Attention: This is the month to see First Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square. If you aren’t a frequent attendee of art walk or the galleries, make this the month you go. I have been anticipating some of these shows since the spring. A lot of the work is a shrewd and skewed vision of contemporary culture (replete with pop influences), but you’ll also see objectively beautiful works that update traditional arts in painting, sculpture and drawing. It’s a critical mass of excellent work all around. Top it off with the Crushed Magazine launch party at Piranha Shop (south of Century Link Field) and you have a solid night of art, style and celebrations.
The Tashiro Kaplan Block
Electric Fields Juried Show at Punch
Founder of Aktionsart and Black Box festival, Julia Fryett is the curator for Punch’s 2015 juried show, which saw 1075 entries come in from around the country. Titled Electric Fields, the final show, containing work from twelve artists (half of which are from outside of Washington), has more nuanced than strict guiding principles—”electrical and natural fields—charged materials and particles, positive and negative, each dependent on the other.” Mediums include photography, soft sculpture and even a helmet that allows the bearer to feel electromagnetic field radiation (EMF). (That would be The Aaniscope, by Seattle-based artist Joshua Noble.) For those who appreciate the increasingly tangled intersection of art and emerging technology and media, this is a must-see.
You and Me in the Aftermath by Mary Iverson at G. Gibson Gallery
Land- and seascape painting are always in danger of becoming “kitsch,” as all but the most virtuosic typically rely on stock sentiment to have an effect. Rather than glimpsing the divine in nature, they might even appeal to a darker desire to possess and master nature, to conquer and expand ego into it the macrocosm rather than be humbled by it. Mary Iverson cleverly plays on this tension by painting beautiful scenery that is, on closer examination, a manmade disaster. Mountains, lakes and oceans are sliced through by pale lines on which are strung the blocky bits of container ships coming apart in midair or sunken in the earth. Nature is not untouched, but proves a lot more impervious than the “conquering” aspects of man. From her collage photographs to her large paintings, Iverson twists our tortuous aspirations into a streamlined ruin, and it is oh so satisfying to see.
Around Main St.
Roger Shimomura and William Kentridge at Greg Kucera Gallery
Two artists from different disciplines, backgrounds and regions work beautifully side-by-side with Greg Kucera Gallery‘s simultaneous solo shows of Roger Shimomura and William Kentridge. There are some superficial parallels between them: Shimomura draws from cartoons in his pop-art style paintings; Kentridge draws actual cartoons. The more compelling parallel is that both artists use ostensibly simple designs to convey complex subtext, often in response to the contradictions of industrial society, escapism, isolation and brutality. (Kentridge grew up in apartheid South Africa; Shimomura spent part of his childhood in the Minidoka internment camp for Japanese immigrants and Americans with Japanese ancestry.) Shimomora is more colorful and directly satirical; Kentridge is monochrome and stark in appearance, but more ambiguous in interpretation. It’s a smart pairing of two well established artists who still have plenty of wisdom to share with their audiences.
Orange Dust by Troy Gua at Bonfire
Troy Gua is another artist with a pop-art approach, but he gets more apocalyptic in Orange Dust, for which he imagines the artifacts on display in a future “blockbuster exhibition from the lost civilization of The United States of America.” The title refers to the desert sands of Egypt—which enchanted Gua as a child—and the orange dust of processed foods. E.g. An early glimpse of works at the show includes a soft sculpture pyramid of Doritos. Gua’s oeuvre skillfully crosses many mediums, so there’s no telling what else will be “unearthed” in his vision of post-America. Expect the unexpected but familiar.
Orange Dust is on display through January 28, 2016 at Bonfire Gallery (603 South Main Street). Receptions will also happen in December and January on First Thursday.
Horror Vacui by Ben Beres at Davidson Galleries
Printmaker Ben Beres presents a new body of work Horror Vacui, which as a term can refer to styles of art that fill an artwork with detail to its edges, or a more actual “kenophobia” (fear of empty spaces) that compels some individuals to obsessively fill bare surfaces with writing—from floor to ceiling. Beres has etched his plates with writing so small that one may need a magnifying lens to read some of it. The overall effect is striking and a little unsettling, too, as doodles of ephemera and pop culture are plopped among the wordy stream of consciousness. Sometimes the letters are arranged in blocky rows; sometimes they spiral inward, ever smaller; sometimes the words streak around the plate. Seeing all of the prints together, one might decipher a larger narrative, but even if one doesn’t take the time to try to absorb it all, this style of presentation of text (in an age of information glut) speaks volumes on its own.
David Hytone at Gallery IMA
David Hytone‘s distinct, geometric abstractions have gained cleaner edges over the years as he has moved away from impasto applications which were sometimes so thick that the shapes seemed ready to ooze off the canvas. That had its own appeal, but I like seeing the more polished forms emerged from that primordial soup. Hytone has a way of rendering objects that seem both architectural and animal. Despite flattening his surfaces over time, the shapes seem even more ready to come off the canvas in this new work. Ceramic tests by the artist have shown him experimenting with three dimensions, and I personally can’t wait to see that come to fruition. I don’t know if we will see any cubist critters at this show. (I could ask, but I’d rather be surprised.) However, I do know that I am eager to see his latest menagerie up close.
On First Avenue
Zachari Logan, Alessandra Maria and Joe Rudko at Roq La Rue
There is a balance between new media and old world technique, classical representation and deconstruction happening with these three shows at Roq La Rue. If you can only see one or two shows this week, prioritize this one. Zachari Logan is acclaimed for his large, lush pastel drawings, which blend animal and vegetable elements seamlessly. The human body merges with vegetation and grasses sprout serpent heads. This collection of drawings (pastel on paper and pencil on mylar) are a beautiful intro to his work for those not yet familiar. (The Saskatoon-based artist has received international press attention, but this will be his first solo show in Seattle.) Fans of Arcimboldo and “Green Man” lore ought to love it.
Alessandra Maria draws on the modes of religious painting and imbues her charcoal drawings with a natural patina by doing them on coffee stained paper with gold foil embellishments. Between this earthy tone and her sfumato style, her works will at a glance remind some of early Renaissance works (including those of Leonardo), but the compositions are more modern. Likewise, she doesn’t locate her work in any recognizable religious tradition; aureoles aside, the reverence is for a more pervasive, natural divinity. Recurring floral imagery and butterflies abound, but don’t let that stereotype these works as twee. Their delicacy, sepia coloring and slight droop speak more to their ephemeral nature than their frills.
Maria and Logan make a great conceptual pair, and Joe Rudko plays counterpoint to their representational work with photo fragments reconstituted into luminous, graphic abstractions. Rudko has shown a lot around town recently (including the Seattle Art Fair), so viewers may be familiar with his work, which often extends the edge of photographs using ink and pencil to create the illusion of dimensionality. His best known work in this vein is the cover art for Kintsugi, Death Cab For Cutie‘s latest album, and its singles. For this show at Roq La Rue, Rudko relies on pure photographs—sliced, torn, forming patchworks and linear mosaics—without pencil or ink.
Remember to Come Back… at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery
Mariane Ibrahim Gallery presents work from four artists—ruby onyinyechi amanze, Clay Apenouvon, Mwangi Hutter, Délio Jasse and Zohra Opoku—on the subjects of identity, exile and assimilation. These artists are of African descent and live between their countries of origin and adopted homes in North America and Europe. It’s a timely concept for a show, given the current refugee crises displacing thousands and thousands of people uprooting themselves and families from war-torn areas (with many not surviving the trip). Such migrations have been common through the last few centuries, and artists have responded to the humanitarian and historical aspects of them in personal ways, while others have documented the effects more objectively. In spite of this—particularly in spite of the U.S.’s own origins in mass migrations, diaspora and exile—western culture has barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding what it means to forge a new life and identity in another culture without obliterating our earliest, most formative experiences. The complications of fleeing or being forcibly removed as opposed to willfully migrating only deepen this divide. Mariane Ibrahim Gallery’s curation is always pointed and top-notch, so I’m excited to see how these artists deal with this subject matter. Read more about the artists in the press release.
Tori Karpenko: The Lookout at Traver Gallery
Artist Tori Karpenko has taken to presenting large bodies of work in which sculpture and painting tell a complete story by doing what the other can’t: The paintings give a view into an imagined or natural setting while the sculptures situate the viewer more concretely in that setting. In his new body of work, The Lookout at Traver Gallery, he reconstructs a ’30s era fire lookout cabin from the North Cascades and surrounds it with paintings of the scenery from this remote wilderness, rendered in a way that can evoke melancholy and a sublime solitude. Karpenko was inspired by the poets Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen and Jack Kerouac, who all worked as fire lookouts in the 1950s and used that embracing, empowering solitude to write. As stated above regarding Mary Iverson’s work, landscape painting can be kitschy and exploitative. Both artists avoid this: Iverson subverts the expectations of the genre; Karpenko goes back to the spiritual core of depicting the world around oneself with a quiet humility.
Off the Beaten Path
Crushed Magazine Launch Party at Piranha Shop
Project Girl Crush is the brainchild of writer Jen Utley. The online journal focuses on women having an impact in business and culture through interviews, gorgeous photography and videos. With Crushed Magazine, PGC makes the leap to the physical world with new interviews and editorial shoots with past interviewees Jamie Fish, Michele Andrews, Sharlese Metcalf, Jocelyn Beresford Carnell and Coco Aramaki. The physical edition is being printed in a limited run, so the launch party this Thursday at Piranha Shop (1022 1st Ave S) is your best bet to grab a copy. It’s also a great chance to meet and mingle with the vibrant team behind the magazine and other stylish Seattlites, from 6 to 10 PM.
Winter Wheat at GLASS BOX
I love squash season, but I had no idea seeing a squash could make me squeamish until I saw images of Rob Rhee‘s grotesque gourds for Winter Wheat. Working with macro ideas of monoculture and environmental manipulation, Rhee goes granular with gourds grown in welded steel cages with his long-term project The Occupations of Uninhabited Space. The plant matter looks to be oozing out. These will be displayed along with new works using industrial caulk tubes and spray foam cans and a sound installation using machine translation and the Sedōka poetic format. Like the gourd sculptures, one can expect that the technological intervention will yield surreal, possibly unnerving mutations.
Check out the slideshow below for a highlight reel of some of our favorite pieces opening this week. Happy art walking!