The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington has a long-standing tradition of complex, interesting, and unique exhibitions. The curators at the Henry pull together pieces in a way that allows visitors to reevaluate their meaning in association with the other works. The current exhibition is entitled “Now Here is also Nowhere: Part 1” and opened on October 27, continuing until January 6, 2013. The exhibition explores the concept of presence and absence; ideas that are “familiar but largely intangible.”
This meditation on immaterial but poignant themes in our society is pulled together by two main pieces, Fire in the Belly by Ranjani Shettar and This Work Should Be Turned Off When I Die by Stefan Brüggemann. The former’s hanging shapes cast unusual shadows, which resonate with the theme of “nowhere” and “nothing” that curators Luis Croquer and Merith Bennett seek to formulate and express. The second piece, installed near Shettar’s, cements the exhibition’s thematic concept. Brüggemann focuses on the absence—or shall I say presence—of the artist while his piece draws the viewer’s attention instantly. These two pieces unite the intangible quality of themes addressed in the exhibit with the more easily understood concepts of “nowhere” in the art world.
Not only does the Henry Art Gallery offer skillfully crafted exhibits like “Now Here is also Nowhere: Part 1” and an array from their permanent collection, but also a look at influential artists from our generation. The Henry currently offers a showcase of Jeffry Mitchell artwork, a Seattle-based artist working primarily in mixed-media and ceramic sculpture. The show, “Like a Valentine: The Art of Jeffry Mitchell,” offers a look at the progression of Mitchell’s works, from paper to glazed earthenware, and the effect of medium on tone. The exhibit features sketches and drawings that show the artist’s creative process and inspiration. Mitchell’s works have a “distinct visual language full of symbolic characters,” as described by the gallery statement. There is a clear influence from both the Japanese and Dutch cultures, creating a multi-faceted visual experience.
Mitchell’s ceramic works are funky and offer a different take on classic ceramic traditions and ornamentations. They remind one of the quirkiness of Jeff Koons and the unique imagination of Hans Van Bentem. The ceramic works are highly celebrated, but my favorites were those depicting peonies. Mitchell’s time spent in Japan is reflected in these works as peonies are a traditional Japanese symbol of prosperity and strength. Mitchell’s White Elephant Lamps are also beautiful examples of the artist’s style. The pairs are symbolic as well as useful, domestic ornaments. Their position at the entrance to the exhibit introduce the viewer to the themes and sometimes offbeat style of Jeffry Mitchell. The exhibit is as entertaining as it is a soulful and inquisitive experience. It explores a sometimes overlooked quality in exhibits—the progression of form and medium in creative minds. In conjunction with the exhibit, the Henry and Marquand Books has a monograph available that further explores the art of Jeffry Mitchell.
Jeffry Mitchell was also featured this past weekend at the Affordable Art Fair at the Seattle Center. The event, held in metropolitan cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico City, opens up the world of art to viewers and makes pieces much more attainable. Seattle is home to many famous and soon to be famous-artists. Both Jeffry Mitchell and Piper O’Neill showcased their work at the fair for buyers. Events like the Affordable Arts Fair bring attention to our city’s ability to draw creative minds and position it as an artistic hub in not only the United States, but the world.