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Wednesday 01.25.17

« Post Snowpocalypse Weekend Picks | Main | First Thursday Picks February 2017 »

Dead tree media & dead horse flogging news

Old fashioned dead tree media art coverage worth reading: Oregonian, NYT's, a Judd telegraph and GQ? really?

It has been a very long time since the Oregonian has done something worth reading, but their piece on the new NW Curator Grace Kook-Anderson is a welcome bit. It hints a bit at things we discussed when she was first announced, like an inherent conservatism of form that has done little to jostle Northwest stereotypes. Among the cognoscenti we call it "chasing the train" with ideas like craft and diversity being more cautious, familiar forms than challenging provocations. Will there be any clarity in what differentiates the Apex and CNAA series? I also disagree with the O thinking the previous curators were not at fault for this. (really how so?) Gately tried to push against stereotypes at first then tired in the Portland Art Scene's very clubby, politically difficult climate and Lang-Malcolmson definitely stayed in her comfort zone (though I liked all of the often historical micro shows in her last year). Fact is, none have ever really approached Portland's turbulent scene effectively (to spread the blame, Disjecta's 2016 Biennial failed by being diffuse and lacking of thesis). Still, it was always easier for PAM to focus on Seattle while the scene here underwent extreme changes. That is why I like Grace's attitude. I've already seen her out at shows in various strata far more than any PAM curator since Terry Toedtemeier (Julia Dolan does get out but she has a narrower beat). Grace simply has the right attitude, a curious one. A curator myself (perhaps Portland's most adventurous one) I think everyone needs a chance to develop a program before passing judgement, but here is a clear observation. Overall, Portland's curatorial climate is very passive aggressive and sometimes toxically clubby (hardly alone in this assessment) so I'm already quite happy to see someone who breaks that mould. I am already convinced that Director/Chief Curator Brian Ferriso picked the best person who applied for this tricky position. Also, to stick up for them PAM does do very relevant things (Richard Mosse for example, as well as a Jenny Holzer micro show currently on the 4th floor of the Jubitz Center) but its been sporadic and not engaged with its best potential audience of hard core contemporary art practitioners, many who have national and international careers already. So far they've mostly missed the boat in their own back yard and the recent history of who made Portland what it is today goes back 20 turbulent years that requires mining along with the distant past and that which is also hopefully au coraunt.

I love this Donald Judd telegraph to his mom.

When artists ran the galleries in the New York Times. Portland doesnt have quite the same pressures but currently it is close, all without the top level gallery payoffs. I'd like to see Portland developers figure out a way to create vibrant studio and art spaces within new construction and renovations so we dont lose our diversity of activity. The trick is to celebrate it as an amenity and build it into new developments. Vancouver BC did this.

GQ profiles my colleague Jerry Saltz. True, its an odd situation for a guy who broadcasts that he shops at Kmart but I like the way it humanizes his career (he's always been very supportive of me, telling a crowd at PNCA for a PICA event in 2004 just what he thought). The typical thing when most encounter the professional kind critics or criticism is to question their motivations. Then people think a critic draws too much attention to themselves (there is a style of criticism practiced by the likes of; Baudelaire, Saltz, Matthew Collings and myself where we highlight our personal experiences as a kind of human cultural mine sweepers)... its all about being sensitive, public interlocutors. One can call critics an ideal kind of audience for art and institutions that present them or simply fools who get to make mistakes in public... it doesn't matter. The point is they bring a public history of consideration to the civic cultural process (something a single comment/opinion does not really provide). Thus most artists and gallerists misunderstand what the role of a critic like Jerry is for. Saltz isnt there to advertise your show or raise its profile. He's there to give the culture at large a kind of barometer and benchmark to navigate by. It isnt mid 20th century style journalism... its older, Herodotus style 1st person history. There are not many of us out there, so it makes established critics seem both inconsequential yet overly influential and lately there have been attempts to take Jerry and other critics down a peg. Yet with the rise of Donald Trump it became apparent that looking at things critically actually did have consequences... and now Jerry is in GQ (another sign that this is the apocalypse) We are all in it together folks... critics have a crucial civic role, we saw something was wrong with smug neoliberalism and corrosive market profiteering in art a decade+ ago. Time to sharpen up, criticism is not advertisement for commerce or one's CV it is about exploring the systems of what we produce, why it was done and how we placed value in it. It will always be a blind man's elephant but at least some critics like Saltz know there IS an elephant in the room. Ah yes, dead horse flogged... but there is a history of that in criticism.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 25, 2017 at 14:16 | Comments (0)


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