RACC (Regional Arts and Culture Council) and the main public granting agency has finally announced that they have chosen a new executive director, Madison Cario. Cario seems to have an easy, direct but informal way about them that should fit in well in Portland. As a former marine and someone who didn't grow up with arts and culture they seem well placed to inject the decisiveness the agency (which used the word "quirky
" too much [even once is too much] and "excellence" hardly if ever in communications). Over the years artists have asked for a lot of reforms and to be sure some have been adopted but the sense is the agency aims too low in terms of ambition... coming off at least a decade or more behind the bleeding edge of Portland's very dynamic cultural scene
Luckily, Casio has been a curator (science and technology oriented visual arts even) and not just a bureaucrat. The question will be if they will merely implement token multiculturalism or if Cario can make the agency become a more important cultural ally in keeping Portland's cultural edge keen? Till now many of its practices have had a dulling effect as Portland likes to pat itself on the back without really challenging the status quo (some important art does make people uncomfortable). Most of our exhibitions institutionally try a little to hard to soften their criticisms, yet the sharpest artists themselves have a great deal of edge. I call this Portland's Artist/Institutional schism and RACC is central in this discussion.
You can watch this video to get a sense of Cario:
Contemporary Talks: Madison Cario from Jason Parker on Vimeo.
Now with City Council calling for an arts affordability plan (it needs to be an arts sustainability and retaining/encouraging creative edge plan) RACC is crucial to executing that effectively. To do that the agency needs a lot of reforms that the cultural scene has calling for decades now.
Here are a couple of things that really need to be looked at immediately:
This November has perhaps the strongest selection of area shows in years and its the last day for the one at the Archer, so I suggest you get out there and soak it all in after this election week. Somehow art gives perspective.
This month is Victember! Victor Maldonado's Liberation Stories at Froelick Gallery is one of the strongest painting shows Ive ever seen in Portland, which is interesting because the artist tends to be more of a conceptualist. But here he's visceral, engaging the history of street art, Philip Guston, Baselitz, Guggenheim Mural era Pollock and perhaps even Hermann Nitsch? The thing is it all comes from being the city of Portland's most visible Mexican/American artist who is paradoxically "not Mexican enough" and at the same time always summoned to be on any multicultural panel (the essential voice who is always on the panel but never given the award, which makes me furious). The truth is Victor has always walked a tightrope... being a bit of a provocative troublemaker as an artist and as a great ombudsman as an administrator. These paintings just burn through all the stereotypes and their tornadic vorticies coalesce into bodyslammed wrestlers... or are the dead? Always too smart, too nice, too handsome, too considerate and too perceptive to sit into left and right wing political schemas his works are troubling and put the viewers on the ropes in paintings like The Fallen and Ofrenda. I like his newfound confidence, now on display many years after earning his US citizenship, Victor is taking the victory lap nobody seemed to be willing to give him (including himself).
True, he's a friend and I couldnt be prouder of him but ultimately this is a cultural comeuppance. Victor's paintings simply cannot be ignored... and in any other progressive city besides Portland would have been celebrated more. But Portland's institutions do not acknowledge true provocateurs like Victor... yet it is exactly what the smugly woke need. The "liberation" here is the fact that Victor has been crucial for over a decade and somehow despite not really thinking of himself as a masterful painter has become just that. The sheer economy and bravura of works on display arent about revisiting traumas... they are a all in your face testaments to the considered vitality paint can convey. No more hiding, this is the strongest solo painting show in years from the Pacific Northwest (only about half of the recent works are on display).
*He also has an excellent Chapel on Display at the Archer Gallery and today is the last day to see it.
Liberation Stories | October 30 - December 1st
714 NW Davis
Abigail DeVille at PICA
Ever since PICA shortsightedly abandoned their excellent space in the Weiden + Kennedy building in 2004
weve been hungry for them to reinstitute a regular visual arts program and over the years they have done it with fits and starts. Now with a home they own those expectations have finally come to fruition
. PICA's latest exhibition, Abigail DeVille's The American Future, brings something timely and ambitious in the massively caverness warehouse space PICA now inhabits. DeVille is a rising international star and the exhibition's sheer theatricality is a major payoff for anyone visiting. There is a ziggurat made from piles of Street Roots newspapers, a deathstar like version of Pioneer Square's Federal courthouse looming over a re-imagined approximation of "Portland's Livingroom" Pioneer Square as well as art by PEAR youth on the walls. The whole show is more of a series of set pieces... (more)
Weve got a huge amount of stuff coming for you including reviews and Portlandageddon. But first lets look at some news:
One time Portlander and long time PORT pal Paul Middendorf has re-launched the institution he started in Portland and continued in Houston
. Paul is the best kind of person and a hero of the Portland (artists into the city) and Houston (real water) floods... but some well known Portland art scene figures didn't support him (you know who you are, I'm talking institutional people and it wasnt simply money). Well he's proven himself in Houston (just like Portland) yet he's been appreciated more there. Portland's City Council and other leaders who are looking at Portland's art scene need to ask... huh, what could we have done better and apply it to those who are still in Portland? Sometimes Portland's art scene politics are detrimental in their parochial character. That said lots of new, great things have sprung up since, Open Signal, Carnation Contemporary, regime change at Disjecta etc. (History lesson = Paul was Disjecta's first and last non guest curator and the only male staff curator ...though Cris Moss did curate a biennial.)
Daniel Nord's almost skeletal sci-fi might seem a bit unsettling
but it is exactly the kind of work that is relevant now.
Perhaps the art world might be sick of laughing at the same old jokes about itself
Chicago's Mayor does the right thing and pulls a Kerry James Marshall mural from a Christies auction
. Look, public art isnt just some asset to flip when the street repair fund is low. Think of it as a public museum collection that enriches the city, not a rainy day fund. The artist said as much in an interview today
. Essentially these are civic treasures held in trust by government... the fact that this was actually considered shows how atrophied civics have become in the quantification of assets as some sort of portfolio to manage.
Speaking of civics, the biggest story in Portland right now outside of the elections is the now planned merger of OCAC and PNCA
. This is hardly a done deal though it is being presented as such. There has been precious little info with no public statements but Im of two minds on this and nothing has changed since my initial assessment
. For history's sake I'll point out how I worried far more about the previous Museum of Contemporary Craft merger than any other media, which sadly turned out to be correct
so take that into account. PNCA has informed their staff and students more than OCAC has, and OCAC is operating in a leadership vacuum with an inexperienced interim president and a board that likely got spooked by something after the State of Oregon's Attorney General started looking into the Art Gym's move to OCAC (timing suggests this). Non profit boards in Oregon tend to be That means a weak bargaining position. The thing is(just like the MoCC merger, and I was the only media to mention this) is they need a kind of autonomy and checks and balances that come from an endowment. I've heard numerous times about a 5 million dollar endowment drive, which is needed whether or not the schools combine. That's good as higher education is broken, with only endowments to support general fund, teaching positions and scholarships as the only protection. The thing is this merger really only makes sense if it produces an institution with greater vision than PNCA and OCAC already have. Considering the way committees seem to run higher education Im deeply suspicious of happening (which means Id love to be wrong/surprised). The way we are hearing only 1 narrative seems to be building suspicions among staff and alumni for both schools... and the way OCAC staff, students and alum are very wary of reprisals now is not ideal (all stemming from a weakness in the board and placeholder interim president (not slight intended she's been thrust into this and would be difficult for a seasoned pro). All that said the best MFA program in the state is the joint OCAC+PNCA Applied Craft and Design and a new combined school that keeps the core mountain village community that OCAC represents, with a more focused PNCA all under a new name (please no Portland Institute for the Arts and Crafts aka "PIAC") could be good if it has vision. Instead, right now I see something akin to a human relationship where both schools are afraid to be alone
in some drive for 1000 students as a quorum of safety? So what happens after the holidays?
If this does happen, try to find a way to put the Craft Collection on better display (OCAC has a small but important collection too) and an exit strategy if it doesnt work out as planned because ultimately both schools problems are brought on by a broken higher education system. Otherwise I cant see how that narrative gets redirected to something more positive without some real visionary planning and some clear checks and balances (OCAC needs its own senior fundraising officer if it merges). Still waiting on details and a whole public mea culpa
for OCAC's board has to be done just as it was for the MOCC, which held public meetings. It is delicate, I appreciate that but Portland is in no mood to lose another crucial institution without some transparency and it would be smarter to release some basic statements that set some expectations because with the MOCC failure most will assume similar outcomes. I personally dont believe that but as I speak to others that's the tone things have mostly taken. Of all the conversations Ive had only a few have expressed great faith in preserving what makes OCAC so special.... that's a failure in the rollout of this story, though it is correctable.