I visited Portland and, with fortuitous timing, attended the 2014 Portland Biennial. While I was only in town for one night, the biennial was definitely the highlight of my visit. Amanda Hunt—a Curator at Large for LAXART, a nonprofit space in LA whose board I am on—was the biennial’s curator, and she did an excellent job organizing a show that featured Oregon’s talent. The main body of the show was held at Disjecta, a contemporary art center with programming that emphasizes forward-thinking visual and performing art.
While walking through the space, Amanda discussed what is going on in Oregon’s contemporary art scene. There is a tremendous spirit of collaboration that acts as a thread throughout the exhibit. An example of this is Modou Dieng and Devon A. Vanhouten-Maldonado’s large billboard-like painting that was definitely one of the focal points of Portland2014.
Another exciting moment of the biennial was seeing new works by artists that I had been previously aware of, such as Jessica Jackson Hutchins. Hutchins lives and works in Portland and Berlin, but I had previously seen her work only in New York. It was really interesting to see her work in the context of where she’s from and to see how that influences her aesthetics. It was also exciting for me to learn about some new artists. I enjoyed familiarizing myself with D.E. May’s work. May works to understand history and time through nonarchivist language, and I was fascinated by the work that he presented. He had a great new body of work in the Biennial, works installed at the Portland Art Museum, and a show at his gallery, PDX Contemporary Art.
Another highlight of Portland2014 is its accompanying catalogue, “Publication Studio Portland Biennial.” As Amanda Hunt explains in the Introduction, the catalogue presents, “…an opportunity to sift through a mass of thoughts that had been pooled together, a collection of words or images that in some way represented the process of becoming.” Flipping through the catalogue, one experiences a non-linear archive of different thoughts, images, questions, and works. This catalogue really represents the progressive nature of Portland’s art scene, and I love having it on my coffee table as a reminder of my trip.
I also had a chance to visit some of Portland’s art spaces. While there were many places I wanted to visit, I only made it to a few (I will include a list at the end with links to some of the other exciting places I’ve heard about in Portland). Upfor Gallery—which was an extended venue for the Biennial—had an installation by Ellen Lesperance. I also made it to Fourteen30 Contemporary, which exhibited a group show of Michael Dopp, Rachel Foullon, Israel Lund, Niall Macdonald, Brian Sharp, and Josh Tonsfeldt. I am a big fan of Lund and Tonsfeldt and loved seeing their work in context with artists who were new to me. Fourteen30 Contemporary has a great space and innovative programming; it is definitely one of Portland’s finest young galleries. I didn’t have a chance to visit this time, yet Lumber Room, Yale Union, and Adams and Ollman are on my list for my next visit!
I heard beforehand that Portland was a big foodie town, and I made sure to check that out while in the area! Voodoo Doughnut is a must try, especially my favorite, the Old Dirty Bastard doughnut, which is a raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, Oreo’s, and peanut butter. I also had an old-fashioned Southern meal at The Country Cat. It was all about fried chicken and onion rings!!
I was told that I did not have a true Portland experience as I had fantastic springtime weather, with their cherry blossom trees, making the whole city pop. Portland’s infamous rain had only one occurance as I was heading back to the airport. A sign, perhaps?!
Upfor Gallery: http://www.upforgallery.com/
Fourteen30 Contemporary: http://fourteen30.com/
Lumber Room: http://www.lumberroom.com/
Yale Union: http://yaleunion.org/
Adams and Ollman: http://adamsandollman.com/
Voodoo Doughnut: http://voodoodoughnut.com/index.php
Country Cat: http://voodoodoughnut.com/index.php