Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

Ending April Institutional Links
Weekend Picks
Thoughts on Tuski leaving PNCA
Mid April Links
America's Whispered Truths closing at Archer Gallery
Early April Critique of Institution Links
Spring Cleaning Cluster Reviews

recent comments

Jane Beebe
Sam Marroquin
Event Horizon
Sam Marroquin
Sam Marroquin



Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Openings & Events
About PORT

regular contributors


Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman



Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us


Contact us






powered by


Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a


Creative Commons License


Tuesday 04.30.19

Ending April Institutional Links

Whether or not it is fair, most major art institutions are caught in a crossfire these days, whether its forming a line to march in the woke parade, a sense that the 1% has unfairly rigged things too well or artwashing. Things are tense or at least sense of unsettled tension seems to background everything. I'm nearly done going through my archives for my 20 years of being in Portland post. It is about a thousand times more difficult writing about oneself, especially when you are easily bored with yourself like I am. So to distract you with more important things here are some links:

It is your last week to catch The Map is not the Territory at PAM and Grace Kook Anderson spoke to KBOO (isnt it nice to have a curator who speaks very well again at PAM? Too many curators simply perform a certain ingratiating doubletalk). That said Art in America had some problems with the show, mostly because they looked at it through a sort of lens on the indigenous. AiA made some good points but I believe it is conceived to be broader than that. I saw similar problems with The Map Is Not The Territory but attributed them to some of the hang, which for a show about crossing boundaries and communication seemed too bounded by museum conventions and layout problems. It is a difficult step in the right direction. Most group shows are not very satisfying and at this time a show about dissatisfaction might be the only thing that will feel right?

Artists, 50 of whom are in the Whitney Biennial are demanding Whitney Chairman's ouster.

The banana becomes the sigil of institutional critique in Poland.

Jerry Saltz on the upcoming Rugoff curated Venice Biennale. Look, uncertainty is the subject of the age and art as distracting amusement or a series of humblebrag artwashing declarations doesnt really cut it, and hasn't for a long time.

As expected Catlin Gabel has bought OCAC and it is over. Ill have more on this in my Portlandageddon article (coming soon, all things in the right time) but all this was needless and nobody buys the agitprop that this could not be avoided and nobody is to blame. Blame = a weak board that was out of their depth and should have stepped down instead of pursuing a policy that put all eggs into merging with another school. Merging could not happen because all tuition based revenue models of higher education are broken... I saw this immediately. OCAC had a lack of vision by creating a leadership gap which ground fundraising momentum to zero, right when they needed it. This is sad especially considering how much most of the community wanted it saved. The situation required real leadership (board and some faculty) that was not inherently fatalistic. Where was the oversight and the understanding that they were in way over their heads? I dont blame Catlin Gabel, they have a super competent board and its a hard lesson that Portland institutions continue to not learn about endowments and stewarding institutional momentum.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 30, 2019 at 10:08 | Comments (0)


Sunday 04.28.19

Weekend Picks

Just some of the Northern Lights exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden

Guest curated by Sachiko Matsuyama, Northern Lights: Ceramic Art of Hokkaido, features works by 21 established artists of the Hokkaido Pottery Society, with additional works by other members. Northern Lights is a follow up to an exhibition held at the Portland Japanese Garden a decade ago and celebrates the occasion of 50th anniversary of the Hokkaido Pottery Society. This is my 20th year of living in Portland and for that entire time the Japanese Garden has consistently put on the strongest craft based shows in the city. This exhibition is no exception with personal favorites like Masaaki Ishikawa's swirl patterned vessel with blade ridges, Shichiiro Koyama's Bishamon tortoise-shell lattice vessel and my favorite a tiny little green ah glaze bowl by Hideki Takai.

2019 is the Year of Hokkaido at Portland Japanese Garden, which commemorates the 60th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Portland and Sapporo. In many ways the Portland Japanese garden is the Japanese cultural embassy in the USA.

Northern Lights: Ceramic Art of Hokkaido
April 27 - May 27
Portland Japanese Garden

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

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... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 28, 2019 at 9:11 | Comments (0)


Thursday 04.25.19

Thoughts on Tuski leaving PNCA

Outgoing PNCA President Don Tuski

The news today that Don Tuski, current President of PNCA is leaving the school after only 3 years wasnt unexpected (certain exchanges then lack of follow up were a tell). First, higher education in general is in an incredibly challenging position... that of a destabilized financial model for any tuition based school without state funding (and that's dwindling too). More specific to Tuski, who had a stabilizing influence despite the relentless turmoil of rival school closures and ultimately the decision not to merge with OCAC ... he always seemed like a genial presence rather than the dynamic one of his predecessor (needed for a time). Now that PNCA has been somewhat stabilized (by virtue of outlasting rivals) it really needs a master fundraiser to shore up endowments for scholarships and professor positions as that is the only way to weather the current storm. Seems like Tuski going back to Michigan (in addition to being back to his roots and family) is a return to funders who are trying to reinvest in Michigan. Oregon is a younger state where a lot of the money here hasnt learned how to participate as effectively, leaving only a few Oregon families to take lead roles (most of whom tied heavily to real estate). Real estate money behaves differently than industrial, lumber, financial, new entrepreneurial and tech money (all new money). The Midwest has a different mindset, they realize that without investments all the talent ends up on the coasts. I suggest the next president be a visionary and relentless fundraiser. They should also be a better talent scout than most Portland institutional leaders tend to be. Tuski did have the vision to open a new GLASS building in North Portland, providing large scale ceramics and other staging possibilities. Still, the sense is only the most ambitious and talent driven art schools with the funding to attract those students with scholarships will survive the turmoil of the current student debt crisis and massive cost of education in the coming decade. Yet Portland is full of design and other creative sector firms so the disconnect between where funding/recruitment is placed and where it is derived seems pronounced. Tuski seemed capable but unable to really capture the imagination of Portlanders, perhaps he gave them too much of what they wanted... his predecessor, Tom Manley, was far more ambitious and controversial yet one of the most crucial Portlanders of the 21st century. They both inherited very different times and institutions.

Institutionally, Portland has an allergy towards ambitious talent that it needs to get over (the ignoring of Rothko was exhibit A, but now PAM is addressing this so there is hope things are changing).

... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 25, 2019 at 13:17 | Comments (0)


Monday 04.15.19

Mid April Links

Most of the world has been watching in horror as the 800 year old Notre-Dame Cathedral has been burning. The tall steeple above the nave collapsed but authorities are reporting some of the structure will be saved, including the two north towers of the belfry. *Updates: How close it came to being a total loss and the forests that provided what burnt are nearly gone. In an exciting move France will hold a competition for a new design for the replacement tower that was destroyed and built as part of a 19th century restoration. This is good as an 800 year old cathedral is a living building. I doubt this would happen in the USA as we tend to treat old buildings as antiques rather than living structures tied inexorably to their current age. As expected Foster and Partners is proposing a glass roof like their Reichtag update.

The most powerful work of art Jerry Saltz has ever seen.

PORT friend David Anfam, the world's leading Rothko Scholar and Curator of the Clifford Still Museum discusses the Rothko being auctioned off by SFMOMA.

I am not a fan of this deacquisition to buy other works by less represented artists but SFMOMA does have better Rothkos and they dont display it very often. That's terrible logic and if SFMOMA were truly committed to telling new stories through their collection they should do it without selling the work by one of the USA's most lauded immigrant artists! It is absurd and unfortunate. This Koons in the collection would be a far better choice (yes yes a partial gift that isnt wholly SFMOMA's but I think PORT readers get the point).

That the current Desert X Biennial isnt very sensitive to its surroundings is no surprise... too often art in the desert relies on its otherness rather than compound the situation presented. Some of my favorite works by Walter De Maria, Smithson, Judd and Michael Heizer all understand their inability to compete as an insertion with the site and in fact create "an incompletion" instead. If I were to curate a desert foray... it would have to operate that way (I've actually lived in a desert or 2 and that helps).

Not surprisingly the Zumthor LACMA design was approved. Frankly, I liked this design better when it had more gallery space and the curatorial offices were not farmed out to a rental building. Also, I actually like the curving single floor plan. I just dislike the banishing of curatorial expertise... (its a bigger museum problem as less and less curators are expected to be experts and act more like assistant directors). I like Govan's ideas about interdisciplenary non-timeline reliant hangs but it actually takes more expertise to do that right... like having 2 or more great chefs cooking together but now it feels like the curators are being sent a corrosive message. Museums are not just the storage lockers and tax havens of the rich... they are exist as the keepers of culture and that requires human expertise put on display (and it isnt just the art alone... it is the considered display and interplay... when I last visited LACMA there were problems in the displays of interplay).

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 15, 2019 at 14:29 | Comments (0)


Friday 04.12.19

America's Whispered Truths closing at Archer Gallery

Willy Little (fg) and Reneee Billingslea's Lynching Shirts (bg) at Archer Gallery

It ends Saturday so dont miss America's Whispered Truths at the Archer Gallery, which I reviewed recently within a cluster of related shows. In this duo exhibition Renee Billingslea and Willie Little dont pull any punches as they each explore the not so subtle violence of racism through powerful assemblage and installations.

If you want a truly unvarnished yet nuanced exhibition, America's Whispered Truths screams in silent terror, giving scope and sobering scale to the whole discussion of racism in America.

America's Whispered Truths
February 19 - April 13
Closing Reception: April 13, 3-5PM
Archer Gallery
Clark College, Vancouver WA.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 12, 2019 at 11:30 | Comments (0)


Saturday 04.06.19

Early April Critique of Institution Links

Things are coming to a head in LA for LACMA's Zumthor design as funding comes to a vote and detractors have noted it has less space for the permanent collection. Much less apparently. I'm not against this expansion like many voices in LA are but I think the single floor design is a problem as is the decrease in permanent collection space. (Solution add a second floor for curatorial offices and some special focus exhibitions for the permanent collection?) Lately, museums have been having problems activating their permanent collections as well as downgrading the role of expert in house curators. It is part of what Ive been calling the war on expertise (from both ends of the political spectrum). It's terrible and must be countered. Museum expansions should deepen an institution's connection and scope of appreciation of art by lay people and experts alike... they need each other. True intellectuals and artists challenge administrative planning and institutional framing any design that cannot accept that kind of thought pressure isnt the right design and will be seen as culturewashing for the 1%. Zumthor is talented enough to address this as he is one of the world's very best architects. The trick is to make this a gift/investment to LA and not to the 1%. I know Portland with its own looming expansion or two is watching this closely.

In related news, intellectuals and artists are demanding that Kanders be removed from the Whitney board. See above^

I've been saying this for years but uncertainty IS the ultimate subject in contemporary art now, see Venice Biennale... also, a certain artist I am very fond of is the master of this... museum show coming this summer (just being up front about this rather than hinting). I also think Inigo Manglano Ovalle, Jorge Pardo, Anish Kapoor and even Yayoi Kusama also make it a major component of their work. It is at the heart works by Stanley Kubrik, Robert Irwin, Robert Smithson as well as the unmooring of floor and wall in Donald Judd's work are both related as well (I suppose an essay should be undertaken). Overall, it requires a certain unmooring of viewers from reality yet a partial anchor to it (related to the sublime).

The Hudson Yards and the Shed have rightfully come under a great deal of critical fire.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 06, 2019 at 12:06 | Comments (0)


Thursday 04.04.19

Spring Cleaning Cluster Reviews

This month marks my Twentieth Anniversary of moving to Portland and arguably that decision changed Portland in many ways (addressing history history with, Judd and Rothko, and a new appreciation of new media with Pipilotti Rist, Hank Willis Thomas and Cao Fei + talent scouting locals, etc). Simply put, I challenge Portland. There is still much more is to be done as the city doesnt effectively support its best artists yet (other cities do it for us... but still cmon). Considering all this, I've been spending a lot of time looking at art, with a one night Spring Equinox show as well (it was very underground on purpose). As part of my spring cleaning process here is a cluster of reviews, with an eye towards exposing some common threads and themes. Key: "*" Indicates show still open and "**" indicates it is still open for today's First Thursday (yes PAM is open for First Thursday). As you can see Portland's art scene is far from dead, challenges sometimes strengthen things and I see evidence of it here.

Main exhibition space of The Map Is Not The Territory with Charlene Vicker's Remember Redwing (fg)

The Map is Not the Territory is the Portland Art Museum's revolving triennial replacement for the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards (which among artists was nicknamed the conservative art awards). For this program instead of a stereo typically "Northwest" approach to traditional materials and subject matter like rain, glass, trees and fetish of effortful handwork the show has thankfully taken on an anthropological approach, which is essentially an expose on the human experience. I found it more satisfying than the CNAA's or any of the other weak institutional regional surveys Portland has been routinely subjected to recently. Mostly that is because this show felt connected to the times rather than trying to ingratiate itself among various special interest patronage factions. In short the work felt personally involved rather than a checklist of token inclusions. Themes like border crossings, ancestors, roots, food, shelter and the uneasy dance of the natural and man made are all topical and relevant, if a little obvious themes to explore. Think of this a as a show where PAM evolves from merely a map to patronage to one that asks the broad question of, "What are we doing here?"

Willy Little (fg) and Reneee Billingslea at Archer Gallery

... (more)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 04, 2019 at 13:07 | Comments (0)

s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee