A Portland Biennial Worth Talking About
We have talked before on this blog about how competition and criticism are the hallmarks of truly creative communities. Past a certain threshold, it's not enough to merely give or withhold coverage. To elevate a scene and improve everyone's game you need critical discourse. So after going to last week's opening of the 2011 Portland Biennial, and being favorably impressed with many pieces and with the overall quality of the show, I waited to see if anything challenging would emerge from the local press
This week's cover of the Portland Phoenix caught my eye, but not for the right reasons. The image of a heavily tattooed man with the headline "Art for the 21st Century," seemed like a cliché: are tattoos really a prerequisite to be a contemporary artist? As it turns out the man in the photo is indeed an artist, but not one who is in the show—the photograph of him, by Michael Penny, is in the show. That quibble aside, the walk-through review by Phoenix art critics Annie Larmon and Nicholas Schroeder is mostly right on. The approach is conversational and a bit scattered, as if you were walking through the exhibit with a couple of friends who enjoy talking about art. For the most part, the two are in agreement about which pieces are truly contemporary and which, being more traditional, are "a lateral step at best."
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