The oceans that separate the continents and cultures also bring a subconscious unity to anyone who knows what it is to live by the sea. And yet, the sea is completely different depending on your vantage point and the moment one observes it; shapeshifting Proteus was a sea god for a reason. No wonder the ocean remains so ubiquitous in art (especially popular in port-towns like Seattle).
At the Seattle Art Fair, you’ll see the sea represented in various ways. Here are three photographs that are particularly striking and varied (two of which come from one gallery) and an animated installation.
Gallery Luisotti (Santa Monica, CA), Booth C11
“Lago” by Ron Jude
The sea is at its most ethereal in “Lago,” by Ron Jude. Water and sky merge into one pale gem, the horizon barely visible through a gentle, luminous mist. Fans of Hiroshi Sugimoto will appreciate it, though there are some key differences. Sugimoto’s work is typically starker and monochromatic, emphasizing a sort of binary between sea and sky, where the former still retains its materiality. Jude’s image is almost completely rarified, with waves so attenuated you can barely know up from down.
“Zuma #27” by John Divola
Compare that with John Divola’s immolated “Zuma #4.” One only glimpses the churning sea in the background through the rotted interior of a wooden ruin. The sea that lured this house’s builder and former residents to the shore is also the natural force that has hastened its decay, after (it appears) a fire consumed the interior. We don’t see the fire; we don’t smell the rotting fibers, nor the salt air. We get only a glimpse of these elemental forces, as evidenced in the slow collapse of a shelter from them.
Charles A. Hartman Fine Art (Portland, OR), Booth D23
“Leading Lines” by Corey Arnold
Fans of all things nautical will enjoy the work of Corey Arnold, whose work as a commercial fisherman also allows him to capture striking images of fishing vessels in action. Some of his work is more photojournalistic, but “Leading Lines” is almost surreal. The cresting wave seems to bring the horizon within feet of the viewer, flattening everything into an almost strictly vertical wall of water, which the lines might be dragging or erecting. Commercial fishing (hell, pretty much anything we do to the oceans) is a fraught matter from an ecological point of view. This image doesn’t overtly speak to questions of ecology: desertification of the oceans, over-fishing, etc. Yet, even without a visible human presence within the frame, I think I won’t be the only one to find unnerving this interface between humanity and nature, appearing smashed and dragged violently behind.
Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery (New York, NY), Booth A4
“Split Swell” by Yorgo Alexopoulos
The sea really comes alive in the digital animation of Yorgo Alexopoulos. The photo can’t do this piece justice; it must be experienced in person and in time. On a single screen, the animation in “Amok Time, Double Swell” would not be terribly extraordinary, however luscious. But dividing it into two sections is not just a technological trick or gimmick. The mirrored inner edge of the display alters one’s view of the wave as your move around it with its reflected double. Meanwhile, the lighting of the scene changes with slow wipes radiating from the center, taking one from dawn to dusk to the dead of starlit night in a matter of minutes. Time is indeed amok; the waves persist, ever changing. Proteus would be proud.
There’s much more of the sea to see at the Seattle Art Fair, including classic paintings by early 20th century artists George Bellows and John Marin at Alexandre Gallery (Booth A29).
The 2016 Seattle Art Fair runs from August 4 through August 7. Learn more and buy passes on the Seattle Art Fair website, and check out all our coverage of the booths, events and the vision of the fair as a whole.