I've been very critical of how most of Portland's cultural institutions provide rungs of support and cultivate artists by being too doctriniare, conservative and overall not willing to get behind artists whose work questions the status quo by having more uncomfortable conversations (Hallie Ford Foundation and RACC you are just the tip of the iceberg but panel composition, criteria and expectations are part of it). Still, there have been improvements and strong artists do win area awards (at a ratio of say 1 out of 5 chosen, which is somewhat in keeping with the bloated, self-satisfied state of the art world), also I do want to point out opportunities that seem to get it right. Here are 3 worth considering:
The annual Betty Bowen Award, administered by the Seattle Art Museum
is different than most of the other area awards as artists themselves serve on the panel and the finalists make presentations (often with the work present). Artist panelists wouldn't work for the Hallie Fords as it would just perpetuate the milder tradition already in place (HFF's were best in 2010 and 2013) but in Seattle, the USA's capital of satirical snark they have a bit more appreciation for the bite that art can deliver
. It is supposed to call attention to under recognized artists... a directive it follows loosely but at least there is some edge to the winners and they have avoided some of the lamer Oregon artists whose careers seemed to be calibrated to accumulating the milder awards in Oregon. Not perfect of course, no award can be. One obvious problem, The Betty Bowen still charges a $10 fee
(how 1992 of you). Deadline: August 1
Unlike the Hallie Ford Fellowships Open Signal's much smaller but far more experimental New Media Fellowships dont focus on message over the media
. These $2k fellowships repeatedly focus on video, VR, computer based and new media installation environments. They are often less academic and more innovative than other fellowships in the area. Open Signal is simply the most progressive and open of all of Portland's artist support institutions. Deadline: July 12
I like how these Kunstlerschloss Balmoral residencies are set up
. There are both 3 and 9 month residencies in Germany's Rheinland and the panels refreshingly require an; art critic, museum director or curator, academician, member of the artists associations in the Federal State of Rhineland-Palatinate, a visual artist, the artistic director of the Kunstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral... etc. I simply like the mix and the problem with most of the regional art awards here is there is a revolving door of the same panelist so that eventually the same artists are chosen by the small pool of mostly academic oriented panelists. The problem is academia has become hostile to a lot of the edgier intellectual and experiential gambits that artists might employ. Deadline: June 30
I have a massive polyglot of reviews (and some even larger pieces, like my 20 year lookback etc.) for you PORT readers but to get you warmed up here's whats going on.
So what happens when a prominent up and coming artist uses someone's photo of abuse in their artwork without consent? The hypocrisy goes viral
, even if it is touted as one of the 6 most daring works at the art fair. When the woke it, broke it? If this is real, its a shame and I have an intense dislike for anyone that makes money off of the pain of others.
Apparently our own Eva Lake is one of the best things at the Volta Basel art fair
... she's too edgy for Portland's not so edgy art institutions etc, but Eva Lake the real deal and has been for a long time
(our artists out pace our cultural organs).
Changes at MoMA via Roberta Smith
, the larger the institution typically the more catch up they have to do. Thing is when they have hollowed out their expertise making curatorial subject to other modes of the day and "following the parade," they lose their intrinsic potency. An institution needs to embrace the crisis they represent rather than attempt to address it via architectural program. IE let the artists reconfigure the institution via empowering curatorial expertise rather than muting it.
Still more questionable decisions at the Barnes
Then there is this issue over art criticism. Look, the critic's work is not there to produce a book report on the artist's source material. Criticism isnt a service industry for the art produced either. Instead, its a kind of civic test for alternate worldviews to see if the art translates and remains potent under different criteria... even to experienced observers who compare them to the history of what has gone before. That said, radical art is something so rare that it cannot be expected, especially in major museum surveys. Now expecting a show to have some edge is an entirely different thing... how close does the work skate on the thin, sometimes very uncomfortable veneers of decorum and understanding? Most institutional group shows dont really ruffle feathers any more outside of single points of outrage. The thin skin of understanding has become a brittle thing these days and professional art critics do measure the degree of suppleness on display beyond the simple questions of did I like/not like it?
The 2019 Hallie Ford fellows list was announced
. It is good that a photographer was included this time, but the fact that is notable is lame. Still, artists who have to plug in their work or full on multimedia installation art are once again not in effect and as usual its not a very edgy list with artists that are super well established or are arch academicians. Sure its the Ford Foundation and they can do what they want but it actually effects artistic output... so many artists have gotten the memo. If you want a HF, use your... (more)