Visual Arts: Fresh Eyes
Portland’s homegrown biennial makes a national play.
Artist Evan La Londe is a magician. Or at least that’s how Amanda Hunt, the curator of Disjecta’s Portland2014 Biennial, explains his current artistic process, which involves making paper pulp and then casting it on objects or in molds to create ghostly, physical echoes—a 3-D photograph, if you will.
“‘Magician’ is not to be taken lightly,” Hunt qualifies, her curly hair poking out of a bright red beanie during a visit to his small studio on SE Holgate Boulevard. “There’s a real rigor.”
“The sleight of hand is very literal for me,” says La Londe. “I am thinking of paper as film recording a surface.”
A recent graduate of Portland State University’s MFA program, La Londe has already attracted notice by pushing the edge of film photography with photograms, a hands-on process that manipulates photo paper without a camera. His paper casts are another step in this experimentation, and they will see their first light at the biennial.
Started in 2010, Disjecta’s Portland Biennial was an attempt to carry on the tradition of giving regional artists a professional platform that the Portland Art Museum offered from 1949 to 2006 with its Oregon Biennial. The third iteration this year features works by 15 artists and collaboratives, from emerging names like La Londe to Whitney Biennial veteran Jessica Jackson Hutchins to groups like Publication Studios.
“My goal was to curate a survey of what I found to be the strongest work being produced in Oregon,” says Hunt, “and to provide a larger exhibition platform for lesser-known artists as much as possible.”
Hunt is an emerging star herself. With an international résumé, the 29-year-old took over the curatorial chair at the influential Los Angeles contemporary arts center LAXART in 2011 and has played significant roles in other large exhibitions such as Los Angeles’s first biennial, Made in L.A. 2012. Perhaps more important, she is also the first non-Oregonian to curate the biennial.
“Amanda brings sensibilities from, arguably, the three most distinct art capitals of the world, in New York, Los Angeles, and London,” says Disjecta director Bryan Suereth. “It’s not just us talking about ourselves to ourselves. We are holding our artists up for scrutiny on the national stage, inviting critique and response.”
To arrive at her snapshot of Oregon, Hunt reviewed more than 300 portfolios and made some 65 studio visits, while also consulting artists and curators based elsewhere. When asked what struck her about the work being made here, she returned to La Londe’s handmade paper constructions, as well as artists making their own clay or binding their own books. While the art world elsewhere increasingly turns to digital tools, she says, what sets us apart is “the total presence of the hand.”