcement of the list overwhelms the actual exhibition time and again. Maybe this one will be different? These were initially designed to be like the SECA awards.
The show is curated Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art and curatorial advisor Jessica Hunter-Larsen, curator of IDEA Space, Interdisciplinary Experimental Arts, at Colorado College. The show is Laing-Malcolmson's last exhibition and it is somewhat of an impossible job... especially when your own back yard has the most adventurous art scene with conservative collectors who are not very involved. Each year though Laing-Malcolmson has moved PAM in the right direction, question is if they can replace her with someone both dynamic and convincing enough to move the needle reflecting the tectonic changes we have undergone?