July 27th, 2007 5:33 pm | by RICHARD SPEER News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Contemporary Northwest Art Awards finalists announced!

tharp3_bigThe Portland Art Museum has announced finalists for its first Contemporary Northwest Art Awards, which are a replacement of sorts for the now-retired Oregon Biennial. PAM curator Jennifer Gately and guest curator James Rondeau from the Art Institute of Chicago whittled a field of 259 nominees down to the final 28. These will be further reduced to an unspecified handful (estimated 3 to 5) artists whose work will be shown together at the museum next June. One of those artists will also receive a $10,000 prize endowed by Arlene Schnitzer. The list includes 16 Washingtonians, 11 Oregonians, 1 Montanan, and no artists from Idaho or Wyoming, although artists from these states were eligible.

The finalists are...

From Oregon: Joshua Berger, Judy Cooke, Jesse Hayward, Michael Knutson, James Lavadour, D.E. May, Seth Nehil, Geraldine Ondrizek, Storm Tharp, Laura Vandenberg, and Marie Watt.

From Washington: Daniel Attoe, Gretchen Bennett, Buddy Bunting, Cat Clifford, Claire Cowie, Marc Dombrosky, Ellen Garvens, Mary Henry, Fay Jones, Margie Livingston, Jeffry Mitchell, Joseph Park, Akio Takamori, Whiting Tennis, Oscar Tuazon, and Robert Yoder.

And from Montana: Richard Notkin.

Naturally, whenever you have a big field of contenders cherry-picked down to an elite few, armchair quarterbacks and righteous second-guessers of every stripe, myself included, will bitch and whine about who didn't make the cut.

Where among the Oregon picks are Brenden Clenaghen, Joe Thurston, Sean Healy, all of whom have undergone spectacular evolutions over the past few years? Where is Rob Tyler, whose mind-bending video installations have shown recently at the Getty Museum (L.A.), the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), and the Rio de Janeiro Short Film Festival, but whose work is underappreciated in his home town?

These and other worthy contenders were left out in favor of the derivative Storm Tharp, the precious D.E. May, and the tragically misguided Jesse Hayward (see below).


Furthermore, to my mind, the inclusion of James Lavadour and Fay Jones are more than just gilding the lily, they are gold-plating the gold leaf on the solid-gold door that leads to a room filled with gold bullion.

Both artists are legitimate superstars, but they have been honored with so many awards and grants, they should henceforth recuse themselves from any and all future accolades. The simultaneous inclusion of a confused schlockster like Hayward and an over-venerated veteran like Lavadour bespeaks miscalibration on PAM's part, born of its inherently self-defeating beholdenments to both deep-pocketed geezers and younger Turks who actually expect some fresh bang for their contemporary buck.

Grousing aside, the proof will be in next June's pudding, when PAM's Gately has a chance to wow naysayers and mount an exhibition worthy of the Northwest's torrential artistic fount.

Image 1: Storm Tharp's The Prince's Theatre courtesy of www.pdxcontemporaryart.com.

Image 2: Jesse Hayward's Large Pod Project at the Oregon Biennial 2006 courtesy of www.portlandart.net.
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