Oregon: It's That Time of the Biennial

The Oregon Biennial at the Portland Art Museum shows contemporary works by 34 artists, including Chandra Bocci and her 2006
The Oregon Biennial at the Portland Art Museum shows contemporary works by 34 artists, including Chandra Bocci and her 2006 "Gummi Big Bang II" (detail above). (Courtesy Chandra Bocci)
Sunday, July 16, 2006

WHAT: The 2006 Oregon Biennial at the Portland Art Museum

WHEN: July 29-Oct. 8


WHY GO: Since 1912, the Portland Art Museum has held juried exhibitions of work by celebrated artists from across the Beaver State. But don't make the trip to the Pacific Northwest for this year's Oregon Biennial and expect to see paintings of coastlines, fir trees or Mount Hood.

"This is very much art on a national level," says exhibit curator Jennifer Gately. "In today's world, it's difficult to really pinpoint any regional aesthetic. That's old news."

What you will see is a wide selection of contemporary artwork including photographs, video and digital media, installations and performance pieces. The exhibition "grapples with contemporary issues that are prevalent in our global environment," according to Gately, including consumerism, corporate branding and the environment.

Gately selected 34 artists to participate in this year's biennial out of more than 760 submissions from across the state. Since it is purely submission-based with no special invitations, Gately said she hopes the event will "help give birth to some wonderful new faces and voices."

DON'T MISS: Chandra Bocci's "Gummi Big Bang II" is an explosion of candy gummi bears, worms, fish and other gummi-related objects. Lit from within, the glowing orb fills a 120-square-foot room and is meant to comment on the nation's consumer habits . . . "Dandelion," a 7 1/2 -minute film by Grace Carter and Holly Andres about losing a mother to cancer, combines Super-8 footage with paper dolls used to reenact hospital scenes . . . K.C. Madsen's eight-foot paper sculptures, "Positive Charge" and "Down Time," are inspired by the paintings of Willem de Kooning and the sculptures of John Chamberlain. The works are made up of brightly colored paper that appear to have been crushed by a trash compactor, making them look as if they're in suspended motion.

EXTRAS: Beginning Aug. 10, the museum hosts a series of weekly gallery talks led by biennial artists who discuss their works. Times vary, but admission is free with museum admission . . . In August, every Sunday afternoon is Family Drop In Sunday , when families can create art from 1 to 3 p.m. with artists featured in the biennial. Free with museum admission and no registration required . . . Time your trip over Labor Day weekend for Art in the Pearl, the 10th annual arts festival in the Northwest Portland Park. Running Sept. 2-4, the free event features theater and music performances, activities for all ages and food, including Polish cuisine and Hawaiian dishes.

EATS: Seafood is a must in this coastal state, and Southpark Seafood Grill & Wine Bar (901 SW Salmon St., 503-326-1300) is a good place to start. The restaurant draws from the Oregon coast and offers oysters, king salmon and red trout, with entrees in the $20 range . . . More local seafood can be found at Bluehour (250 NW 13th Ave., 503-226-3394). It updates its menu daily, with dishes starting at $20, but standards like potato gnocchi with black truffle and bacon-wrapped sea scallops are usually available, and there's a new artisanal cheese flight offering.

SLEEPS: Look for "Big Deal" on the Portland Oregon Visitor Association's Web site, http://www.pova.org/ , for hotels offering reduced rates, free parking, continental breakfasts and vouchers for dining and shopping. The historic Heathman Hotel (1001 SW Broadway, 800-551-0011, http://www.heathmanhotel.com/ ) has a museum package starting around $279 per night that includes a room for two, exhibition tickets, valet parking and continental breakfast . . . The Benson Hotel (309 SW Broadway, 888-523-6766, http://www.bensonhotel.com/ ) is another landmark that provides simple guest rooms or a grand suite with a baby grand piano. Rooms start at $160 per night double.

INFO: Portland Art Museum , 1219 SW Park Ave., 503-226-2811, http://www.portlandartmuseum.org/ .

-- John Maynard

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