Schwegler's "Legacy" and "Index" (right)
up the year
A space odyssey
The 2001 art season in Portland is all but over time for
What I won't miss:
Dorks in "The North Face" jackets judging street
artists for being tacky.
The debate of whether Portland is a town or a city.
Half-assed lowered expectations for Portland's art culture.
Full-assed acceptance of the idea that Portland never changes.
For those who missed it, the 2001 art season reflected a marked
change in the intentions and seriousness of Portland's art scene.
To be sure, it was not flawless. But schlock is everywhere. Let's
not throw the baby out with the bath water. For me, these are the
Blue Ribbon award
Malia Jensen's "bunny," shown in July at PDX Gallery
(604 NW 12th Ave.) was my favorite work throughout the year.
More than just cute, it articulates her riddler-like concerns and
has lots of Mary Shelly (think Frankenstein) overtones. Later in
the year she created an all-leather version. Kudos for not aping
Japanese anime [see June
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave.
The Portland Art Museum finally got serious about its contemporary
holdings and acquired the Clement Greenberg collection. In doing
so they gained first-rate works by Anthony Caro "Square Feet
Flat," Kenneth Noland "Air Beauty" and Helen Frankenthaler's
"Spaced Out Orbit." Will Bruce Guenther be allowed to
keep that momentum going? Alex Katz's "Lawn Party" loaner
was a real treat, too.
The new curator is human but he does his best work when working
with 20th Century gods like Giacometti and Ellsworth Kelly. Frankly,
how many people in town know Rothko grew up in Portland and had
his first solo show at PAM? The nice turnouts for the museum's lecture
series on Greenberg were proof that some people do give a
damn. Now let's expect the same of the local artists.
416 NW 10th Ave.
After two long years Heidi Schwegler got a show [see
image, top and August
review]. This, after she produced the most challenging work in the
1999 Oregon biennial, was embarrassing. On the other hand, bravo:
maybe more artists will make their way into galleries which have
had pretty static rosters for the last six years.
Portland is changing and is no longer attracting third stringers.
If Portlanders would stop whining about wanting better artists and
start looking at the bright, ambitious newcomers they would find
them. Set higher expectations and they will be met. Everyone should
assume that the galleries may not be the best place to find these
people. All galleries should be asking one question: Are we fresh
or stale? Portlanders can spot fresh produce; they can just as easily
spot fresh art.
"Light Streak Variation #2"
Portland Institute of Contemporary Art
219 NW 12th Ave.
Erika Blumenthal's "Moments of Light"
so crisp and so mortal wins my vote for most memorable show
of the year. She also yoked PICA's rather stoic space. Through all
the changes in the year, her work stayed with me. I still walk around
the show in my mind. Like a great imperfect computer or a useless
calendar, these arrays of exposed Polaroids touched the sublime
by acknowledging its flaws and impermanence [see April
Everett Station Lofts
Decaying Deer Carcass
There's something rotten in Denmark ... If you don't know Nic Walker
you just don't know Portland's young scene. A lot of artists and
collectors in town look up to his work. Walker not only supported
himself for an entire year just by selling his art in places like
La Cruda and Little Wing, he also created Portland's most infamous
exhibit early last year. His actual rotting deer carcass at the
Everett Station Lofts stank like a battlefield and spoke his discontent
with Portland's cheesy new rich who constantly tried to get him
to make his work slicker.
Mind you, Walker exhibited this carcass in his own home ... bringing
new meaning to commitment and bile. His elegant-but-rough new work
has matured into the most ironic, concise and beguiling stuff I've
seen in years. It's so dry, it makes me think of Beuys and Ed Rusche.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're out of some loops.
If you are curious, seek him out.
Ayo's "eye-con" series shadows cultural cachet.
Mark Woolley Gallery
120 NW 9th Ave.
This was a controversial and challenging show. Some gave in to
liberal guilt, others turned off or on for a variety of legitimate
reasons. I think Woolley deserves a lot of credit for having the
balls to show this [see October
Let's face it: Portland speaks of race in almost purely hypothetical
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
207 SW Pine St.
All year long, Judy Pfaff's exquisite print works at Elizabeth
Leach were easily the best available in Portland. In fact, I think
they are some of the best prints ever. They have a great da Vinci-esqe
inquisitiveness. Please don't let that wussy installation outside
the ODS building fool you; "magic mirror" pretty much
embodies humanism to me.
Wrapping things up
With new blood oozing into the galleries these days it is an exciting
time to be in Portland, 2002 should be better and 2003 is when a
lot of this will start to gel. I see a five-year plan in the works
and 2001 was right on schedule ...