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  • Permalink for 'Dana Lynn Louis Talk'

    Dana Lynn Louis Talk

    Posted: 29-September-2014, 8:51pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Dana Lynn Louis' Clearing

    People are rightly talking about Dana Lynn Louis' show Clearing at Lewis and Clark's excellent Hoffman Gallery. Tomorrow at 6:30PM she will be discussing the work... which to my eyes has elements of Judy Pfaff and some roots in Eva Hesse all wrapped up in ceremonial accoutrements.

    Artist Talk: September 30 6:30PM | Miller 105
    Lewis and Clark College
  • Permalink for 'Free day at PAM'

    Free day at PAM

    Posted: 27-September-2014, 2:42pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Erich Heckel (German, 1883-1970), Zwei Verwundete (Two Wounded Men), 1915, woodcut on wove paper from This is War! at PAM

    There are a lot of interesting openings in Portland tonight at Wierd Shift and Surplus Space to name two but sometimes it's good to revisit the Portland Art Museum for something more historically meaty... and since it is participating in the Smithsonian's National Museum Day program it will be free today. Besides the collection, there will be a new Chris Antemann show beginning and I found the This Is War! exhibition very rewarding (a lot of my graduate degree work related to these artists). That makes sense since one of the museum's greatest strengths is its collection of German Expressionist woodcuts (thanks to Gordon Gilkey).
  • Permalink for 'Dirk Staschke at Archer Gallery'

    Dirk Staschke at Archer Gallery

    Posted: 23-September-2014, 2:23pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Dirk Staschke's Consuming Allegory (2012)

    Portland based but internationally active Dirk Staschke is finally having an exhibition near his new home base, congrats to the Archer for being on it. Staschke's stunningly crafted ceramics aren't just impressive visually, the conceptual exploration of excess is so well honed that the idea hits you before the technical elements can be geeked upon. In my book that is successful work so you won't want to miss this.

    Bounty | September 23 - October 25, 2014
    Reception: October 1st, 5:30 - 7PM
    Artist's Talk: PUB 161, October 1, 7PM
    Archer Gallery
    1943 Fort Vancouver Way, Penguin Union Building
    Vancouver Washington
    Gallery Hours: Tues.-Thurs. 10AM - 7PM, Fri. and Sat. 12-5PM
    Phone: 360 992 2246
  • Permalink for 'Monday Links'

    Monday Links

    Posted: 22-September-2014, 2:45pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    We've got several in depth articles for you this week (critical essays and interviews) till then here are some links:

    David Lynch's paintings and drawings tell a different kind of story...

    The whole Vivian Maier case keeps getting more and more complicated.

    This Jean Nouvel museum design for China is breathtaking... museums a are increasingly becoming gardens. A trend I support completely, PAM's recent Parisian park exhibition should be noted as a signal locally.

    Renegade art school all about painting... Locally, I feel like OCAC does this but in a less painting centric way.

    Christopher Knight describes how the Anderson collection signals the end of old school connoisseur based collecting for SF. I don't really buy that LA talking about SF thesis but the Anderson Collection is special.
  • Permalink for 'Friday Links'

    Friday Links

    Posted: 19-September-2014, 2:27pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    I'm just about finished with my history piece on Bruce Guenther, who is retiring next month, so far the best thing on him so far was by April at OPB, but I've got a great deal more historical context to add. This isn't just a staffing change at PAM it is an opportunity to examine Oregon's cultural history in an important way.

    Finally the long awaited Robert Irwin piece/structure for the Chinati Foundation has been finalized. Looks like Irwin is inverting the structure turning the interior into an exterior with a courtyard and attention to windows.

    Verdicts on the Crystal Bridges State of the Art show are in and it is scathing despite praising the only Oregon artist in the show James Lavadour. Peter Plagens calls it in the WSJ, "the world's largest university faculty show". Overall I think it was a good idea but by blunting the edges and not including the more demanding eccentricities that make great art great the curators hamstrung themselves. That PG rating aspect is probably why no Portland artists are in it (Portland has a strong allergy to Walmart too). That said, our lone Oregon representative James Lavadour is a national treasure and we will have an interview soon. It is a common curatorial error in constructing large group shows in that by following the "process" so much it filters out the kind of work that challenges and sparks more meaningful debates.
  • Permalink for 'Tuesday links'

    Tuesday links

    Posted: 16-September-2014, 1:45pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    I've been traveling but will have a more personal, in depth and detailed look at Bruce Guenther's career (his retirement was the big news yesterday)... we've worked together, sometimes closely over the years so I've got a unique window on what he has meant and will continue mean to Portland's cultural scene (his current Joel Shapiro exhibition is classic classic Bruce). It is a crucial history. Till then here are a few links:

    Artnet asks, is the art world sexist and biased? Absolutely.

    Tomorrow is ask a curator day on Twitter and PAM is participating, check out their schedule.

    Brian Libby's latest Dwell Magazine article on an affordable Portland home.

    No Google wont replace museums... but it will alter expectations and perhaps raise the knowledge base?

    Check out Anselm Kiefer's studio...
  • Permalink for 'Friday Links'

    Friday Links

    Posted: 12-September-2014, 6:57pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    We will be publishing another big interview Saturday morning but until then here area few links.

    First of all, there is a high probability of Northern lights visible in Portland tonight.

    Jerry Saltz dives into the Lower East Side.

    It is TBA's opening weekend and since their visual art offerings always run the spectrum from good (sometimes great) to resoundingly meh (piles of things, or some writer... writing) I'm not gonna strongly suggest much till I see them (though Jennifer West and MSHR seem like good bets). Other things to see would be Dana Lynn Lewis at Lewis and Clark College and Victor Maldonado's talk at Froelick on September 13 11:00AM (his drone video is likely the best piece on view in Portland right now... it kinda deserves its own room).

    Bob and Roberta Smith invite artists to quit making art.

    The Brisbane Biennial with a focus on the sublime looks like it delivers.
  • Permalink for 'Interview with Joel Shapiro'

    Interview with Joel Shapiro

    Posted: 13-September-2014, 3:45pm EDT by Victor Maldonado

    On the occasion of his latest sculptural work titled "Portland" at the Portland Art Museum I interviewed Joel Shapiro just as he finished installing his latest constellations of parallelograms. For an artist who has been developing a post-minimalist studio practice in an earnest manner amidst an increasingly ironic world, Shapiro continues to investigate the concrete beauty of form and color and the liberating pull of taking a media where it hasn't gone before.

    Installation view of Joel Shapiro's Portland 2014 on view through September 21, 2014 (all photos Jeff Jahn)

    VM: Thank you so much for letting me hang out with you today at the Portland Art Museum to talk a little bit about your work and your instillation here in the Schnitzer Sculpture Court. You've been a great proponent of post-minimalism for quite a while now and it's amazing to see how fresh this instillation feels - how do you pull that off?

    JS: [Laughs] Senility. My theory is, you know, when you're really young you're uninhibited and make wonderful work. As you get more and more mature the work gets perhaps more theoretical - I'm teasing. As you get older it becomes more juvenile again.

    VM: For an installation of sculpture your "sculpture" isn't acting like that. I see plinths and pillars and things that should be planted on the ground having their way in the space.


    JS: Right, actually no, I mean I think that this work there was a certain point where I wanted the effect of architecture, let's say the effect of gravity on the organization of form is serious and profound. If you're working on the tabletop or if you're working on the floor or if you're working on the wall it informs the way the work, the forms, become organized and I was just fed up with that. And the work began to break up around 2000. Eventually, I just thought it was more engaging to suspend stuff in space and let it not be determined so much by the structure of the space but more by the nature of the space, if that makes any sense?

    VM: It makes a lot of sense.

    JS: What I mean about structure is walls, floors and of course this is all determined, so in a way the string becomes the base and the pedestal, the string becomes the bolt that is, which is holding the stuff in place within a kind of confined space.

    VM: Well, without being heavy-handed I think you reveal structure not to be something girthy but actually something maybe a little bit more provisional and resilient.

    JS: Yeah, I mean, you know I built a model of the space in my studio that was 1:16. It was really big. I did an entire mock-up of it and kept rearranging it. And, you know as soon as I began to install it I changed it [laughs].

    VM: So talk to me a little about that in terms of your motivations for doing it?

    JS: Originally, the yellow piece was way up in the window. You know, I was trying to expand and engage the entire spatial situation and you know this piece changes as you walk around the piece. Unlike, well, all sculpture does, but this sculpture more so because you come in to it and you participate within it and then it reconfigures. Well, you come up with structures and you see what you've done and what's not going to work. What I keep trying to do is keep conscious of the main axis of the museum is in front of us from the two main entrances and as far as avoiding that to some extent. And, actually this is the first time that I've done this stuff without actually anchoring to the ground.

    VM: I see that. It's a bit jarring at first. You were talking about how you wanted to move away from the necessity of gravity. Having to either install work on the ground or stuck to the wall?

    JS: Yeah, and these are all determined by gravity, too. They are all hanging. Nevertheless, they are not stopped by a wall or the ground, they are determined by the wall, it's complicated.

    VM: It's rare to experience work from both the ground floor and upstairs on the second floor open balcony.

    JS: If you walk around the room it constantly reconfigures. And this is a big space.


    VM: So talk to me a little more about what changed between the design of this installation and making it work for the space.

    JS: Well, you know, I made this red piece for this space and that's thirty-two foot because I wanted something that transitioned from the entry, the under-hang, up into the vastness of the space. And, I have a yellow piece way up on top and that black piece down and the whole the whole central section seemed empty so I inverted the two. I inverted the two, I pulled the yellow one down and dropped the black one further down. And, that piece, I don't know that orange color, pumpkin color, it actually looks like papaya, that one was much more horizontal. You know we put it up and it didn't work but I left it up because it's kind of falling down.

    VM: The work seems to be about freedom. Talk to me about freedom.

    JS: In terms of freedom you just kind of stick them in space. The problem is to be free and not anchored and I think, you know, it's like anything else. I mean if you sort of, if you're attached to the page or attached to the floor as an artist, or attached to a surface, there's freedom within that but it's more focused. I think this thing is a little looser. There are any number of configurations.

    VM: This feel closer to the kind of constructions that Helio Oiticica was making before he passed away...

    JS: I don't know his work well - I should.

    VM: It's suspended but it gives me that same flavor. Knowing the limitations of the forces that shape the thing. But, really, being free of them.

    JS: There are a million ways of doing it.

    VM: When I look at the work you've done over the years it's refreshing that you've landed on simple, existential moves that keep yielding more and more beautiful results. Is that part of your initial training or is that something that you've really garnered over forty-plus years of making?

    JS: You know you keep working and you keep working and I think you're always aware of the limitations of the work. This isn't spelled out in a program. You know of certain limitations in the work and you find out that if you continue to work the more there is nothing new to discover and it's really boring.

    VM: So talk to me about how this work reinvigorates your investigation formally, conceptually?

    JS: Well, I think it allows me a broader sense of freedom. To throw things in the air and then lock them in place with string. I don't have to build an elaborate structure. Although, this stringing and all this stuff ends up being quite labor intensive [laughs].

    VM: It looks effortless and simple.

    JS: It took us three days to do it.

    VM: And there again lies the trick.


    JS: You have to have good anchoring points into the building. And I just think that it's interesting that it depends on the building but it's not really formed by the building. So it has this nice symbiotic relationship with the architecture but it's not an extension of the architecture. If anything it's antithetic to the architecture and I think that's what's liberating about it. And I do think that you can project color in them. I'm deeply interested in the color. And, I've built many of these things around various metaphors, too. I mean, it's not void of narrative, though I think this one is the most formal that I've done that really had an internal story, which I would never announce publicly because I don't know if it's important. But, I mean, there is a sense of purpose.

    VM: Share with me the part of the narrative that is important to you. I think I tend to understand what you're talking about in terms of explaining a narrative that might not help understand the work?

    JS: I was thinking, you know, I'd think of black as absence at one point but then I would twist it all around. Some of these elements were shown at the LA Louver Gallery. Then I added them and extended them. I was really interested in sun, moon, earth, all these kinds of things, elemental. Trying to find a color. This is more about the color than the form. Trying to find it. Or the pink one, fleshy, more sensual, the one up there, that's all stuff I think about. So you try and load up or find a color and at that moment at least it has some meaning to you. I don't know how but I would never say that "this is fire" or "this is sea" - I think that's all crap.

    VM: It wouldn't necessarily support your idea of freedom if you held the people or the work to the narrative. So what are you calling this piece?

    JS: I'm calling it Portland. I mean that's how I refer to it in the studio. I'd say I was working on the Portland model. Bruce wanted to know a name for the piece and I said, "Well, we call it Portland." And, you know I think it's more how it avoids any aspect of statuary and any aspect of joining which is I think is really difficult. And, it's not dependent on the wall and floor. I think because of that it really does have a certain sense of exuberance.

    VM: I've seen the space overcrowded in the past, so the fact that your work makes it feel big is a point of success.

    JS: This is a big space.

    VM: Well, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will work for everything. Also, given your insight about color how we relate to the work really extends to the freedom because, you know, we have primary colors that we can engage with but also these very fun, design oranges, and fleshy pinks, and obscured blacks. Tell me what kind of other devices you have left for us to queue into - how to get around the work?

    JS: Not that many.

    VM: That's probably where the mastery lies?

    JS: I don't know. I mean I was interested in black and I was interested in aspects of green and I always saw this color, originally this color was going to be up high on the wall cause I was interested in the sort of spirituality...

    VM: The Celadon Green color here?

    JS: It's sort of Dark Malachite. Would have been something derived from Copper. But you know I think that's so long ago that it's not relevant. Now I just think it's about engaging form and space and the recombination of things. So you're seeing it, it's always some kind of other and it's always circumscribed differently or framed differently.

    VM: It feels like a constructivist invitation to explore.

    JS: Yeah.

    VM: Do you have a preferred avenue for viewing the work?

    JS: What does that mean?

    VM: You talk about wanting to design the work so that it doesn't necessarily queue into the entry spaces. Is there a point of view that is a little more prized?

    JS: Actually I don't. I mean I was sitting here, way back here, in the most obscure part of the thing, totally engaged. No, there's no preferred way. But, I mean I think it looks really great from the balcony.

    VM: I'm excited to see from above. It's interesting, too, to sit quietly with the work and notice that you've actually ordered and organized it in terms of cools and warms. It goes back to that metaphor of dark and light that you're talking about where the black and white have their own axis and the greens, the blues...

    JS: You know to some extent it is about the literalization of painting. It has a lot to do with painting. I mean of course as a sculptor I have an interest in painting. It's a kind of crazy approach to it. But it kind of works.

    VM: So, one of the questions I had earlier was how do you keep your studio practice so fresh when there are less and less choices to take? One of the things I'm hearing is that not only are you drawing from the past but you able to let go of the past when it doesn't really add to anything...

    JS: Yeah.


    VM: And, you're able to have a dialog with sculpture in a non-traditional sense. You've gotten rid of the pedestal part of that relationship.

    JS: I want my work to be fast. I'm not interested in the slow and ponderous. I think, you know, thought is, we have thoughts, they develop. You don't even know you're developing and idea. And then when their actualized, when they come into the world, there is a rapid realization so I was trying to, with this work, with this kind of work, not this piece in particular, I'm just going to project these thoughts, I was doing it, you know, I was building pieces, sculpture, I was joining part to part. And, if you were joining one element to another, attaching it say flat to flat. Not unlike the arm attaches to the shoulder. It can only do so many things. So then I began to break them apart, break elements out, and have these very strange connectors. I began putting pieces together with wire and then pulling them apart until I found a meaningful configuration. And, then I decided to just pull the parts. Locked in space was meaningful enough.

    VM: Goes to show how there is a way to visualize even String Theory now with this sculpture.

    JS: That I don't know about. I don't think about that.

    VM: Neither do I, which is a really difficult thing to articulate. What is this underlying structure that affects all of us but none of us can really touch or see? And, in a way the first thing you notice when you walk into the gallery space are the volumes of color. Not quite sure how much they weigh and what they're made of...

    JS: Right?

    VM: Secondary is the string. Which actually is the magic.

    JS: No, I think the string is a kind of armature. I did beef-up the strings. This is a public space. Normally I would use thinner string but this string is super strong and I think it's good because it's in public.

    VM: How much do the objects weigh?

    JS: Well, some are hollow. Like that red one weighs about forty pounds. This one weighs ninety pounds. This is heavy. It's solid. The string can hold up to fifteen hundred pounds.

    VM: This is going to give some poor guard a headache - and a heart attack. Given the relative freedom this Portland installation gives us how interactive do you see these getting? Do you see people pushing on them?

    JS: No. I see people walking through. No pushing.

    VM: Very courteously? No pushing?

    JS: If I wanted this to be interactive I would have made it - I would have turned it into a swing. Or made it into a slide. I think interactive if they walked around. I mean really the only one you could really walk into is this one. I seriously doubt if anyone will. These are pretty massive.

    VM: You talked about this installation being a part of a larger body of work and of a thinking through. What other installations connect to this specific one?

    JS: Well I did an installation at Ludwig Museum in Cologne. I did a show at Pace Gallery of suspended pieces. And, you know really it was a breakthrough show. And the pieces were smaller and the string was barely there. So, some people really liked it. Some people found some string more there than other strings. If I used white string in here these things would really float. I've decided not to do that. That I'm using grey because I think the string is an essential part of the work. So, I did a show at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, then I did a show at Rice University art gallery, which is very beautiful, and I did a show a LA Louver Gallery and then Paula Cooper showed the Rice piece but I made some adaptations. Some of these elements were in the exhibition at LA Louver. I reconfigured it entirely and added certain elements for this exhibition. This was not in the show - the red one. The blue one wasn't in the show. I think it's courageous of the museum to do it.

    VM: How did you get connected to the Portland Art Museum?

    JS: Bruce saw the show in Los Angeles.

    VM: At LA Louver?

    JS: Yeah, and he really liked it. Because it's radical.

  • Permalink for 'Ralph Pugay wins Betty Bowen Award'

    Ralph Pugay wins Betty Bowen Award

    Posted: 11-September-2014, 5:58pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Ralph Pugay's Chicken Pox Orgy

    Congrats to Ralph Pugay for winning the Betty Bowen Award in Seattle. More important than the well deserved prize money (15k) it is heartening since most awards in the Northwest (especially Portland) go to artists that are late-midcareer (from before the change in say 1999-2000), mostly known as educators/community-minders and aren't terribly edgy. Yet it is an influx of such artists to the Portland scene... and are active nationally/internationally that has been instrumental in transforming the city from a sleepier backwater to an artistic hotbed. Back in 2012 Peter Plagens made note of Pugay during a survey visit. His edgy humor is kinda what people think about Portland (thanks to Portlandia)... a place where quirks seem to fester into full blown absurdity. Well deserved, if only all the other regional art awards had similarly sharp teeth and rewarded work that finds the edges.
  • Permalink for 'Monday Links'

    Monday Links

    Posted: 8-September-2014, 4:29pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    The final Art Vs. Reality involves art critics and though it is a bit rudimentary I think it is a useful series.

    One thing I wish Peter Drew had fleshed out a lot more is the difference between simple opinion and higher levels of comparative connoissuership. For example, there is experience and when applied it can predict the difference between good, better and great work, because art doesn't exist in a vacuum ... though a lot of art schools and low-mid level dealers act like it does or want to treat everything with equivalence (it isn't). I discussed it a bit in this primer to an essay on art criticism I have been writing off and on, but it is crucial to note how not all art writing involves truly critical thinking and comparative discourse. Instead, it typically involves personal allegiances, which are not the same thing (rhetorically any time someone tries to make something personal it means they don't have an intellectual response and I take special joy in demolishing those bunkers of mendacity). On another front a lot of academic art writing would rather supplant the work and replace it with dialogical text, which I find careerist and designed to fluff CV's. Instead, real criticism purposefully acknowledges its diagnostic and separate role from the needs of the artist, presenting institution and genre. Instead, it tests the often presupposed effects and outcomes of the work as well as the overall value of those presuppositions, which always attend any work today. Social media is often a shouting match or a builder of group momentum, which does have its value. Whereas criticism is a long game and I don't see the two making each other less relevant. A strong critic that stands up to the group think and reveals the way it can really miss the boat is very valuable. There aren;t many such critics because there are few platforms these days. PORT is one of them.

    Yes, here is a map of a large part of the universe... I don't need to write anything more. If you aren't interested you can't be helped.

    Rauschenberg Foundation's artist as activist grants sound inspiring.
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