Lives in Pictures: Toko Shinoda and David Byrd in Pioneer Square

Posted on April 26, 2013, 8:00 am
3 mins

Two rare opportunities to see work spanning an artist’s lifetime are on display in Pioneer Square. One is a retrospective of Toko Shinoda at Azuma Gallery closing this weekend. The other is the oeuvre of David Byrd on display for the first time ever at Greg Kucera gallery.

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“Totality” – Lithograph – Toko Shinoda
Image courtesy of Azuma Gallery

Toko Shinoda at Azuma Gallery

Doyenne of Japanese minimalism Toko Shinoda turned 100 inn March. As part of several exhibitions commemorating the influential and independent artist, Azuma Gallery in Pioneer Square is hosting a retrospective with dozens upon dozens of Shinoda’s lithographs and paintings. Her works seek to express phenomena in a visual form—the scent of a flower, a few bars of jazz—and are duly abstract and beautiful for beauty’s sake. The compositions are deeply Japanese—deceptively simple, owing to an economy of form and movement that requires perfect control to achieve. Perhaps like the bite of a savory Japanese dish, the works combine minimal ingredients in perfect harmony and balance to capture ephemeral phenomena in a last, abstract form.

Toko Shinoda’s work is on display at Azuma Gallery through April 27. Read my full reaction to Shinoda’s retrospective on Seattle Arts News.

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“Shower Room Study” – Oil on Canvas – David Byrd
Image courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery

David Byrd at Greg Kucera

By contrast to Shinoda, the works of David Byrd are rarely what one could consider beautiful, and rather than capturing fleeting, ineffable phenomena, Byrd is responding to images that have left an indelible mark in his mind. They are not strictly representational; Byrd’s figures occupy a dream world, a plane of memory half-lit and sometimes dissolving toward nothingness in his washed-out palette. Adding to the unease is a sense of watchfulness—an uncanny valley wherein one is watching unnoticed, but perhaps also being watched. This is as true of Byrd’s paintings of men in the VA’s psychiatric ward as it is of paintings of women sprawling in laundromats or early works of theatres and boxing arenas. Byrd has painted for decades without showing in a gallery, so whether or not you like his style and content, it is worth visiting Greg Kucera Gallery and seeing the arc of a lone painter and observer charting 20th-century madness and serenity over six decades.

David Byrd’s work is on display at Greg Kucera Gallery through May 18.

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.