Pioneer Square and Downtown Seattle Gallery Guide, February 2017

Protest art abounds, as do many shows responding to changing urban environments, alongside thoughtful group shows.

Posted on February 01, 2017, 9:37 am
17 mins


2017 is already shaping up to be an interesting year—one of fevered rhetoric, massive protests and dissent at all levels of society. Not surprisingly, many artists and curators are already responding, and February’s First Thursday Art Walk brims with feisty works.

The truth is, all beauty and art protests against the xenophobia, bigotry, divisiveness and philistinism on full display this last week. So whether a show is explicitly protesting our increasingly authoritarian Executive branch or just reminding us to be curious and kind, it’s worth seeing.

This month, rather than organizing by location, I’m picking three dominant categories from the shows in Pioneer Square: curated group shows, shows on exploration and designed environments and shows with explicit protest. If you are in a rush and just need the top three, they are: Back Stories at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Greetings from the Anthropocene at Gallery 110, and the Design of Dissent at Non-Breaking Space—a new gallery!

Group Shows

Back Stories at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery – Personal Pick

A show of work that focuses on the back of the human form could be gimmicky, but Back Stories is anything but. It is co-curated by Mariane Ibrahim and Negarra Kudumu and includes work from a dozen international artists. Among them are: a beautiful (but slightly disturbing) sculpture by Maïmouna Guerresi; compelling photo portraits by Ayana Jackson, Fabrice Monteiro and Lina Iris Viktor; a giant and sensual ink drawing by artist pair Mwangi Hutter.

Guerresi’s legless “Egg Man” greets visitors as they enter the gallery, oozing pathos in its fetal pose. The rest of the works range from empowering to mysterious to tender, but one never shakes that sense of fragility so essential to every encounter with a fellow human, from back to front.

On view through March 25 at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery. (608 2nd Ave)

“Elie, Beirut, 2015” by Scarlett Coten. Image courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

Like Mother… at Art XChange Gallery

Artist L. Kelly Lyles conceived and curated the traveling show Like Mother… to give artists the chance to ponder the profound bond between daughter and child. Its latest iteration at Art Xchange features sculpture, assemblage, drawing, painting and more from twenty artists. The exquisite embroidery of Diem Chau and Maura Donegan and the ornate memorial sculpture by Steve Jensen are personal highlights. In such a diverse display, there really is something for everyone, no matter how complicated one’s maternal relationships may be.

On view through February 25 at Art XChange Gallery. (512 1st Ave)

Left: “Dreamer” by Maura Donegan. Right: “Pat” by Steve Jensen. Image courtesy of the artists and Art XChange.

Group Show at Foster/White Gallery

There is no unifying theme to the works at Foster/White Gallery this month. One might draw a glib connection of “Nature” with animal sculpture by Tony Angell, abstract landscapes by Allison Collins and large aerial photos of beaches by Joshua Jensen-Nagle. It would be a stretch, though, so just go and enjoy these strong, peaceful, new works. It’s a short show, even for the shortest month, up through February 18. (220 3rd Ave)

“An Expression,” Ed. 4/7 by Joshua Jensen-Nagle. Image courtesy of Foster/White Gallery.

Exploring The Designed Environment

It’s actually amazing how many shows this month follow this theme in some way. Most of them are in the Tashiro Kaplan Building in Pioneer Square, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that the organizers did not do this intentionally. Change is in the air, especially in Seattle, so it stands to reason. That said, the perspectives and styles differ greatly from show to show.

Jacob Foran In Between Dreams at Abmeyer + Wood – Personal Pick

Abmeyer + Wood presents its first solo show of 2017, and it’s an optimistic start to the year. Jacob Foran‘s ceramics have a playful, surreal curiosity. You may have spotted a couple large busts with a metallic glaze of his at ZINC Contemporary last year. These are in a similar vein, but have a lot more going on: E.g. rockets erupting from a young boy’s head; a child-like couple in an extraterrestrial guardian “wedding vessel.” Could make an out-of-this-world Valentine’s Day gift…

On display through February 28 at Abmeyer + Wood. (1210 2nd Ave)

“In Space Together Forever (Wedding Vessel)” by Jacob Foran. Image courtesy of Abmeyer + Wood.

C.S.E. (Collaborative Stacking Extravaganza!) at Gallery 4Culture

Artist Chris McMullen‘s interactive installation C.S.E. (Collaborative Stacking Extravaganza!) requires viewers to cooperate in using stylized versions of mechanical cranes to stack and arrange materials. Art, architecture and engineering are activated through physical, mental and social engagement. From Gallery 4Culture:

“Viewers will have to use depth perception, hand-eye coordination, synchronized interaction, and shrewd communication skills to activate the cranes,” says McMullen. “The object is to overcome logistical difficulties. When multiple operators are present, alliances can be formed and competition may ensue.”

On display through February 23 at Gallery 4Culture. (101 Prefontaine Pl S)

CHEAP at Method Gallery

Audiences who attended last month’s art walk may have already seen Nicole Dextras‘ installation CHEAP. The artist has created a multicolored display of discarded textiles as a comment on the fast fashion industry. Designer Donna Karan has called fashion the second dirtiest industry in the world next to oil. Between the billions of pounds of textiles dumped in landfills each year, the countless fuel used in transporting goods and the ecological havoc caused from fiber farming (pesticides and all), she’s certainly right.

That doesn’t even account for the lives lost to disasters, such as 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which in part inspired the show. Dextras’ pithy comment is to the point, but seeing it one still cannot fathom the impact of the industry. It’s food for thought…even if it is unpalatable.

On display through February 25 at METHOD Gallery. (106 3rd Ave S)

Gabe Brown & Deborah Zlotsky at ZINC Contemporary

Two New York-based artists, Gabe Brown and Deborah Zlotsky, make their Seattle debut at ZINC Contemporary. I haven’t seen the work in person yet, but the abstracted structures and layers fit nicely into this category of designed environments, at least by appearances. It’s a wild card, but I like what ZINC Contemporary has been doing with their space in the short time they have been open, so I’m guessing it will be worth seeing up close.

On display through February 25 at ZINC Contemporary. (119 Prefontaine Pl S)

Origins of Progress at CORE Gallery

Equinox Studios in Georgetown is the largest arts complex in North America west of the Mississippi River. It’s a hotbed for artists and artisans of all kinds, and Claire Putney has chosen a novel way to document it. She draws a map of an artist studio, then layers atop it an ink rendering of a knot she finds in the space. The result is poetic and graphically interesting. From CORE Gallery:

These knots aren’t direct representations of the Inventor’s final work, but rather reference the wave of materials and muses left behind in the creative process.

Knots have a rich history in their inherent function, but also as a symbol of social and political affiliations and protest. They physically embody strength, unity and security but also represent intensity, struggle and disruption.

Update (January 1, 2017, 3pm): I popped in and saw the works of Ryan Finnerty also at CORE. Some still fit in this broad theme of the designed environment, but mostly they are more naturalistic, gorgeous, painterly works. AND he has a fun trompe-l’oeil staging area for majorly fun selfie-options. See what we mean on our Instagram.

On display through February 25 at CORE Gallery. (117 Prefontaine Pl S)

“Inventor’s Wake #108B (study)” by Claire Putney. Image via CORE Gallery.

Greetings from the Anthropocene Juried Show at Gallery 110 – Personal Pick

There are bits of explicit protest against the Trump administration in Greetings from the Anthropocene, curated by Maiza Hixson, Chief Curator of the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture. However, it would be myopic to lump this as a protest show. The vision is sprawling, with work from over thirty artists speaking to our strange epoch, in which what we might at a glance consider “natural” yet bears the mark of far-reaching human influence.

Visions of dwindling natural resources, bodies rendered as colored ghosts through thermal photography, enclosed shrines to consumerism, and, of course, barbaric demagoguery are just a taste of what one will see at Gallery 110 this month. Some are doom-and-gloomy. Some are cartoonish. Some are a little of both, such as Gary Beeber‘s photo “Mona At Home” from a series of portraits he did of NYC nightlife maven and Marilyn Monroe devotee Mona Marlowe.

Gary Beeber photographs transgender model and nightlife icon Mona Marlowe

The glamor and squalor of Mona lounging in her tiny apartment beneath dozens of images of her idol is so melancholy, so human, such a specific and perfectly captured facet of our age. However untidy it may be, the room provides a sanctuary and fantasy, away from the apocalyptic visions that we know are just beyond those walls… because we see them on the walls of the gallery. An already affecting image becomes even more compelling and sympathetic through Hixson’s curation. Smart stuff.

On display through February 25 at Gallery 110. (110 3rd Ave S)

Specters and Relics at AXIS

On the subject of changing urban spaces, AXIS Pioneer Square might be one of the more appropriate venues around. It’s gorgeous, historic interior is all brick and wood. And because it doubles as an event space, opening night is the only time you really see a show there in its entirety. Very ephemeral indeed.

The new show this month, Specters and Relics, features three artists that create and imagine their own ruins. Painter Sofya Belinskaya isolates fragmented buildings and domestic objects in swaths of negative space, a void. Alex Boeschenstein and Max Cleary are more maximalist, with the former producing layered “exploded views” and the latter assembling colorful structures with mundane objects documented in photographs.

On display at AXIS Gallery. (308 1st Ave S)

Too Many Cunning Passages at GLASS BOX

Last but not least in this category, head south of Pioneer Square for more work by Alex Boeschenstein. The show, Too Many Cunning Passages, will fill GLASS BOX on the edge of SoDo with a bevy of installations. Its title comes from T.S. Eliot’s poem “Gerontion.”

History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities…

Boeschenstein’s focus is Seattle’s contrived history, as landscape and culture are terraformed and reformed over the years, sometimes beyond recognition. It becomes a cognate for the artist’s own life: “A distressing labyrinth populated by the contradictory voices of characters with outsized ambitions and tenuous holds on reality.”

On view through February 25 at GLASS BOX. (831 Seattle Blvd S)


The gallery shows focusing on art of dissent and protest will speak for themselves, so I won’t go in depth about each here. Both Treason Gallery and CoCA Gallery have shows of art specifically made for protest (as posters and signs). In fact, I think we’ll see some overlapping images between the two.

Artist Ernesto Yerena Montejano worked with Shepard Fairey and Jessica Sabogal through The Amplifier Foundation to produce a series of works titled “We The People.” Yerena’s poster from that series will be shown with others at  FULL CIRCLE at Treason Gallery (319 3rd Ave S). These posters and others will also be at CoCA Gallery (114 3rd Ave S) for its show of protest art. Continuing their residency with CoCA, artists Eric Carnell and NKO will demo screen-printing techniques and guests can pick up free posters during Art Walk.

However, if you see one art show on dissent this month, make it…

The Design of Dissent at Non-Breaking Space – Personal Pick

Design studio Civilization has been actively creating arts and design events in other venues around town, especially the Public Library. This month they premiere their own gallery, Non-Breaking Space. They have a helluva show to kick it off…

Originally curated in 2005 by legendary designers Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic at New York’s School of Visual Arts, The Design of Dissent is a heady look at protest art from past decades. It includes art stars like Barbara Kruger, counterculture collective Guerrilla Girls, and AIDS-activist group Gran Fury among many others. This was a vital show in 2005. It seems even more relevant now, as many of the issues addressed by this art either never went away or threaten to return with a vengeance. Get inspired and activated.

On view through April 6 at Non-Breaking Space at Civilization. (532 1st Ave)

Featured Image: From Gary Beeber’s Mona Series. Image courtesy of the artist and Gallery 110.

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