It’s the first of March, first Thursday, and the first look at the new art in Pioneer Square and Downtown Seattle galleries. The shows will be up all month, but remember that the First Thursday Art Walk is one of the best time to see it all at once, thanks to extended gallery hours.
This month, I have identified four loose categories for those who want a more guided approach to the galleries: People, Places, Things, Abstraction.
Personal Pick: Portraiture by Three Artists at Foster/White Gallery
The three artists making their gallery debut at Foster/White have developed personal, vibrant approaches to portraiture. As with a lot of modern portraiture, their subjects are not figures of note, but bodies of sentiment and memory.
Erin Armstrong‘s figures outline and bleed into their surroundings. In some cases, one is first struck visually by the bold blocks and bands of color rather than the figure’s presence. Carlos Donjuan‘s use of color is also vibrant, but instead accentuates the bodies of his masked children. Those masks straddle the line between cute and creepy.
Julia Lambright‘s egg tempera paintings are much more somber in palette, but the compositions are electric. The layered shapes and forms might imply constant change, the rewriting of memory, the slipperiness of our ideas of self. Art is often more a mirror than a window, and this is especially so with works like these that wrestle with identity so variously.
Justin Duffus and Klara Glosova at Linda Hodges Gallery
Linda Hodges Gallery offers two shows of portraiture that mine everyday moments for deep feeling. Justin Duffus’ oil paintings feel like vintage family photos from strangers. I’d feel ambivalent about meeting these hypothetical strangers after seeing these images—which feel both personal and just a touch ominous. Duffus’ command of composition and color are outstanding. That much is clear, even if the story behind the image escapes one’s grasp.
A few years back, Klara Glosova began making watercolor paintings of people on the sidelines at sporting events. As banal as it might sound, there is something really touching about her handling of the subject, whether she focuses on individuals or groups. They’re all waiting for something to happen. We watch the watchers without that expectation. It’s a mise-en-abyme with heart.
Anne Petty at ProGraphica/KDR
The mysterious little oil paintings by Anne Petty at ProGraphica/KDR all feature women, often in natural settings and without a distinguishable face. Their intent is unclear: at play, exploring, meandering. One is inexplicably on her hands and knees with hair knotted to a branch. Intent aside, the mood is always rich in Petty’s work. You can enter the painting like a ghost, not disturbing the solitude of the woman therein, to share it with her.
Personal Pick: Keisuke Yamamoto at Davidson Galleries
In the same building as ProGraphica, Davidson Galleries presents work by Keisuke Yamamoto, and the prevailing sense is again solitude and silence. Most of his lithographs depict capacious interiors with large windows: recital halls, classrooms, ballrooms. These are places built for gathering, but the human presence is reduced to the proxy of chairs and other austere furnishings.
Sometimes, as in a lithograph of an artist’s studio, the outside world is just a bright glow through the windows. In others, we get a clear view of sun-dappled lawns and trees, with a lone chair by the window, looking as it is wished to escape. In other images, the chair has made it out beneath blossoming sakura. Yamamoto’s ability to capture the various effects of light in his lithography is sublime. Come for that, stay for the contemplative, enigmatic beauty of his subjects, which might be mundane in less capable hands.
David Haughton at Gallery 110
Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji has inspired countless artists as a way of exploring culture and history through placemaking. Each of Hokusai’s prints in that series is rich with allusions, history and commentary that escapes contemporary viewers.
In David Haughton’s case at Gallery 110, his locus is Mount Baker, and the world of people seems much further away than in Hokusai. Haughton is more focused on atmospheric effects, which were occasionally brought to the fore in Hokusai’s work (famously, “Red Fuji”). He’s very good at this, but I have to say that I prefer the works that do reintroduce the human element, such as his painting of three people gathering cranberries in a bog and his sunset “View From Ferry VI.”
For those who are curious about Haughton’s work and his love of Hokusai, make your calendars for Saturday, March 10, when he will give an artist talk at the gallery, “Hokusai and Me.”
Joey Veltkamp at Greg Kucera Gallery
Placemaking isn’t just about the landscape. It’s about the peculiars of the human world. (See Hokusai, again.) Joey Veltkamp goes deep with Northwest Vibes in his latest series of quilts, Blue Skies Forever. The designs include a list of Washington ferries and a cafeteria marquee, as well as some more techie references. As always with Veltkamp’s quilts, there’s heart and humor, too. Get snuggly with them (at least, in your heart and mind) at Greg Kucera Gallery.
Personal Pick: Therese Buchmiller at METHOD
Galleries and museums evolved from curios—essentially specimen displays. Time to time, one sees an installation that reiterates this history in more explicit terms while adding to it, detouring into a specific investigation. Such is the case with Therese Buchmiller’s COMPOSED, which comprises dozens and dozens of handmade leaves from various species. Buchmiller uses the leaves as a starting point for discussing and meditating on language, knowledge and the relationships (intellectual and personal) created through them.
Gregory Blackstock at Greg Kucera Gallery
The large drawings of Gregory Blackstock are diverse catalogs: a lineup of American Pitbull types; a motley display of historical structures in Montana; pumpkin varietals; thesaurus entries. His style is a little cartoonish, and his unsophisticated media (graphite, colored pencil, permanent marker) adds to the sweet naivete of the work. Get a brief tour of Blackstock’s obsessive world at Greg Kucera Gallery, and everything you see feels a little more charming afterwards.
Kathryn Thibault at Gallery 4Culture
This one is my wild card for the week, as I I am intrigued by the concept but haven’t yet seen the work in action. Here’s what Gallery 4Culture has to say:
The Encroaching Field consists of a series of wall-based sculptures that are linked by references to data visualization, mechanization, and human relationships. Hand-cut vellum and mixed media components—images of bodies, physical contact, and natural elements—allude to conflict, connection, mortality, and hope.
The work also speaks to Thibault’s desire to visually engage with intense personal challenges related to family, history, and her own physical health—challenges that overwhelm and overlap, blending together into an indivisible assemblage of experience, fear, and optimism.
Personal Pick: Crystal Wagner at TREASON
Hints of Crystal Wagner’s background as a muralist come through in her lush, layered wall sculptures. Her artistic practice has shifted indoors in recent years, as she has moved to installation work, whose forms and colors are yet informed by street art idioms. Wagner uses Legion Paper, which she hand cuts and paints before making her complex installations.
Treason Gallery is presenting Wagner’s PNW debut with an ambitious exhibit and site-specific installation within the gallery. The mix of large and small works ought to make the space feel very full and lush. Think of the small works as gorgeous seeds of expansive sculptures…or alien planters that you never need remember to water.
Catherine Eaton Sinner at Abmeyer+Wood
The encaustic medium naturally plays with lots of binaries thanks to properties of wax: pliant/brittle, translucent/opaque, smooth/jagged. Catherine Eaton Skinner‘s work is sensitive to the material and balances these qualities, and her latest series—focusing on the horizontal line—ups the darkness/light dualism with its use of pigment and metal leaf.
Art ∩ Math at CoCA
“Mathematics is the study of structure, number, pattern, and shape; though abstract, it has influenced art for centuries.”
That’s the statement from Center on Contemporary Art regarding the group show Art ∩ Math, which pairs visual artist and mathematicians. Initiated by artist Kate Vrijmoet and mathematician educators Katherine Cook and Dr. Dan Finkel, the show isn’t just a gimmicky collaboration, but an exploration into how the two realms (arts and maths) have influenced each other over centuries and how both are means to make order from chaos.
There will be a special Pi Day celebration on March 14 for those who want to mark that day in an especially arithmetic environment. No word yet on whether there will be pie, but there will be a presentation by the curators: The Beauty of Math.