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We got mail!

'Maritime' and 'Hug Me'
Northwest side story

Dear NW Drizzle,

Hi there. I just read this article (Critical i; Dec. '02) and it frustrated me because you talk about "Hug Me" being hip. Are you referring to the people or the work? It would be refreshing if you could talk about the work and not be wasting time talking about the people.

FYI a very diverse group of people showed up to Pacific Switchboard, which is way more interesting than going to "Maritime" where there are mods and unfriendly cool kids.

Critiques can be helpful if they address the work being shown, otherwise they don't do anyone any good.


Art Editor Jeff Jahn Replies:

Both shows, "Hug Me" and "Maritime," were worthwhile ... and this is not a popularity contest. Everyone in Portland comes off as friendly (except me), and I don't make a lot of breakfast-club social distinctions between the Mods and the Hug Mes. Renting "West Side Story" or "Romeo + Juliet" should clear that up, depending on if you are a Hug Me or a Mod.

"Ghostship" by Carson Ellis, a "Maritime" standout.

My opinion of "hip" is by no means a slam; it's a compliment about the hip sense of ennui in the work I saw at "Hug Me." Baudelaire's concept of ennui was the catalyst for the great works of Degas, Picasso and, more recently, Eric Fischl.

If I had been talking about people, I would have mentioned their clothes, demeanor, etc. I did not. Not that there was nothing to report: "Maritime" did have a young woman dressed as a waitress on rollerskates.

Overall, "Maritime" better sustained its theme and was more coherent; it felt like it was actually in the hold of a ship. Thus, it got a review. In fact, I fit it in even though the article was already running long. Still, it was a flawed show, as there was no essay or attempt to make a statement around the theme.

Stronger statements usually signal to the critic that the show or work embodies more conviction – and therefore deserves more attention.

Also, since only one or two works represented each artist, only the strongest stuff (Dalbow and Ellis) received more than short mention. Stronger statements usually signal to the critic that the show or work embodies more conviction – and therefore deserves more attention. In the case of December's Critical i, both Matthew Picton and Michael Knutson's work got the spotlight because their efforts warranted the attention. They have a program.

Reviews are incredibly rare and I know many accomplished artists who have only had one or two short ones, none of which approached their work with any kind of critical stance. Because most of the Maritimers fit into a mid- to high-mid-level of competence and settled into a respectable vibe, I treated them accordingly. Hopefully it spurs them on to make stronger work.

Stronger statements = more in-depth reviews. It's that simple: Art isn't fair. Actually, it's pretty Darwinian.

Everyone could have been naked and I still would have focused on the work.

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