Disjecta Art Gallery

Posted on: November 4th 2009

Since 2000, this Portland contemporary art hub has been creatively provoking, exploring, inspiring and sticking sharp elbows in the ribs of cultural complacency.


Originally hammered out of an abandoned Masonic Temple Disjecta exposed a void in accessible exhibition space, housing more than 500 shows, ushering in 3,000 artists and more than 30,000 patrons. It’s shows cross all boundaries, from the visual art of Tamiko Kawata and Chris Johanson to the music and performance of The Shins, Wayne Horvitz and Crutchmaster. And helped foster the growth of local talents like Chandra Bocci, Cinema Project, Cris Moss and Bill Daniel.


Notably, Disjecta also partnered to create Portland’s Modern Zoo in the summer of 2003. It became the largest visual art exhibition in the Northwest with 125 artists—including Harrell Fletcher, Melody Owen, Lucinda Parker and James Boulton—and 15,000 visitors crowding into a 120,000 sq. foot space over a two and half month span. Patrons ferried out the Willamette River for a show that revitalized the arts scene and inspired lively debate about the direction of art in Portland.


Disjecta’s run hasn’t been without hurdles, including lease battles on its first two semi-legendary locations. To quote the Portland Mercury: “After four tumultuous years of progressive arts programming, the flashing arrow on Northeast Russell is finally turning off–Disjecta has lost its lease, and Portland loses one of its most consistently compelling venues.”


Luckily, (though luck had little to do with it) all reports of Disjecta’s demise were premature. Disjecta is now resurrected in a 12,000 sq. ft. former bowling alley turned abandoned hydraulic shop. This multi-faceted facility combines artist studios with exhibition/rehearsal space and will soon house a café as well. It’s the most formidable (and secure) venue yet from which to pursue their curatorial mission:


• To exhibit challenging work


• To encourage collaborations between curator(s), artist(s) and viewer(s)


• To offer space and opportunity for emerging and talented curators


• To expect equal rigor from local, regional and national work, thus supporting and proving the talent within our own community


• To take intelligent risks


Never shy about injecting art into the nuts and bolts of the community, a recent Disjecta project symbolizes this attitude. With CORE radio, Disjecta posed controversial issues of the day, then invited artists to submit proposals to be podcast on CORE. Targets include neighborhoods and gentrification, how to make money, the pluses and minuses of the area’s dominant art college and what to make of Portland’s mayor.


Disjecta’s next mountain? In March, they will celebrate the opening of a new undertaking: Portland2010, a biennial survey of contemporary artists defining Portland art now. Talk about big. Stay tuned at www.disjecta.org.

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