Since its first issue in 2004, Portland Modern has been showcasing local talent in a slight, stylishly packaged magazine. For its fourth issue, editor Mark Brandau invited Matthew Stadler, novelist and recent Artforum contributor, and Kristan Kennedy, artist and PICA's visual arts program director, to serve as curators. Unlike previous issues, this one features more than 20 artists, and is organized around a theme: "saturation." But as I spoke with Stadler and Kennedy, it became clear that their curatorial decisions were ultimately guided by one basic principle—to find and publish compelling artwork.
Did you have any sense of what direction you were hoping to take as curators?
KRISTAN KENNEDY: We had no preconceived notions about what it would look like. It was a case of the artists' work leading us to what was shown. I tend to grumble when shows have themes, but...
MATTHEW STADLER: Everything had to do with "saturation" in one form or another, so it didn't hinder the process of selection.
How did you determine which submissions to include?
MS: The kind of work that caught our attention became clear very quickly and, when you look at our selections, it shows. The choices are all very related to one another.
KK: We got most excited about work that sparked conversation. If something really got us talking, it went into the pile—even if we weren't sure why.
Were there any challenges you ran into as you made the final cut?
KK: The limitations of the process became very apparent—namely, working with slides and digital images. You really can't take into account things like scale, surface, or materiality.
MS: Also, once we'd made our selections, we found that the grouping begged for the inclusion of three artists who did not submit: Casey Watson, Isaac Lin, and Mary Henry. So we invited them to participate because the additions really supported what was already materializing. In that sense, our selections weren't hobbled by a bureaucracy of fairness.