For Portland2016, curator Michelle Grabner has forged her own Oregon Trail; it features contemporary art rather than dying oxen and necessitates a GPS in lieu of tracing a wagon trail. Unlike past editions of the Portland Biennial, which took place within city limits, Portland2016 includes work by 34 regional artists shown at 25 venues across 13 communities. “I wanted to do a little bit of customer service,” says Bryan Suereth, the Executive Director of Portland’s Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, which presents this year’s biennial. Accordingly, he and his team have dispersed the work across the state, bringing the art to the people.
The array of chosen venues includes a hardware building on Oregon’s northern coast, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation further east, various garages in Portland, and a Christian Science Reading Room in the northeast town of Pendleton. The biennial’s expansiveness both involves its host communities and asks committed viewers to trek, engage with sites in new ways, and perceive the region anew. It’s difficult to see it all over only one weekend. That challenge aptly dramatizes the impossibility of grasping an entire state’s contemporary art culture in two days. More logistically accessible for Oregonians than for tourists, the format encourages long, meditative road trips, art viewing interspersed with immersion in the spectacular landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
In addition to the work on display outside of Portland, a salon show at Disjecta features work by 105 artists (including those represented elsewhere) whose studios Grabner visited during her 1800-mile trip across the state to conduct research. We’ve chosen works by 10 artists to help guide you through the expansive show, although the entire roster is worth chipping away at if you’re in the area between now and September 18.
Click through the slideshow to see our 10 picks from Portland2016.
FOR MORE ON PORTLAND2016, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.