Who: It doesn't matter. Evaluate the postings and decide for yourself whether they make sense. I'm not interested in being a brand, being recognized on the street or monetary benefit. I don't offer an email address; I don't want to hear from you. I've disabled comments so there is nothing to police, no back and forth communication, no angry, thoughtless, knee jerk comments to shut down conversation. Most importantly, the galleries, non-profit organizations, academics, and local media who have run the local art scene into the ground don't get a voice on this blog. If you like something you read here, talk about it with a friend. If you dislike something here, talk about it with a friend. If you get bored with this site, steer the conversation by doing the work that will get people talking. A multitude of artists’ voices, much more so than a multitude of galleries, make for a vibrant art scene.
What: This is art criticism: impassioned, opinionated, entertaining and informed. These are thoughts on the local art scene based on two decades of experience with major urban art centers, seven years at some of the best art schools in the country, dozens of articles for art magazines and countless hours spent working with successful galleries. Nobody in Portland is publishing anything similar. Criticism in the region ranges from bland, polite and self-congratulatory to virtually unreadable strings of run-on sentences. My aim is to be smart, witty and fearless.
Try Harder PDX lives by three principles: Portland can't have a vibrant art scene if everybody gets a trophy. Portland can't have a vibrant art scene when the dominant philosophy privileges importing over supporting. Portland can't have a vibrant art scene without a rich, informed dialog.
When: Postings will come up as necessary, and as I have time. Sometimes my life will get in the way, but I’ll devote what I have to this project. Check regularly for updates or to see if your favorite show has been reviewed or for occasional takedowns of Portland’s most miserable arts-administrative talent.
Why: Portland was once known as an up and coming place for art; now people come here for food. This says nothing about the quality of our artists, rather it implicates our leadership. Galleries have operated from self interest, satisfying a narrow band of collectors who often have differing levels of knowledge and less than adventurous tastes. Portland non-profits are, almost uniformly, poorly run, ideationally bankrupt and at their worst have become divisive cults of personality. None of this lends itself to an art scene, that bubbling test tube of frenetic curiosity that piques public interest and moves artists’ concerns into dialogues.
Galleries can capitalize on a thriving scene or they can use their connections to stifle voices, but a collection of white cubes isn’t an art scene. Only artists can create that. Non-profits should be supporting our artists on a regular basis, not sitting fallow most of the year, not auctioning the work of local artists to pay fees to national artists. The question posed by Portland's arts leadership has always been "What will make a gallery system viable?" When the most important question is "What will energize the largest group of artists?" If galleries were the biggest part of the equation, First Thursday would be more than a tepid prelude to kale salad and IPA.
There are two extremes in the Portland art world. The first is that nothing good can grow here. That camp uses the very resources that could support a strong local community to import from major art centers while congratulating theirselves on edifying the piteous provincials. The other camp feels that Portland doesn't need any outside influence at all, so their work stagnates in similar self-congratulation. These are both symptoms of provincialism. This blog is here to say, fuck that!