The gallerists of pioneer square wisely postponed the art walk from the first Thursday to tonight, the first Friday, as Pioneer Square and SODO were swarming with sports fans for the Seahawks’ season opener. It is shaping up to be a beautiful night (the last warm weekend of summer, perhaps) and a great series of shows. I’m highlighting three or four shows from sections of downtown and Pioneer Square to see on your walk.
M.I.A Gallery – Personal Pick
Photographer Jean-Claude Moschetti cut his teeth in film before becoming an independent press photographer. It makes sense; the best press photography tells an entire story, just as a well framed shot can become iconic of an entire film. That knack for narrative becomes utterly surreal in Moschetti’s collection of works documenting secret and mystical societies around the world. Every shot in his diptychs and triptychs hints at a hundred stories in their settings alone, but the authentic masks and costumes and unnatural postures of the priests and acolytes posing within them make them opaque and unaccountable. We want to know more, but the secret is safe with these beings…sometimes growing sinister.
Armchair explorers, fans of Nick Cave’s soundsuits, and anyone who likes to be reminded that they will never have all the answers (I personally LOVE that feeling.) are bound to be entranced by Moschetti’s work. You have until October 25 to see it.
Photos by Jean-Claude Moschetti are on display through October 25 at M.I.A Gallery (1203 2nd Avenue Seattle, Suite A).
Reilly Jensen at Abmeyer + Wood
The sizable compositions of Reilly Jensen are a soft, deft rendering of scrap heaps that defy gravity and even seem to have an organic life of their own. Her youth made her familiar with the guts and bolts of heavy machinery and she wipes away that grit and oil from mounds of scrap to reveal charming shapes that seem to be at play or coalescing into a composite being, not at all bound by the strict mechanisms for which they were made. The colors are soft and neutral as a contrast to the precise, graphic style of her hand. It’s an original show with mass appeal.
Works by Reilly Jensen are on display through September 28 at Abmeyer + Wood (1210 2nd Avenue).
Daniel Joseph Martinez at James Harris Gallery
At the risk of sounding puerile and reductive: Halloween has come early to James Harris. Of course, to me Halloween is an explosion of id, a harvest festival, a festival of the dead, of being between worlds. The bodies of work by L.A.-based artist Daniel Joseph Martinez fit that bill. Zombified figures, overt references to murder and mayhem, cannibalism and anarchy, crumbling social structures and rising dread—there is nothing playful about this stuff. It’s not entirely cynical or alarmist, though. By giving these fears a form, Martinez makes them something one can confront or consider, to address externally rather than to wrestle with blindly in the dark. The works do not leave one hopeless, nor do they neuter the ugly truths on display; they mean business (especially the photos of impoverished shops marked by disturbing graffiti messages), and the viewer is left with a lot to ponder.
Works by Daniel Joseph Martinez are on display through October 11 at James Harris Gallery (604 2nd Ave).
The Tashiro Kaplan Block
G. Gibson Gallery – Personal Pick
The dual shows of Chris Crites and Samantha Scherer are complementary examinations of vulnerability, loss and survival. Scherer’s light drawings of wreckage and minimal portraits of everymen/women in fields of negative space are quiet and pensive—the aftermath of trauma. Nothing looks carefree, but neither is anything heavy, thanks to her use of negative space, which permeates the drawings, does not merely surround them. They exist in a void that is as much a space of potential as it is negation.
Crites’ work is a polar opposite—bursting with color and texture, composite things flooding the brown paper on which he works. Crites for years has worked from old mugshots, painting the faces meticulously in unusual color combinations on paper bags and cardboard. These are figures at the lowest end of society—even antagonistic to it, unsympathetic in their criminality, in their status as “victimizers.” Crites endows each with a color and complexity that forces an uncomfortable realization in the viewer that goes beyond mere voyeurism—wondering at the specifics of their crimes—and strikes at the humanity behind these faces, the larger story. It also may even reflect our complicity in penal systems that we know to be flawed and unjust in so many ways. These are humans treated now as specimens of human fault, frailty and cruelty, who if guilty may have been acting from that primal place or perhaps something more complicated. We are left to ask those questions for ourselves, even as we remark on the beauty of the compositions.
Works by Samantha Scherer and Chris Crites are on display through October 11 at G. Gibson Gallery (300 S Washington St).
Steven Miller at 4Culture – Personal Pick
Criminality, transgression and penalization take on an explicit, lush, noir form in Steven Miller’s multimedia phantasmagoria Les Fleurs du Mâle at 4Culture. Miller’s work often charts alternate worlds and ideas inspired by queer writers, including Burroughs and Genet. The latter is especially present in these new works that include photos and a giant video installation showing looped footage of 40 different prisoners in prison cells. (Full disclosure: I was one of the prisoners.) (Also: There is a lot going on in those videos and you have to look closely to catch it all, but activities include “dry humping, at least one underwear boner and cockroach eating” as heard from Miller himself. I was just writing “Prufrock” from memory, for the record.)
Miller’s alternative worlds are very queer and sensual (if not downright orgiastic), a direct clash of violence and intimacy that is consistent with queer aesthetics that have arisen in oppressive cultures (which is still pretty much everywhere). The institutions behind this oppression are the real meat of this collection of work, and the queer eye is just a particularly clear lens. From the 4Culture site:
Surveillance has cropped up everywhere today, accelerated by technology, but it has always been a mainstay of prison security. In the late Eighteenth Century, social theorist Jeremy Bentham introduced the Panopticon – a unique design for institutions (especially prisons) where surveillance of the entire population could be carried out by a single watchman. While it’s obvious one individual can’t observe everyone at once, in the Panopticon, prisoners never knew when they were being watched and thus were coerced into feeling as if they were being watched constantly. This “mind over mind” plan was designed to control behavior and discourage deviance among inmates.
In short, as we are all forced to evaluate the meaning of freedom in our age—especially when it is tied to ideas of what is permissible behavior, including shows of affection—this vision of imprisonment is more a mirror than a barred window.
Les Fleurs du Mâle is on display through September 25 at 4Culture (101 Prefontaine Pl S).
Justin Gibbens at Punch Gallery
Gibbens’ illustrations of birds and wildlife are exquisite, with noticeable influences from woodblock prints, zoological illustration and classical illustration from the far east in his new body of watercolors Avatars and Shapeshifters. As lifelike as his creatures may be, there is an element of transformation, the fantastic at work. The spoonbill in “Raga,” for example, is marked with a geometric textile pattern on its wings, falling or floating placidly among branches—not entirely bird, though that may be all that one sees at first glance. These are works that demand time to fully appreciate and are sure to hook viewers with their beautiful detail and Gibbens’ skill with brush and ink.
New works from Justin Gibbens are on display through September 27 at PUNCH Gallery (119 Prefontaine Pl S).
Around Main St.
Irene Kubota at Bryan Ohno Gallery
Three decades of work from painter Irene Kubota are on display in a salon style hang at Bryan Ohno gallery. The giant paintings (sometimes spanning two large canvases) are painted in a naive, flat style that looks simply childish at first glance, but there is both a freedom and a melancholy to Kubota’s compositions, which seem to be unfiltered imaginations fused with recollection. Walls and floors are richly patterned and sparsely furnished in rooms wherein fantastic beings move about. What is most consistent is the presence of ethereal and hidden faces, sometimes ghostly doubles of the other figures. It is all quite enigmatic, and individually some of the works will baffle those who expect virtuosity alone from painters. Even if that is the case, the density of work on display in the gallery makes for a colorful feast for the eyes.
Works by Irene Kubota are on display through October 11 at Bryan Ohno Gallery (512 S Main St).
Bratsa Bonifacho and Evan Blackwell at Foster/White Gallery
Walking by a few nights ago, I saw Bratsa Bonifacho’s work in the window and immediately recognized it. His use of text, a peculiar palette (dark and vivid) and stark color blocking is immediately recognizable and appealing. This collection of work, Grazioso Sempre, moves away from the more checkered, self-consciously chaotic work and text-loaded landscapes of his previous work and goes an even more linear and minimal route.
Blackwell’s work has always been hit or miss. His larger steel works have occasionally been sloppy—something I can abide in more folk compositions, but not when the aesthetic is so distinctly machine-like. It looks too unintentional. However, what I have seen in advance of the current show gives me some hope. His melting and collapsing ceramic figures are playful and could really go in any setting. It’s worth a peek and forming your own opinion of his folksy, recycled, geometric creations.
Works by Bratsa Bonifacho and Evan Blackwell are on display through September 27 at Foster/White Gallery (220 3rd Ave S).
Greg Kucera Gallery – Personal Pick
The bronze and multimedia readymades of art trio SuttonBeresCuller are always astute inversion of expectations and everyone’s reactions will be different based on their unique attachment to things. A bronze soup can may be an eye roll to one person, while for another it may conjure up important childhood memories. The concept is simple, but the work it takes to fashion these objects so believably is astounding. (A wet mop leaning against a wall in the past, a broom in the current show, for example.) The objects in the show tonight are a strange blend of the domestic (a plunger, a mallet, a framing hammer) and the lurid (a disco ball, signs for XXX Videos and cocktails), each precisely formed and given a convincing patina to boggle the eyes. (The signs are an inversion, with the neon portion rendered in metal and the supports rendered in glass.) It’s going to be a treat.
Also understated in their own way, belying great craft, the silhouetted aquatints of Martin Puryear have a lush mystique in two dimensions. The darker forms are sinuous and deeply dyed on the delicate surfaces and pale backgrounds colored by chine-collé. Like the SuttonBeresCuller works, it is worth leaning in for a closer look
New works by SuttonBeresCuller and Martin Puryear are on display through November 1 at Greg Kucera Gallery (212 3rd Ave S.)
Rein de Lege at Hall Spassov
Dutch-born, Spain-based painter Rein de Lege has made a name through expressionist portraits of faces, and this new body of work ups the scale with large paintings on linen that layer many faces in abstracted fields of neutral colors, charged with lines and hazy brushstrokes. The scenes take those isolated studies of expression and make them sociological; the individual’s expression is now a reflection of a shared environment left to the imagination. These scenes occur in no specific place because they are everywhere. It’s beautifully human and a nice turn for an artist in his fourth decade of work.
Works by Rein de Lege are on display through at Hall Spassov Gallery – Seattle (319 3rd Ave S).
Artist Tariqa Waters is as plucky as she is smart and stylish. Her No I in Selfie installation in Occidental Square was very nearly obliterated by vandals in its first week up. A few of the dozens of candy-colored reflective boxes still remain intact, and Waters has stuffed the shiny shards of the fallen inside them, so people can still get a sharp splash of color and a reminder of the “broken windows” (or in this cases “broken mirrors”…bad luck, buddies) that have troubled certain neighborhoods. Waters is a resident of Pioneer Square, and like others she is not backing down in her fight to keep it a vibrant and livable place. It is, to my mind, now and forever the cultural heart of the city, whether or not people consider it the wrong side of the tracks (and historically it always has been).
Waters is one of those artists with a real message who takes matters into her own hands and her presence is always appreciated. She will be hosting art walkers and other creatives in her improvised gallery space, Martyr Sauce, 122 S Washington Street. Stop by.
Group Show at Davidson Galleries – Personal Pick
Davidson Galleries will be brimming with monochrome beauties in various styles: woodgravings and etchings from Leonard Baskin, the splotchy and vivacious lithographs of Sam Francis, up close self-portraiture by Ben Moreau in photorealistic graphite drawings, and the softly atmospheric lithographs of Fumiko Suzuki—a personal favorite. I love this mixture of styles, and I especially recommend this show to people who are new to art and maybe a little intimidated by it. You will get to see the most minimally abstract with the most finely detailed sorts of images in one place, all in that most universal palette of black and white. It’s highly accessible and a real delight.
Works by Moreau, Baskin, Francis and Suzuki will be on display through September 27 at Davidson Galleries (313 Occidental Ave S).
Group Show at Stonington Gallery
Also extremely accessible: The group show Look Closely combines painting, cut paper and jewelry. The works are all beautifully graphic and detailed. Courtney Lipson’s unique fine art jewelry is drool-worthy whether you are a fine art lover or a fashionista. The cut paper creations of Nikki McClure are dynamic and bold, but maintain a sweetness in their depictions of natural scenes, water under moonlight, and skies full of birds and stars. Indigenous artist Thomas Stream (Sun’aq Aleut) paints traditional patterns and Aleut hunting hats into the birds and beasts that inhabit his gorgeous, gouache compositions. The mixture of media, accessible subjects and stylization is bound to delight audiences of all backgrounds and ages.
Works by Lipson, McClure and Stream will be on display through September 27 at Stonington Gallery (125 South Jackson Street).
There is so much more! A group photography show at Flatcolor Gallery, a beautiful new collection of work from painters Sally Cleveland and Gabe Fernandez at Linda Hodges Gallery, the lush Mythscapes show of aboriginal work at ArtXChange and the continuation of the extremely painterly, pop-surrealist works of Casey Weldon and Femke Hiemstra at Roq La Rue. Happy art walking!