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  • Permalink for 'Monday Links'

    Monday Links

    Posted: 20-October-2014, 3:08pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Ok it is Bruce Guenther's last day at PAM and I'm finishing off my long piece on his career just as, "Elvis has left the building." It will be ready soon and its important to have it right because ity is very comprehensive and a good moment to think about where this leaves PAM both in terms of challenges and opportunities. Till then here are a few links:

    Lots of stories on Jeff Koons including a documentary of a crucial career moment and vandalism. I truly doubt that he doesn't want people to see the film... just doesn't want to foreground it (silly press, Jeff Koons not want attention?).

    Europe's first carpenters.

    More art vandalism. It's never good for the specific installation but it does draw attention to the piece and artist... there's a fine line and should never be condoned, but stronger work survives and even gains more relevance through the indignity.

    Christopher Knight reviews Ai Weiwei's Alcatraz project.
  • Permalink for 'Weekend Wanderer'

    Weekend Wanderer

    Posted: 17-October-2014, 7:12pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Yes, PORT will have my Bruce Guenther piece for you after the weekend (it is as complicated, personal and historically versed as its subject matter and I want to let it marinate a little more). Still, you should get out and see some art this weekend (shows that opened last weekend, Lumber Room and Abigail Newbold at PNCA are all still up) and these three new additions might just make your weekend.

    Schnitzer_A_H_Collection_sm2.jpg
    (L to R) Homage to Delacroix: Liberty Leading The People (1976) Robert Colescott, Trinitarian (2007) Mark di Suvero, Brazilian Screamer (1931) Morris Graves, By the River (1927) C.S. Price, Chu Culture deer funerary guardian (Late 5th early 4th Century BCE)

    In Passionate Pursuit (The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Collection and Legacy) is retiring Chief Curator Bruce Guenther's final exhibition at the Portland Art Museum and it is a massive undertaking where the subtext itself is the act of collecting as sustaining patronage. True collectors like Arlene and Harold Schnitzer share their lives with the objects they relentlessly acquire, creating an anthropological biography in a way that others can experience. Curatorially, sifting through the over 2000 objects in the collection in a cogent, focused and yet representative way comes full circle for the Schnitzers, PAM and Bruce all in one fell swoop. It is clearly very emotional for PAM's staff and the Schnitzers. Also, what I like about Bruce's approach to the show is he didn't group by genre or even chronology. Instead, it laid out as clustered objects in conversation and therefore truer to the way the collection has operated in Harold and Arlene Schnitzer's lives.

    For example, my favorite corner features a socio-politically challenging Robert Colescott (image above) that has never been exhibited publicly (it typically resides in the conference room) and a similarly banner raising Mark di Suvero... juxtaposed with a stoic C.S. Price horse painting and a poised Warring States period Jing deer holding court together with a mysterious and noteworthy early Morris Graves titled Brazilian Screamer. The effect is dizzying with a boisterous Western style humanism contrasted against a a more quiet Eastern appreciation of the sublime and it takes a lot of unpacking. But that's the thrill of collecting... it isn't harmonious so much as a commitment to being challenged by objects and the inherent conversations that arises amongst them. Some of the important regional artists like Louis Bunce, Michele Russo, Hilda Morris and Mel Katz, who are all in the show... simply would not have had the same careers they had as a community without the Schnitzers' activities as patrons of the arts.

    In fact, one particular moment is crucial to understanding the Schnitzers as collectors, the tragic 1977 fire that claimed a large part of their collection as well as the works of many artist from the Fountain Gallery (which Arlene Schnitzer operated at the time). One work on display, Donald Wilson's sculpture Seated Figure (1977) was one of the works saved by attentive fire fighters. Other surprises include an excellent Luis Tomasello, Native American beaded bags and two rather feisty Robert Arnesons. In so many ways it is a crucial biography of art in Portland.

    In Passionate Pursuit | October 18 2014 - January 11 2015
    Portland Art Museum
    1219 SW Park



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    Bluesky at PAM, Nan Goldin (L)

    Another anthropological survey at PAM, Bluesky (The Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts at 40) is an equally crucial history of photography in Portland. Highlights include Nan Goldin, Robert Frank, John Divola, Mark Klett and Larry Sultan along with many others. Bluesky along with its founders Christopher Rauschenberg, Ann Hughes, Robert DiFranco, Craig Hickman and Terry Toedtemeier ...and like the Schnitzers have been a crucial patron in Portland and this exhaustive show helps survey an institution in the way Bluesky themselves could not.

    Bluesky | October 18 2014 - January 11 2015
    Portland Art Museum
    1219 SW Park



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    Anthony McCall's You and I Horizontal

    Curated by Sandra Percival, Zena Zezza will be bringing us two shows this weekend by Brian's Anthony McCall and Laura Heit at the Hallock & McMillan building, Portland's oldest commercial structure built in 1857 (FYI Statehood was in 1859). McCall will present one of his signature light and space works, You and I Horizontal and Heit will inaugurate the 1857 series of projects, which will look back at the 1800's, "from the mundane to cataclysmic." At PORT we love idiomatic uses of space, especially if the space is idiomatic itself.

    Anthony McCall and Laura Heit | October 19 - December 13 2014
    Opening Reception: Sunday, October 19, 2-5PM
    Presented by Zena Zezza
    Hallock & McMillan building
    237 SW Naito Parkway (at SW Oak Street)
  • Permalink for 'Abigail Anne Newbold at PNCA's Feldman Gallery'

    Abigail Anne Newbold at PNCA's Feldman Gallery

    Posted: 16-October-2014, 7:18pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Portland's art scene is having a very strong month this October (mostly in painting and photography... much of the installation has been undercooked), but of all the shows the one that I keep returning to is Abigail Anne Newbold's installation, Borderlander's Outfitter at PNCA's Feldman Gallery.

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    Borderlander's Outfitter

    The exhibition presents itself as a hipsterish quartermaster's gear dispensary or a tool library with an anthropological array of artifacts from a summer survival weekend in the project room. Everything is clothed in fairly recognizable purpose except that everything is a hair off. For example the dome tent on a cot is too narrow for anyone weighing over 90 lbs, there's a whimsical deer hoof tent stake hanger, a sheepskin glove has only 3 finger lobes... perhaps an oven mitt for Trekkies doing the "Live Long and Prosper" sign? ...and the bow and arrow seem less dangerous than a table knife. This gear doesn't seem actually available for use as much as it is suggestive of some extensive outdoor enterprise, which could happen. It's a show inherently about the potential of humans when mobilized. Good idea, but the problem is it is just too cute and adorable for its own good. Though it does make great programmatic sense for an art school beginning its school year. At least the exhibition is installed rather well (a complaint often levied on Museum of Contemporary Craft exhibitions).

    Hoof_stakes_sm.jpg

    Many other artists like Andrea Zittel, Fritz Haeg, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle and even Ai Wei Wei use familiar design vernaculars to ingratiate themselves with viewers (often in novel environments) but there is something different at work here. Instead of Andrea Zittel's fetish and commentary on modernist design and human efficiency/self reliance... this show exercises itself like some massive millennial Civilian Conservation Corps, recalling the Boy Scouts and numerous other quasi utopian paramilitary wilderness expedition organizations but with a dash of an REI shopping experience thrown in. Thus, its net effect is closer to Jeff Koon's assiduously crafted Pop than Zittell's brutal jet age survivalism (which has cold war era nuclear armageddon lurking somewhere deep underneath its orderly desert dwelling self sufficiency). Instead, this exhibition is delightful and charming by comarison. Newbold's penchant for "delight" isn't a bad thing, but like Koons it means it relies on craft's wow factor and ultimately it seems like an amusing distraction from something deeper and potentially more consequential.

    Pegboard_tools_sm.jpg

    For example, there's pegboard galore festooned with curiously tweaked tools with functions like grabbing, cutting, pounding or cutting... a bit like what the Occupy Movement might require if they were in a logging camp rather than on Wall Steet. Perhaps some could be used as interesting existential money extraction tools? At least the pegboard tools aren't trying as hard to be charming as the rest of the exhibition and I can forgive the nifty holster for a pair of shears where the stitching mimics the device it encloses because that particular tool seems to understand its own potential threat and ability to do work.

    hunger-games_JLaw.jpg
    Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games

    I bring all this up because Americans have been recently beset with numerous young adult fictions like the Hunger Games series.... even the resurrection of the X-men mutants as a school scenario in mainstream pop culture. Sure, Borderlander's Outfitter is different of course but somehow Katniss' bow as wielded by Jennifer Lawrence in the movies with a soundtrack by Taylor Swift seems infinitely more potent than Abigail Newbold's archery set.

    Bow_outfitter-sm.jpg

    Other art camp scenarios like Fritz Haeg's various projects or even the local Signal Fire residencies (who contributed to Newbold's survival weekend part of the project) are more experience oriented and less diffused by a charm offensive that this exhibition engages in. Still, I did enjoy the nostalgia it all induced, reminding me of my youth as a scout camp staff councilor but somehow this felt too twee, especially compared to Andrea Zittell, whose work seems to be similarly fashionable but oh so tough in the end. Maybe I'm just being a cynical Gen X-er or it is the fact that Im very experienced outdoors but I think the problem isn't truly generational... it's the way the art world at the middle levels rewards quirky and cute over seriousness. I think Abigail Anne Newbold can do better, though I'm certain the students who took part in the survival weekend got something worthwhile out of it... the exhibition itself feels parochial and light.

    acadamy_for_survival_sm.jpg
    Academy for survival

    Still, in the end I wonder, was there truly a "survival" weekend or just weekend warriors without the nasty lord of the flies type survival situation? Mostly this exhibition left me with a feeling of a "My Summer Vacation" report given to parents... which perhaps is too similar to many art school's prolonged adolescence? Still, I don't want to dismiss it completely, Newbold has a deft way with altering the meaning of objects, especially tools. Perhaps if there were a more consequential target for her activity to underpin this whole enterprise it wouldn't come off as darling escapism. These are serious times and exhibiting hipster survivalism just doesn't quite step up to the task at hand.


    Through October 24th at PNCA's Feldman Gallery
  • Permalink for 'Tuesday's complicated links'

    Tuesday's complicated links

    Posted: 14-October-2014, 6:29pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    We will have a review for you shortly and my in depth piece on Bruce Guenther will post on Saturday (the 20th is his last day and many of the most crucial aspects have not been discussed). Till then here are some links:

    The uncontested works (?) from the Gurlitt trove will go to the Bern Kunstmuseum. It is a fact, museums walk an incredibly fine line between ennobling culture and the messy way that sausage gets made but the Gurlitt acquisition is perhaps the most tainted situation to come to light in the 21st century to date. Yes, it looks like Bern is being very cautious, but still... this promises to take another 50-100 years to sort out.

    Look, art fairs are not Ikea for millionaires. There are a lot of class warfare tinged sentiments out there at the moment but I think we need to separate the discussion of high priced masterworks from relatively unproven contemporary art and the living artists that create it. In general, many of the names you see bandied about right now wont be around in 5-10 years. That "other" work that already has been certified great is still great, despite the very impressive price tags. The worst case scenarios are when these great works leave the public view all together. They both have cultural value worth discussing beyond monetary value. That is what museums are for.

    Eric Fischl on art fairs.

    Michael Graves visited Portland last week and Brian Libby recounts the momentous event. Overall, I'm in complete agreement... we should renovate the building, which is of immense historical and cultural significance. Partially this is because the city as a client/patron failed perhaps more than Graves did as an architect. Pictures, as Randy Gragg recently suggested are simply not enough and Portland should double down on the Portland building. Anyone who knows anything about the siting of sculpture would understand how the building very much stages Portlandia as well (and no it is not as important as the building) Overall it is a deft design moment we need to protect).

    Ken Johnson discusses humor in art and its ubiquity as of late. It reminds me that comedy has certain technical aspects to it and what a lot of these artists lack is the way comedians hone their act. They seem content to be mildly humorous. Real comedy is more jarring.
  • Permalink for 'Weekend Wanderer'

    Weekend Wanderer

    Posted: 10-October-2014, 3:16pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    It is one Very Busy weekend in Portland's art scene since Saturday is the last day for TBA visual art shows, Nationale has a new space and Surplus Space is doing a performance night. Here are my picks:

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    Stream Room by Deep White Sound at FalseFront sounds a lot like attending numerous trance raves at the same time with its cacaphonous presentation of multiple sound art pieces at the same time. Everything is streamed to multiple handmade streaming devices. Curated and produced for deepwhitesound by DB Amorin with design and visuals by Dana Paresa + programming and consultation by Matt McVickar.

    Stream Room | October 11 - November 2
    Opening Reception: October 11 6-9PM
    FalseFront
    4518 NE 32nd Avenue



    Thick_drwings.jpg
    Laura Vandenburgh

    Technically the location is far south of Portland in Eugene/Springfield but Ditch Projects Thick Drawings by Laura Vandenburgh gives us an opportunity to check out an enormous "floor to wall" version of her signature drawings fraught with fragility and precision. With so many performances going on lately it is nice to see a major installation effort.

    Thick Drawings | October 11 - November 2
    Opening Reception: October 11, 6-9 PM
    Ditch Projects
    303 S. 5th Avenue #165
    Springfield OR 97477



    Desert_Manada_Machine_det_sm.jpg
    Matthew Leavitt, Desert Mandala Machine (detail) photo Jeff Jahn

    Forgive the self promotion but Anthropometry (curated by yours truly) is a very strong show with some young Portland artists making a big splash. Focused on artists who use design and science in an applied way to perpetrate contemporary art, Anthropometry features newly minted Portlanders; Flynn Casey, Matthew Leavitt and veteran Seattle artist Ephraim Russell. It is a major theme in contemporary art these days and felt it was time to explore it locally. Overall, it is nice to introduce artists to one another and to see the new blood step up and distinguish itself. At reception Leavitt will activate Desert Mandala Machine and install a small but fantastic additional work, Contrivance.

    Anthropometry | October 1 - 31
    Artist Talk & Reception: October 11 | 3:30 - 4:30PM
    Kathrin Cawein Gallery
    Pacific University
    2043 College Way, Forest Grove, OR 97116
  • Permalink for 'David Byrne gives up, sorta'

    David Byrne gives up, sorta

    Posted: 7-October-2014, 3:05pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Today David Byrne published an essay on why he doesn't care about contemporary art anymore. Some may ask, David who? That is a good question but pretty much anyone age 30-60 knows he was once the bellwether of postmodern artyness and yes he made some music too.

    I'm not going to comment so much on the content of the art he has lost interest in but to me it seems like it is a very community based critique (and anti-marketplace) of how much Art has lost its awkward struggle at certain tiers of the art world. Also, there is an implicit lament of... where is the cross pollination between the visual and other genres when Art becomes an industrial product as a type of entertainment? IE has Art become too mainstream? I suspect the answer is to simply shift our gaze rather than to give up. Blaming the art market is like saying you hate doctors because they work in large hospitals... simply change the practitioners you visit. Sometimes a big hospital can do things the small offices can't and vice versa.

    Art exists in spite of its market not because of it and I like Portland because I see weird/innovative things happening here in pockets of smart people that don't get co-opted by more mainstream society for 6 months to a few years. It happens other places as well and I'm pretty certain that this moment only provides an opportunity for artists who really want to change the way we look at our world... through art. I never buy the art is dead argument, but it is interesting to ponder. Instead, I think it is important to better define the stakes and reevaluate where you are looking for art. I mean that geographically, demographically and ideologically.
  • Permalink for 'Dan Cameron in conversation with Anne Appleby and Tony Feher'

    Dan Cameron in conversation with Anne Appleby and Tony Feher

    Posted: 7-October-2014, 5:24pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Feher_Apfelbaum_sm.jpg
    (teaser image)Apfelbaum (bg) All the Colors Under the Sun, Feher (fg)

    Portland can be a difficult town for outsiders and this goes doubly true for traveling artists and curators who use their credentials like a calling card. Basically, Portlanders are very accepting but they don't accept received wisdom like other places do (it really does take 5+ years to build up your reputation here). Culturally this fact can make the city seem a tad like some lost island (full of dinosaurs or misfit toys, take your pick) but it also means it is a protective enclave for experimentation. That is what Lumber Room's mission has been... a kind of low pressure guesthouse for art and two recent shows by Tony Feher and Polly Apfelbaum allowed each to pursue their own brand of post-minimal/neo-formal exploration in separate shows. Both shows, by virtue of being "explorations" weren't their most memorable efforts but they were an unfolding of the creative process that would be put under a microscope more in New York or London. That is freedom... and important when developing new work. *Update, this tag team show is more successful than the individual solo exhibitions.

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    Dan Cameron

    Which, is all to say that I'm curious what curator Dan Cameron will have to say at the opening of the new two person show opening Wednesday October 8th at Lumber Room? He's worked with both artists and Cameron himself has jumped around a great deal in various curatorial roles from New York to New Orleans and Southern California so it will be interesting to see what these three travelers discuss? Certainly there is a conversation between Feher and Apfelbaum's work centering around post-minimalism and neo-formalism, whether or not those terms apply personally to the artists.

    Polly Apfelbaum Tony Feher | October 10 - November 22, 2014
    Reception and Talk with artists and Dan Cameron: October 8 | 6-8PM
    Lumber Room
    419 NW 9th
  • Permalink for 'Bluesky Birthday'

    Bluesky Birthday

    Posted: 5-October-2014, 5:03pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    BoyWBird.jpg
    Carol Yarrow's Boy with bird, currently on display at Bluesky

    Today, Bluesky Galllery (AKA the Oregon Center For The Photographic Arts) turns 39 and will be celebrating with a 40 year show at the Portland Art museum later this month. Congratulations and let's look back at a few of the shows we have reviewed covered:

    F & D Carter's Wait and See this past Spring was an exciting tour de force of experimentation.

    Richard Barnes' Animal Logic showed photography's ability to crystallize concentrated contemplation.

    Torben Escerod's meditations on death and photography as a relic.

    Amy Stein's juxtaposition of animals in a developed American landscape.

    Robert Rauschenberg's final body of work debuted in their then newish home.
  • Permalink for 'First Thursday Picks October 2014'

    First Thursday Picks October 2014

    Posted: 2-October-2014, 6:47pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    October is one of the power months in the Portland art scene... and we know it better than anyone else. Here are my picks


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    Habit Forming

    When Storm Tharp broke out in 2007, he established himself as one of the premier contemporary portraitists in the country but since then has been adding facets and layers to that reputation. For his latest show Tiger he doubles down on influences like David Hockney, Fairfield Porter's paintings, Donald Judd and numerous literary figures.

    Tiger | September 30 - November 1
    PDX Contemporary
    925 NW Flanders


    spiders_eating_popcorn_Pugay.jpg

    Spiders Eating Popcorn

    Across the hall from PDX, check out Ralph Pugay. Pugay has had a great run over the past few years including awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation and the Betty Bowen Award most recently. His Debut at Upfor titled "Critter" gives us a first real look at this humorist's development in a solo show. I dont find it purely comedic though as there is a zen monk's level of absurd circumscription evident in the best works. Certainly Pugay is the artist who best embodies the quirk hype that the Portlandia show has made Portland famous for, but luckily he's got more going on and rarely devolves into simple caricature or mockery. He's simply better than that.

    Critter | September 30 - November 1, 2014
    Reception: October 2 6-9PM
    Upfor Contemporary
    929 NW Flanders


    Unbecoming.jpg

    First Thursday isn't just the main commercial galleries there alre also numerous alternative spaces and Unbecoming at Composition in the Everett Station lofts has a promising group show of, "five female-identifying artists exploring the power of dissent through their work and bodies." Curated by Anastasia Tuazon with work by Patricia Alvarado Char Esme, Hayley Eli Gutzler, Rubina Martin and Kelly McGovern.

    Unbecoming | October 2 - 31
    Opening Reception: First Thursday, October 2nd, 6 - 9PM
    Performance by Kelly McGovern at 7:30 PM
    Composition
    625 NW Everett #102
  • Permalink for 'Friday Links'

    Friday Links

    Posted: 3-October-2014, 3:19pm EDT by Jeff Jahn
    Christopher Knight isn't convinced that Warhol's Shadows on display at MOCA are a top tier work, which is hardly a radical art historical position to take as Warhols late work is often derided. Then MOCA's Director Philippe Vergne took the controversial step of responding to the criticism. I tend to disagree with Knight on the importance of this particular work as it is a somewhat elemental late work that adds a new dimension to one's understanding of Warhol (maybe not top tier but provocatively near it). As for the Vergne responding to criticism publicly... those who are more old fashioned might not like it but we live in an era of fluid debate and response and Knight can certainly take it (that separates him from mere internet trolls). It is healthy and Knight's reputation is hardly at risk... a weak critic needs some protection, great ones survive, even grow ever stronger from having some pushback like this. Lastly, Vergne is European, they simply have a stronger tradition of pointed critique and I think it is an important step for the West Coast to publicly step out of the very passive aggressive cycle in discourse that we have been known for. Admittedly, I have a dog in this hunt. I cut my teeth with British art publications and that tone does threaten some other west coasters in the visual art scene. What it does do is cuts through all these false politeness that doesn't serve the work or ideas in question. Overall, I think the Warhol will fare just fine as will Knight and MOCA... So is the opiece in question a masterpiece or the birth of the zombie formalism that Jerry Saltz and others including myself have been railing against? The jury is out.

    Indeed, all of these are deficient designs in Portland.

    Jerry Saltz on Robert Gober.


    Checkout this fascinating video on the conservation of Matisse's Swimming pool. I think it is right to treat the burlap as a support to be swapped out and not as a relic. Going back to the studio version is also provocative though a thornier issue. Do we present paintings the way they were stored in the studio? It is an interesting pickle.
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