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Sunday 10.28.18

Spooky reviews

Even though every day in Portland is Halloween, October has some of the best shows of the year. Perhaps it is because the bar has already been raised? Here are some short reviews I suggest you check out (yes the big Portlandaggddon essay is coming soon):

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Far Right Nancy Grossman's Cob I, at PAM's Modern American Realism from the Smithsonian Museum

Perhaps one would expect a show titled Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian's Sara Roby Collection to be about staid Americana but the opposite is true. In fact one could just as easily call this American Surrealism. The iconic Edward Hopper has such a mood, Louise Nevelson's work is like a gothic child of surrealist assemblage and wood from the first portion of the industrial revolution and Paul Cadmus owes a lot to Georgio de Chirico with its long shadowed architectural arcades. Jack Levine's Inauguration is a surreal fantasy combining three separate presidents being sworn in, playing with the electorate's projections of the assumption of power. But the best cases are Nancy Grossman's Cob I and Theodore Roszak's works which all the Goth's are gonna Love.

The exhibition is full of first rate works coming from the Smithsonian and it is a wonderful reminder of how wierd American Realism can be.. and still is. It is a national strength, the acceptance of so many alternate realities and it is a perfect show for these scary times and looming election, whatever your politics.

Modern American Realism | October 20 2018 - April 28 2019
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park



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Work by Sonnenberg, Dwyer, Endo and Maldonado

I Say, "Radical!" You Say, "Feminist!" is one of those shows about gender, identity and the human body that you'd think had been done a million times in the Portland area, but in fact I havent seen this sort of edgy survey of artists working in the subject attempted in a very long time. Way to keep a keener edge 'Couv and people who are really fired up should find it to their tastes.

At the Archer you will find a who's who of up and comers as well as experienced guides like: Roz Crews, Kelly Bjork, Wynde Dyer, Emily Endo, Alexa Feeney, Klara Glosova, Junko Iijima, Tyler Mackie, Victor Maldonado, Patricia Melton, Matthew Offenbacher, Alyson Provax, Kelly Rauer, Maggie Sasso, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Ann Leda Shapiro, Naomi Shersty, Alisa Sikelianos-Carter, Anthony Sonnenberg, Alexander Wurts. Though to tell the truth they could probably restage the show every year for 5 years without using the same names. The thing is the show seems to be actually curating work that invigorates and bounces off each other... none of the old, "who can humblebrag the best" that has become a cul-de-sac of tepid liberal elite thinking. With today's news nothing could be more relevant than visiting this show.

That said the exhibition is a bit overhung and some of the best works are in too much competition for space. The highlights include Anthony Sonnenberg's big sparkly naked men, Victor Maldonado's Lucha Chapel, Alexander Wurts's festive Current Vibe video, Junko Iijima's big pink fabric adventures, Naomi Shersty's hauntingly retro The Following and everything by Wynde Dyer. Perhaps with some editing this could have been an all time great show for the region but being too ambitious for the amount of space it suggests larger venues (like the old Art Gym) should have taken this on at this scale.

I Say Radical, You Say Feminist | September 25 - November 10
Closing Reception November 6 2-4PM
Archer Gallery
Clark College
1933 Fort Vancouver Way
Vancouver Washington



...(more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 28, 2018 at 9:40 | Comments (0)

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Tuesday 10.23.18

Countdown to Portlandageddon?

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photo: Joseph Gallivan

The Portland art scene is due for a thorough physical and KBOO's Joseph Gallivan interviews me as a bit of tease for what's in store today at 11:30AM. Look back later here for Part I of Portlandageddon a thorough anatomy of the scene at the moment and recent past with some predictions for the future. It isn't all bad news either. True criticism isn't a beat down, its a way to gain a more faceted and focused view to address concerns and shortcomings as well as celebrate and further support advances that have already distinguished themselves.

I take a look at most every major institution and trend in trendsetting Portland but if you want background and a refresher before then please check out these articles:

This critical look at what little we know about the potential OCAC/PNCA art school merger. So little is known but it is supposed to come before the boards of both schools by the end of the month.

Much of what I wrote here in 2012 hasn't changed but what I foresaw way back in 2000-2003 has already happened. Portland needs to turn a corner or risk what makes it special... some of this is finally happening with City Hall's Arts Affordability Plan but its scope and vision is too limited. Portlandageddon will point out many of its biggest holes (good news no new organizations or taxes are required but it does require a clearer purpose in our arts funding mechanisms).

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 23, 2018 at 10:00 | Comments (0)

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Friday 10.19.18

Mid October Links including PNCA/OCAC merger talks

I've been traveling for nearly a month but some big things are afoot. Time to catch up.

PNCA_OCAC_Merger.jpg
The biggest story in Portland right now is the proposed merger of PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art and OCAC (Oregon College of Arts and Craft), but it doesn't seem to have received much press besides this Oregonian piece (with their characteristic lack of critical thinking). Well, that changes now. I've worked with both schools extensively and even served as a mentor for their joint MFA in Applied Craft and Design, so they have shown they can combine forces effectively. Thus, on the surface it seems like another one of Portland's typical, let's combine forces, moments but I wonder what is really driving it? OCAC's President stepped down September 10th so that means that its really OCAC's board driving this. I have a lot of questions as both schools are so different and am suspicious of a march towards monoculture and inherently prefer different types of schools with autonomy. That said higher education currently has major systemic problems. Here are a few starter questions:

1)Why the short time frame for such a major decision? How dire is this?

2)Is the current board at OCAC and interim President's administration still fundraising?

3)It seems like PNCA and OCAC share the exact same problems regarding enrollment and the inherent issues all higher education seem to be awash in. I dont see how this improves either's situation except short term, so how?

4)We have seen a lot of institutional mergers and like the Museum of Contemporary Craft with PNCA they havent resolved optimally. How is the vision here different? How to ensure the identity of each is preserved? (hint it takes an endowment but if that's the case OCAC should just do an endowment drive itself... perhaps the board doesnt feel up to the challenge and is just being expedient... that isnt a good reason to do it).

*Update On Friday night a meeting with concerned OCAC Alumni and OCAC's Administration took place. By all reports it was one of those tough meetings that everyone was glad reconnect to each other with such dire news. Ive heard conflicting reports that attendees were, "asked not to discuss it with those who were not at the meeting ,"(they simply cant ask that and yes people are talking). Another report indicated they were encouraged to share info with other alums and the community. (so far there has been no official position for me to refer to, but both sides seem pretty clear in their own understanding). Apparently the meeting was open to press but was not indicated as such and those that understood it as a closed discussion, along with the timing drove many away that wanted to attend. I've also heard that OCAC never really indicated what was driving this rush to merge. More importantly, only one option "Merger" was presented as an inevitability. Many alumni and I myself question the lack of options and creativity in the situation. At this point both OCAC and PNCA probably need to make a public statement (that Oregonian article doesnt count) and my questions for OCAC's board remain.

How engaged is OCAC's board? It seems like only one option is being pursued... which seems like a board giving up on fixing it themselves and counting on PNCA to be a deus ex machina to save the school. Portland has seen a lot of that lately and lost too many crucial arts institutions like the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Marylhurst University, the art institute of Portland, The White Box at the U of O, etc (all without a proper fight to save the institutions). I also think City Hall should chime in on this and this is Chloe Eudaly's first test as the New Arts Commissioner. Mayor Ted Wheeler also needs to show an interest. If PNCA is the only way to save OCAC Id be behind that, but the case and details for it have not been made. Also, I worry about PNCA's health if a merger takes place (both schools share the same problems). Overall, Portland's very active residents are in no mood to lose or weaken the very core arts institutions that help make Portland what it is. It appears there is some crisis driving this, but a crisis creates special fundraising opportunities. There has been the customary talk of "transparency" but a lack of official statements and a limited meeting without key information indicate something else and this needs to be handled better. I do think everyone involved is acting in good faith but the main questions regarding vision, current situation and options are main questions for OCAC's board.

There will be more press on PORT and elsewhere


The Manny Farber exhibition and Helen Molesworth's final curatorial contribution at MOCA look invigorating. Why are museums so adverse to strong curatorial presences these days? So often today the major museum curators just subcontract out to guest curators and though I enjoy a good guest curated show as the next person I also see a lack of curatorial backbone with a preference for ingratiation in the practice.


Bruce Nauman reappears and the NY Times pays attention. What Nauman does best is create a kind of crisis of attention, what could be more current than that?


David Anfam reviews a new Pollock book that is too academicized. Odd how being arch academic has become anti-intellectual, but it has been the trend for years now. Every artist who goes to art school to rationalize their use of hanging sausages, spray foam, stained tarps (dropcloths?), grotty ceramics and or raw plywood shelves, tables or plinths is also a product of this drive to out humblebrag eachother and its a wasted effort in a world that has so much serious stuff going on.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 19, 2018 at 9:06 | Comments (0)

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Monday 10.15.18

Paul Allen, philanthropist and arts champion dead at 65

Paul_Allen_sm.jpg

CNN is reporting that Paul Allen has died at age 65 and implies he was fighting cancer aggressively.

For me he always seemed like an arch geek (this is a compliment) and unlike most tech billionaires was very involved in the visual arts (including numerous Pacific Northwest art institutions). I reviewed part of Allen's art collection here when on view at the Portland Art Museum. I never met him or I might write more but as a fellow guitarist I imagined Id chat with him about those simple things someday. It wont happen but I hope this spurs others on to do more with the means they have... The problem with most cultural support in the USA is that it falls to too few donors to be deus ex machinas of culture.

Allen_Landscape_PAM_sm.jpg
Major landscape artists on display at PAM from Paul Allen's Collection in 2015

Some will complain that he was mercurial and to be sure less charitable sorts will complain about his on again, off again interest and support in projects and organizations but I maintain that sort of intense involvement also drew attention to the need for broader support to ensure continuity of programming. Allen dreamt big and sometimes cut things off abruptly but put his foot down to launch the Seattle Art Fair and other projects that loom large in Seattle and Portland (where he was very active). He did hundreds of more important things besides the visual arts but his passion was what I respected most. Without passion we just have a dull progression of culture, which defeats the purpose of culture.

Rest in Peace... if every tech billionaire got as involved as he did the arts and culture as a whole would be valued differently.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 15, 2018 at 15:59 | Comments (0)

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Thursday 10.11.18

Midwest Art Initiative Tour

Midwesterners are pragmatic folk and I grew up there. In the Midwest if there is a need for something one can go ahead and judge but you are also expected to go out and fix it if possible. That sort of what I call "initiative pragmatism" leads to a lot less armchair complaining and posturing. Also, though I visit there often I'm always surprised how it has lead to numerous gems in unexpected places.

Thus, on my latest trip to Chicago and Central Wisconsin while accompanying my partner as she conducted her architectural research, we came across many of these intitiative pragmatism sites. All of which conduct idiomatic psychological shifts of locale... even in an areas we had visited many times. More specifically, the pragmatic display of art made even familiar environs novel and provocative, perhaps even more so than visiting than the main museums we usually hit because most museums are a bit similar to one another. Sometimes, it pays to avoid the well blazed trails and find the out of the way gems. Here are some favorites from this last trip:


tasset_sm.jpg
At the Manilow Sculpture Park Tony Tasset's weary and careworn Paul Bunyan sculpture, "Paul," seems to portray the giant lumberjack having a major existential crisis in the prairie. Not enough trees for a giant lumberjack, eh? What does this hipster guy with his hat topped with a red ball need? Will Paul take up farming, or perhaps politics?


Clouds_art_sm.jpg
David Wallace Haskin's Skycube does a great job of bridging the Elmhurst Art Museum's main building with its Mies van der Rohe McCormick House, moved to the site and a more typical museum structure. Haskins Skycube is on permanent display but it also compliments his temporary Polarity exhibition in the two buildings adjacent...


Arts_club_chicago_gallery_sm.jpg
Gaylen Gerber's exhibition Supports at the Arts Club of Chicago was a wry look at the way plinths can cue objects collectively. Here in the main galleries it looks like the exhibition has been swept into a storage space... amusing and interesting, its the sort of art about art show that plays well in an arts club.... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 11, 2018 at 22:48 | Comments (0)

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Saturday 10.06.18

Haunting October Picks

October is usually one of the premier months to see work in Portland's art scene. Perhaps partly because every day in Portland is Halloween the bar for standing out is already pretty high and October becomes a double down. Here are my picks:

Maxi_Littman-s.jpg
maximiliano

Ghosts and Venus by Maximiliano and the collaborative trio of Rise x Fall shows just why the Littman Gallery continues to be one of the Portland metro area's most challenging art spaces. Most of Portland's University galleries are pretty conservative in their embrace of liberal values (more Hillary than Bernie or Ocasio-Cortez) but the fact that the Littman is programmed by PSU's students means it is closer to its student body and Portland's far more progressive citizenry. Here in another multimedia exhibition Maximiliano's still developing work explores the gauzy liminal veils of understanding between gender identity, the USA's Imperial posturing and its citizenry's somewhat haunted interface with society's so called norms.

"Rise x Fall is an ongoing collaborative series of both video and live performances by Maxi Miliano, Ruben Marrufo and Jaleesa Johnston. Using the veil as an indicator of otherworldly presences, rise x fall explores the liminal terrain of transition, between stability and instability, and the rise and fall of empire. Taking inspiration from the crashing of the waves against the earth, this piece inhabits a space of the simultaneous pain and fear of death, as well as the hope and growth of rebirth."

Ghosts & Venus | October 4 - 25
Live performances October 18 & 25 at 6PM
Littman Gallery (Smith Student Center, 2nd floor) Portland State University



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Victor Maldonado at Archer Gallery

I Say, "Radical!" You Say, "Feminist!" is one of those shows about gender, identity and the human body that you'd think had been done a million times in the Portland area, but in fact I havent seen this sort of edgy survey of artists working in the subject attempted in a very long time. Way to keep a keener edge 'Couv and people who are really fired up should find it to their tastes.

At the Archer you will find a who's who of up and comers as well as experienced guides like: Roz Crews, Kelly Bjork, Wynde Dyer, Emily Endo, Alexa Feeney, Klara Glosova, Junko Iijima, Tyler Mackie, Victor Maldonado, Patricia Melton, Matthew Offenbacher, Alyson Provax, Kelly Rauer, Maggie Sasso, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Ann Leda Shapiro, Naomi Shersty, Alisa Sikelianos-Carter, Anthony Sonnenberg, Alexander Wurts. Though to tell the truth they could probably restage the show every year for 5 years without using the same names. The thing is the show seems to be actually curating work that invigorates and bounces off each other... none of the old, "who can humblebrag the best" that has become a cul-de-sac of tepid liberal elite thinking. With today's news nothing could be more relevant than visiting this show.

I Say Radical, You Say Feminist | September 25 - November 10
Closing Reception November 6 2-4PM Archer Gallery
Clark College
1933 Fort Vancouver Way
Vancouver Washington


... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 06, 2018 at 7:37 | Comments (0)

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