Shows by Kimiko Yoshida at M.I.A Gallery, Stephen O’Donnell at Winston Wächter, and Ann Mallory and Abmeyer + Wood are all closing soon. The distinct works from artists (all based outside of Seattle) are masterful uses of photography, painting and sculpture respectively.
Kimiko Yoshida at M.I.A Gallery
The massive oeuvre of artist Kimiko Yoshida requires a huge space if one wants to display everything at once, and with Yoshida’s range, that is enticing. However, in those large shows (which have happened internationally) one may not have the ability to spend adequate time with any one of Yoshida’s unique, large, square self-portraits. Yoshida herself disappears into character in taking these carefully crafted images, and viewers who spend time and care with these images will be similarly absorbed. M.I.A Gallery’s show Something Blue provides just such an opportunity.
Yoshida was betrothed in an arranged marriage when she was young, and fled that situation to live independently. Her self-portraits of brides are in part a reaction to that autobiography, but they are so much more. In her research of marriage customs throughout the world, Yoshida has a serious ethnographic approach which forms the basis for more abstracted, personal interpretations of the bride figures she embodies. In some cases, she works directly with historical collections to use authentic props. Her “Egyptian Bride” at M.I.A Gallery holds a mirror thousands of years old. It obscures her face; her eyes peer over it at you; the darkness of the print behind the glossy covering makes the viewer the one reflected, on display. It’s a gorgeous and alluring trick.
The six brides selected for this show all have some blue aspect, which allowed curator Mariane Lenhardt to choose from the dozens upon dozens of existing prints. You can peruse books of Yoshida’s work in the gallery, seeing brides inspired by other artistic and mythological figures and even famous works of art. The “Picasso Bride” in one book is a striking, minimal approach to Guernica. The “Mickey Bride” is darkly sinister, which is all the more interesting when one knows of the adult fascination with Disneyland in Yoshida’s native Japan. But don’t spend too much time with the books; lose yourself in the larger portraits, as this is your last chance to see them in this configuration, and it’s quite special.
On display at M.I.A Gallery (1203 2nd Avenue, Suite A) through August 30.
Ann Mallory at Abmeyer + Wood
Across the street, Ann Mallory’s monumental ceramic sculptures are placid beauties that also have an indirect nascence in Japan, albeit an even more mysterious and tragic one. After the devastating Touhoku Tsunami in 2011, giant stone slabs were found unearthed by the waves. These stones are speculated to have been placed centuries and centuries before as warning markers, indicating the point at which it was no longer safe to build because of the threat of tsunamis. Mallory’s show Higher Ground is partly inspired by these ancient monoliths, but goes beyond the association with tragedy and the literal higher ground. These objects have a warmth, a weight and gravity that instills peace and serenity to all who come in contact with them.
Visitors are encouraged to touch these massive works, which Mallory piled up over months of work. The drying process alone takes many weeks before they can be fired, and when Mallory fires them it is a harrowing process that lasts about 36 hours. And then comes the glaze, which is a science in itself, and Mallory’s choices are utterly lush. These are works to which no picture can ever do justice, as even beyond the physical details and feel of them, each “stone” has a presence and personality all its own. The Casing series inspired by cocoons is absolutely dreamy…might even be eerie in its beautifully grooved egg shapes. They seem to be better suited for indoor spaces, but all of Mallory’s works—like those monoliths that withstood the tsunami—are made to weather elements and would be utterly stunning in a garden space. The contemplation vessels have dipped surfaces to capture water, which will allow the interaction with nature to extend to other life.
Like Yoshida’s work, there is a fusion of east and west, a balance of the real and the ethereal. If you see one show, try to see them both.
On display at Abmeyer + Wood (1210 2nd Avenue Seattle WA) through August 31.
Stephen O’Donnell at Winston Wächter
I always love when O’Donnell comes out with a new show; the content doesn’t change drastically, and yet he always surprises me. The exquisitely skilled painter has for years created self-portraits in the style of the ancien regime transposing his face (and occasional glimpses of chest hair) onto the lavishly attired bodies of aristocratic women. Like Yoshida’s work, this is no mere narcissism, but a sly play on expectations of gender and beauty, and though it is always O’Donnell’s face, his varied expressions, positions and costumes make him a vessel for other identities, not the other way around.
This collection titled Told and Untold Stories is moodier and darker than much of his earlier work. The coquettes and animals and O’Donnell’s playful sense of humor and immaculate skill are the same; in most cases the palette is consistent with portraiture of the 18th century—bright and appealing bursts of primary colors, richly textured textiles, delicate lace and tresses, all posed among warm interiors and pristine gardens. He is also fond of mise en abyme compositions that become all the more recursive when multiple incarnations of O’Donnell occur the deeper one descends into the background. The layered compositions, sealed letters heavy coverings on bodies and windows create a palpable intrigue. But a few pieces take a darker palette, a greener hue uncharacteristic of the others, acquiring a light and a mood more romantic than baroque.
These pieces show that O’Donnell’s range is still increasing and it will be interesting to see where this trajectory may take him. All the while, his other works remain fresh and breathe new life and warmth into old tropes. Of special note is his triptych of the three goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, whom Paris was asked to judge as the most beautiful. It was a no win situation for the man, of course, and it doesn’t end well for him and all of Troy. O’Donnell shows what a chameleon he is, channeling these dangerous deities—imperious and jealous Hera, unyielding and cool Athena, seductive and capricious Aphrodite—with their symbolic birds and perfect choices for hair and dress. O’Donnell’s work is a feast for the eyes, and those who love fashion and style—especially the implicit androgyny and gender-bending of haute couture—O’Donnell’s work is a must see.
On display at Winston Wächter (203 Dexter Ave N) through August 30.