Where do you find the pulse of Portland? If you ask artsy types, they’re apt to direct you to Disjecta’s ambitious biennial exhibition, Portland2014. The nonprofit began mounting biennials in 2010 to pick up the perceived slack when the Portland Art Museum traded in its long-standing Oregon Biennial for the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards. Those awards, so the thinking went, diluted exhibition opportunities for Oregon artists by opening the applicant field to artists from Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Disjecta, by limiting its scope to Oregon, aimed to capture a purer sampling of what’s going on here. The curators were also local: Cris Moss in 2010 and Prudence Roberts in 2012.

This year, for the first time, an out-of-state curator, Los Angeles-based Amanda Hunt, is helming the show. She pruned an open call of 300 applicants down to 60 artists, then did studio visits with each. In the end, she chose 15 artists and collaborators for Portland2014, many of them creating new work specifically for the show. Several of those artists—Modou Dieng, Devon A. VanHouten-Maldonado, Blair Saxon-Hill, Kelly Rauer, D.E. May, Jessica Jackson Hutchins and Evan LaLonde—will display artwork in Disjecta's sprawling headquarters in the Kenton neighborhood. Others will display elsewhere across the city: Ellen Lesperance at Upfor; Travis Fitzgerald, Zachary Davis and Alex Mackin Dolan at the White Box; and Personal Libraries Library at Northeast Alberta Street's "The Best Art Gallery in Portland." Finally, Christopher Michlig, John Zerzan, Ralph Pugay and Richard Thompson will show work throughout the city (see biennial.disjecta.org). Publication Studio is producing the show's catalog, and panel discussions will augment the show every Saturday during its run.

Will this far-flung undertaking actually get to the core of this city's fractured artistic ecosphere? Probably not. The only show to do that during the last 11 years was 2003's The Modern Zoo, an impossibly wide-ranging, damn-near-out-of-control phantasmagoria of a show that set the standard for eclectic extravagance. But if there's any entity on the scene today with the resources and curatorial finesse to cut through the Pearl District/First Thursday hype and showcase emerging talents outside the mainstream, it's Disjecta. Whatever its strengths or failings, Portland2014 promises to be one of the highlights of this year's cultural calendar.

SEE IT: Portland2014 is at Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave., 286-9449. March 8-April 27.