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at Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Continuing through September 11, 2011

The second biennial “Contemporary Northwest Art Awards” (CNWAA) showcases artists culled from an initial pool of 296 nominees and 28 finalists from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Among those finalists, curator Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson chose seven exhibitors, who range from 20-something emerging artists to late-career masters in their 70s. The artists also work across a plethora of media. John Buck creates oversized sculptures and curio cabinet-like wall pieces incorporating whimsical cut-out windows. Jerry Iverson’s organic shapes emerge from an intuitive application of sumi ink on paper and wood panel that channels Asian calligraphic traditions and Franz Kline’s gestural abstractions.  

Susie Lee contributes two technically slick but emotionally earnest video installations comprised of multiple high-definition monitors, each showing a human figure enacting scenes drawn from Greek mythology and from Francisco Goya’s “Black” paintings. Working in digital transparency, mirror, glass and oil, Megan Murphy conjures ethereal landscapes and waterscapes.   Painter Michelle Ross reduces her abstraction into oil, linen, magazine paper, tulle and graphite, while Chris Antemann cheekily reinterprets Rococo porcelain sculpture. Finally, John Grade creates sinuous wooden sculptures, many of which have been — or will eventually be — buried in termite mounds to further erode their already gnarled surfaces. And in this regard, Grade was chosen by a committee of the museum’s curators and executive director to receive the CNWAA’s top honor, the $10,000 Arlene Schnitzer Prize. The exhibition is thoughtfully curated, dynamically laid out, and augmented by a lively catalogue essay by Laing-Malcolmson.

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