Pioneer Square and Downtown Seattle Gallery Guide, September 2016

Posted on August 31, 2016, 1:44 pm
20 mins


August brought a blitz of art events surrounding the Seattle Art Fair. Maybe some people are still “arted out,” but this is no time to rest. September begins with the final Pioneer Square Art Walk of summer, and there have been some big changes for the galleries in recent months. Hence, this month I am as much discussing moves and debuts as I am the art being shown.

In many of these shows, one finds a pensive, meditative tone, apt for the turn of the seasons and the dreamy retrospection it inspires. It’s also a time for some significant first exhibitions at some galleries.

Downtown Galleries

John McCormick – Clues and Fragments at Harris/Harvey Gallery

First congrats go to gallerist Lisa Harris, who after 32 years in the biz at her location overlooking the heart of Pike Place Market has decided to move to a street level spot on 1st Avenue. The gallery’s rebranding from Lisa Harris Gallery to Harris Harvey Gallery reflects the expanding role of Assistant Director Sarah Harvey at the gallery. I’m wishing them the best of luck in their new location. The address is quite memorable: 1111 1st Avenue.

The inaugural show in the new space will NOT begin during First Thursday Art Walk, but the following Thursday, September 8, the same night as Capitol Hill Art Walk. It is a solo show of work by California-based landscape artist John McCormick. The reception is from 6 – 8pm, so swing by then or during your lunch break in the coming month.

John McCormick’s Clues and Fragments is on display September 8 – October 1. See more on

Christopher David White – Human:Nature at Abmeyer + Wood

Many of Abmeyer + Wood’s sculptors verge on the surreal. Jeff Ballard, for instance, uses glass to mimic pillows in a way that conjures up dreams and fantasies. Meanwhile, ceramicist Christopher David White is a virtuoso with clay, who mimics wood textures in his fragmented bodies. After firing the ceramic, he hand paints the works to complete the illusion. Heads, skulls, torsos and hands appear to be made of knotty, weathered wood, yet seem ready to come to life. Some of the work is downright squeamish (e.g. a row of fingers; a wooden block with an eye bulging from the heartwood). Just in time for the witching season…

Human:Nature is on view through October 1 at Abmeyer + Wood (1210 2nd Avenue). See more on the website.

Detail of "Within Arm's Reach" by Christopher David White. Image courtesy of Abmeyer + Wood.

Detail of “Within Arm’s Reach” by Christopher David White. Image courtesy of Abmeyer + Wood.

Amanda James Parker – Ghosts of Flesh Ave at Brainfreeze

The former home of the Lusty Lady has become a pop-up art installation space, Brainfreeze, while it awaits a full renovation into a boutique hotel. The latest artist to activate it is Amanda James Parker who has built an immersive site-specific installation inspired by the “peep show past” of the place. Ghosts of Flesh Ave is billed as a spectral swan song for the grit and grime that shall soon be swept away for a glossier new vision. (I’ve been made privy to potential plans for the hotel, which in fact include a semi-voyeuristic element, so perhaps it won’t disappear entirely after all.)

Ghosts of Flesh Ave is a one-night-only event, 6 – 11pm at Brainfreeze (1315 1st Avenue). Event page.

Pioneer Square, North End

Fay Jones – Water at James Harris Gallery – Personal Pick

Fay Jones painting Adrift at James Harris Gallery

Fay Jones, “Adrift.” Image courtesy of James Harris Gallery.

James Harris Gallery was dark and swarming with layered projections in late summer, thanks to the surveillance fever dream of Gary Hill‘s Dream Stop. Now the gallery is back to a more staid state, and the dreamy quality of the paintings of Fay Jones is warm and intimate, rather than intimidating like Hill. It’s a great pivot between two great shows. (James Harris’ program is one of the best, most inventive in town, as always.) It’s also hard to believe that this is Jones’ first solo show at his gallery (as they have both been at this for a while), but so it is.

However muted and reduced the settings and figures may be in Jones’ work, there is always a deep yearning. They are symbolic, but they don’t rely on common tropes. They are philosophical, but they aren’t coldly abstract. It’s the work of a mature and seasoned artist who knows how to pair passion and wisdom in a way that diminishes neither. It’s the work of a sage who knows that neither passion nor wisdom can ever fully express themselves in words, yet they manifest fully in some of the subtlest gestures.

Water is on view September 1 – October 8 at James Harris Gallery (604 2nd Avenue). See more on the website.

Clay Apenouvon – Film Noir at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Clay Apenouvon Film Noir at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Installation shot of works by Clay Apenouvon, Film Noir. Image courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Gallerist Mariane Ibrahim made a bold choice when she chose to feature one artist at both her booths at Seattle Art Fair and at her gallery. Rather than presenting works for sale at the booth, she and artist Clay Apenouvon collaborated to cover the entire space (including its small furnishings) with his primary material: black plastic film. Apenouvon has been using this material in various ways, from set designs commissioned in Europe to the sculptural and stretched works still on display at the gallery.

At a distance, the shimmering surfaces might recall a seascape or an oil slick. Neither comparison would be accidental; Apenouvon is expressly responding to the lives of refugees, displaced by wars and ecological havoc (often tied to commodities such as oil) and swallowed up by the sea, like the passengers of the 2013 shipwreck near Lampedusa. Black is beautiful; black is melancholy. This much we often here. In the works included in Film Noir, black is also illuminating. How is that for a trick?

Film Noir is on view through September 24 at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery (608 2nd Avenue). See more on the website.

Tashiro Kaplan Building Galleries

CoCA’s 35th Anniversary Show and New Gallery Space Launch

Seattle’s Center on Contemporary Art celebrates 35 years this year, and this month it moves into the space that housed Platform Gallery until owner Stephen Lyons took his operation totally online last month. To christen CoCA’s latest site, Executive Director Nichole DeMent dug into the archives and had digital copies made of fragile materials for an historical exhibit of the org’s 35 years of creative output. From the event page:

At 8pm, CoCA will host a special private event sponsored by Sparkle Donkey Tequila featuring an informal discussion at 8:30pm with CoCA Archives Project Director, Anna R Hurwitz.

“Bring a wad of cash,” as stated on the poster from Black & Blu Ball in 2000: copies of original posters and select catalogs will be on sale to help support CoCA.

The reception runs until 9:30pm, which is well beyond the 8pm closing time at most galleries, so if you want to be out late, it may make sense to make this your last stop (or your stop on the way downtown to Brainfreeze).

35 Years of CoCA is on display through October 1 at CoCA’s TK Building space (114 3rd Ave South). See more on the website.

Casey Curran – Chaos, Pattern, Emergence at METHOD Gallery

Casey Curran is best known for his kinetic works, which have ranged from small sculptures to massive, articulated set designs. When he told me that his plan for this show at METHOD Gallery would depart from that style, I was curious to see where it would go. As different in form as his sprawling, mixed-media installation Chaos, Pattern, Emergence may be, it doesn’t diverge too far in vision. The reason Curran can make his animated sculptures work is his keen interest systems, patterns and movements, large and small. Those who see Curran’s name and think of his delicate wires woven into fluttering flora, fauna and lattices will be in for a surprise…but a pleasant one, I think.

Chaos, Pattern, Emergence is on view through October 1 at METHOD Gallery (106 3rd Avenue South). See more on the website.

(L) Detail of "Chaos, Pattern, Emergence" by Casey Curran, image courtesy of artist. (R) Detail of "C-Channels" in Image Space by Sylwia Tur. Image by artist via Gallery 4Culture.

(L) Detail of Chaos, Pattern, Emergence by Casey Curran, image courtesy of artist. (R) Detail of “C-Channels” in Image Space by Sylwia Tur. Image by artist via Gallery 4Culture.

Sylwia Tur – Image Space at Gallery 4Culture – Personal Pick

I consider it a happy coincidence that just around the corner from Curran’s installation, one will find Sylwia Tur‘s Image Space, which addresses similar themes in its own sprawling way. Whereas Curran’s creation is varicolored, soft and chunky, Tur’s work is a minimal distillate of architectural forms. Curran’s work in this case is exoteric, while Tur invites a more personal reflection on how her simplified porcelain structures evoke a sense of spaciousness and enclosure. Curran’s topography seems naturally in flux, while Tur’s work begins to more discretely reconfigure itself in the mind’s eye the moment one looks at it. They are good shows in isolation that make for interesting contrasts when viewed one after the other.

Image Space is on view through September 29 at Gallery 4Culture (101 Prefontaine Place S). See more info on the website.

Around Main St.

Deborah Butterfield at Greg Kucera Gallery

Christopher David White is not the only artist who masterfully mimics wood in this list. Deborah Butterfield‘s sculptures transform heavy metal into driftwood and fallen branches, which seem to be miraculously assembled into horses—or rather the essence of a horse at peace. Most of the sculptures are empty space, wrapped by the uneven lines of the branches that suggest gentle movements better than a solid form ever could. Thus, there are several transformations occurring at once: the illusion of metal as wood; the sparing gestures that form animals from branches; the illusion of movement in the form.

For those who want to hear more from the artist herself, Town Hall is hosting Butterfield for a lecture on Friday, September 2 at 7:30pm. Get tickets on the Town Hall website.

New sculptures by Deborah Butterfield are on view from September 1 – October 29 at Greg Kucera Gallery (212 3rd Avenue South). See more on the website.

Laura Hamje – Climbing With Helen at Bryan Ohno Gallery

Laura Hamje oil painting Passenger

Laura Hamje, “Passenger.” Image courtesy of Bryan Ohno Gallery.

The last body of work I saw from Laura Hamje applied her painterly, sinuous style to dusky urban settings, both interior and exterior. She goes for the great wide open in her latest series, Climbing With Helen, which views Mount St. Helens. It’s not a novel subject; everyone has at least seen the mountain many times in photos or at a distance. Hamje’s work is interesting in how it distorts our view just enough that it resembles the fuzzy, aggregate memories or imagined views we have of a place (that many of us have never seen with our own eyes). It’s a subdued reverie that avoids sentimentality on its own terms, though someone who has “climbed with Helen” might grow a little sentimental when reminded just how imperfect our memories are, the further we get from a time and place.

Climbing with Helen is on view September 1 – 3- at Bryan Ohno Gallery (521 South Main Street). See more on the website.

Erica Ciganek – Sitting With at Treason Gallery

Erica Ciganek at Treason Gallery

Erica Ciganek, “Drift.” Image courtesy of Treason Gallery.

At a distance, Erica Ciganek‘s oil paintings of women’s faces up close and streaming with moisture look almost photorealistic. However, there is something about the intensity of the contrast and the saturation that implies an altered photo. It’s like stage lighting, which heightens the drama, emphasizing the emotional state rather than the physical being. That being is not neglected, though. Up close, you see individual brush strokes that give the skin a mottled texture. It is gorgeous, psychological portraiture, and it promises to be a fantastic debut at Treason Gallery

Note: The reception at Treason Gallery runs later than many, from 6pm until 10pm, so consider while scheduling your activities.

Sitting With is on view September 1 – 30 at Treason Gallery (319 3rd Avenue South). See more on the website.

Pioneer Square, North End

Michael Paul Miller and Gabe Hernandez at Linda Hodges Gallery

There’s a gallows humor in presenting shows of work from these two artists simultaneously at Linda Hodges Gallery. Gabe Hernandez paints unpeopled, midcentury interiors and settings aglow in late afternoon light. Michael Paul Miller paints charred, post-apocalyptic visions on asphalt beneath a blackened sky. The animals and humans that trudge or leap through the darkness are aflame, but seem sullenly unaware of this. I think the two artists will appeal to two very different viewers, or at least will end up in two different rooms: Hernandez in the sitting room, where one can speak cheerily with guests; Miller in the study, where one can read Cormac McCarthy and drink bourbon in peace.

New works by Miller and Hernandez are on view September 1 – October 1 at Linda Hodges Gallery (316 First Ave S). See more on the website.

Introductions 2016 at Davidson Galleries – Personal Pick

I always look forward to Davidson Galleries annual presentation of new artists, Introductions. Davidson is one of the first places I recommend to new collectors, as their selection of prints is expansive and accessible. This showcase of emerging international artists is always varied and of a high standard. It’s great for seasoned collectors who want to discover new artists that they will love, and for new collectors who are timid about making their first investment in art. Featured artists this year include Kyoko Imazu, Damon Kowarsky, Boonmee Sangkhum and Valerie Syposz, among many others.

Introductions 2016 is on view September 1 – October 1 at Davidson Galleries (313 Occidental Avenue South). See more on the website.

Boonmee Sangkhum and Valerie Syposz at Introductions 2016 at Davidson Galleries

(L) Boonmee Sangkhum,
“Essence, Truth, Reality No.16” and (R) Valerie Syposz, “Everyday Life.” Images courtesy of Davidson Galleries.

Audio/Visual at AXIS Pioneer Square

Last but not least, there will be quite a party at AXIS Pioneer Square for Audio/Visual, a cross-disciplinary group exhibition of art, live music and performance (including mural painting and dance). The show is sponsored by Northwest Folklife, Seattle Acoustic Festival and New Amsterdam Vodka. Ten percent of art sales will be donated to Arts Corps. In addition to the art, guests can also purchase from independent label and vinyl record store, Knick Knack Records. The party runs from 5pm to 9pm at AXIS Pioneer Square (308 1st Avenue South). See more on the Facebook event page.

Lead image: “Stag Nation” by Michael Paul Miller, courtesy of Linda Hodges Gallery.

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