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Contemporary Northwest Art
Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
Recommended by Richard Speer

Abbie Miller, "Squeezed Arch," 2012, vinyl, steel, 375 feet of zipper, thread.

Continuing through January 12, 2014

The first thing you see is a giant red vinyl arch, and through it an oversized red-and-black rifle case, and across the room, a bright red grand piano suspended by chains upside down from the ceiling. It’s a bravura entrée into the third biennial "Contemporary Northwest Art Awards," a jaunty sampling of artwork by six regionally-based artists. The red vinyl "Squeezed Arch" is one of four included works by Wyoming-based Abbie Miller, while the untitled photographic collage of the rifle case is one of five digital works in the show by Washington-based Isaac Layman.

Washingtonian Nicholas Nyland’s three ceramic installations bring together early American patterns with a slapdash Continental flair. Washington is also home to the single-monikered artist known as Trimpin, who contributed the hanging piano, "Red Hot." Montana-based Anne Appleby contributes richly layered oil paintings, which at first appear abstract but ultimately betray natural referents, so don't let your eye stray too quickly. Finally, Portlander Karl Burkheimer nearly steals the show with "Setting a Corner," a sprawling architectonic melding of wood, steel, concrete, paint, and a cascade of rocks spewing out of a curved structure into the viewer’s personal space.

Kudos to curator Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson for including an exceptionally invigorating selection for the region’s premier artistic showcase. It’s without a doubt the most dynamic biennial in a decade.

Portland Art Museum

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