It was a week of awards, of rankings, of here's-who-we-love-so-go-ahead-and-argue-with-it.
The dumbest list came from the curators of the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Henriette Huldisch and Shamim Momin, who revealed the 81 artists to be included in the show. (The show runs March 6 to June 1. It has no title; the 2006 version was the first in biennial history to be titled, and evidently the idea didn't stick.) What's dumb is simple: There is not a single artist from Seattle on the list. There is one artist from Portland, MK Guth, and even that doesn't cheer me. Maybe I need to spend more time with her work, but what I've seen I've found insubstantial.
I don't care that it's typical for Seattle artists to be left out of the biennial. It's getting to be that time in history when it's ridiculous.
Biennial artists who sound good together: John Baldessari, Carol Bove, Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, Coco Fusco, Louise Lawler, Rodney McMillian, Amanda Ross-Ho.
Meanwhile, Portland Art Museum was smart. It chose Daniel Attoe, Cat Clifford, Jeffry Mitchell, Whiting Tennis, and Marie Watt as its finalists for the 2008 Northwest Contemporary Art Awards. Attoe lives somewhere in southern Washington and I've only seen one painting by him; I'm intrigued. Watt, based in Portland, makes art from blankets; I'm lukewarm but open.
But Clifford, Mitchell, and Tennis are thrilling choices. They're all from Seattle, so I sound like a xenophobe, but one, in a Northwest competition there's neither need nor appeal in rooting for big fat Seattle, and two, each of these artists is at the height of observably considerable powers. Mitchell's Tomb of Club Z and Tennis's Bovine solo show were highlights of 2006; Clifford's explosion of new works currently at Howard House will go down the same way. I can't wait for PAM's show, which opens June 14, and to see a winner crowned.
Not to be forgotten are the awards that come with the equivalent of a salary ($50,000): the United States Artists grants. Seattle electronic textile artist Maggie Orth won one (she shows at McLeod Residence), and in even better news, Philadelphia's Zoe Strauss, another winner, is coming to Open Satellite in December to give Factoria the treatment—to zoom in on the zones of greatest disappointment and dilapidation. Factoria has so much to give.