by Jen Graves
on Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM
Two sculptures by Eva Funderburgh at the entrance to the Bellevue Arts Museum.
Seeing these two sculptures sitting together yesterday made me think of Ariel Levy's New Yorker story about adventurism and birthing a baby who lived only a few minutes during a trip to Mongolia. I've written first-person about the failure of a pregancy before, and it's a hard thing to do.
You can see more of Eva Funderburgh's sculptures here.
by Jen Graves
on Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 1:15 PM
Tomorrow night in South Seattle, there's an art opening that feels like something you'd see in Berlin or Stockholm. Its curators are two European artists here doing residencies at the University of Washington at Bothell. They go by the joint name Salinas & Bergman, and their web site is full of good stuff.
Here's one of their works:
More on that piece, Abstract your shit is, is here.
Tomorrow night's show, from 7 to 10, features works involving parliamentary speeches, Operation Urgent Fury, and the Dow Chemical Plant in Midland, Michigan, by the unabashed Swedish artist Ulkrika Gomm.
by Jen Graves
on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 4:49 PM
This is Ellen Altfest's Head and Plant, a painting she made a few years ago. Head and Plant was also the title of her her first big museum solo, last year's exhibition at the New Museum. I first saw this painting at the Venice Biennale this past summer (where I took this snapshot), along with a handful of others by Altfest. They leave an impression that's directly disproportionate to their size: They're very small, sort of the size of book covers. This one is 10 by 11 inches.
Ellen Altfest is someone I keep thinking back to. Her paintings at the Venice Biennale were so quiet, perfect, and strange, and, even better, a little bit too much of each of those adjectives.
She is plainly a virtuoso with a brush and oil paint on canvas. Her compositions are so tight, it feels like she was physically cornered when she was creating them. Like she could only back up so far or bump into a wall.
Often, that's the problem of a photographer. Altfest does not work from photographs. She works from the things themselves, models and plants and trees.
She hurts people and gets hurt when she's working. Turning the historical tables, she paints male nude models, and when she paints them, they become still-life objects demanding and rewarding a level of scrutiny that's usually reserved for late-night mirror sessions by confounded teenaged girls. Every penis wrinkle, every neck wrinkle, every hair, every stretch mark, every vein.
She is hard core. She is serious. She is absurd.
Ellen Altfest's Armpit, 2011, 8 by 7 inches, oil on canvas.
Check here or here for more images of Ellen Altfest's work.
by Jen Graves
on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 2:03 PM
On the left, W. Eugene Smith's 1946 photograph of his children. On the right, Franz von Stuck's 1909 painting of the snake-wrapped Eve. They're both on display in Seattle, and with a connection running between them in their collectors, Charles and Emma Frye, and Walser and Ida Kay Greathouse, all four integral to the early history of the Frye Art Museum. What besides their collectors do these two collections have in common? Are their traces of sympathies in these two images? Sympathies disguised as antipathies?
One, there is a notable collection of black-and-white photography displayed in a spacious hallway at the Hutch, labeled as the Ida Kay and Walser Greathouse Collection.
These names rung a bell because of the Frye Art Museum. Walser was director of the Frye from its founding in 1952 until his death in 1966. Ida Kay took over, governing the place from 1966 through 1993. For most of its existence, in other words, Seattle's most unusual museum was under the care of the Greathouses.
by Jen Graves
on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 8:59 AM
Courtesy of the artist and SEASON gallery
Seattle artist Dylan Neuwirth's Maker's Mark from memory. So right, so wrong.
How solid is a liquor bottle you're going to empty, recycle, and then replace with a replica you'll then empty, recycle, and then replace with a replica you'll then...? Solidity becomes a funny idea in this context.
The basic answer is that of course it's solid. Solid as anything.
A goofy answer is that glass is liquid, always.
Another answer is that it's not even there, it's not solid at all, it's always in the process of being turned into something else—it's just a carrier for the burning-throat feeling and pleasant drunkenness you're using it for. It's not the thing itself.
This is why Dylan Neuwirth's sculpture of a Maker's Mark bottle from memory is such a funny, resounding little object. It sits on a glass dining-room table at SEASON, Robert Yoder's home gallery in Ravenna.
When you first see it, you think, "That looks familiar." When you learn it's a copy of a Maker's bottle, you think, "Oh, yes, yes, yes, it is, got it." But what have you got exactly? The parts of it that seem wrong, you attribute to your faulty memory. When you learn that the artist made it from memory, it's a pleasure to know how very wrong it is, how funny the original shape actually is, how skinny this one is by comparison. How particular form is. Form and color.
As a memory of a liquor bottle, it is perfect, since memory is like this, clear but hazy. An object that's a memory, a memory that's an object, should be like this.
Yoder told me Neuwirth has also made other sculptures from memory, including a bike stripped of its tires and chained. Could you make a bike from memory? It sounds simple. Ultimately, his bike from memory, I'm told—I haven't seen it—makes that same familiarity-then-not impression, that recognition followed by the sudden creepy feeling that can happen with a friend or lover when you realize all at once that you haven't known them at all.
by Jen Graves
on Sat, Nov 30, 2013 at 4:02 PM
Stop Looking at This JPEG: Seriously, you can't understand why Tatiana Garmendia's art is so good by looking at this JPEG.
I rarely go to Patricia Cameron Gallery, and I was walking by it on the street the other day, not intending to go in, when Patricia Cameron smiled graciously and waved to me, and her kindness made me feel even guiltier, because even though the art hadn't looked great in the JPEGs I saw online, the concept of the show interested me, and I felt frustrated all over again about not having time for everything, and I shuffled in dutifully—and the JPEGs were wrong. Dead wrong. Tatiana Garmendia has made some of the most gorgeous things. The main subjects of the exhibition are her erotic drawings that are burned into paper, not drawn on, using a tool that's like a pen, but on fire. She paints between the burn lines in pastel watercolor, in a process she describes as cooling the heat of the burns. You can almost hear sizzling.
Garmendia has been living and working in Seattle since 1993. She teaches at Seattle Central Community College, and a couple of her pieces in the Wing Luke Museum's group show this summer, Under My Skin: Artists Explore Race in the 21st Century, made an impression for being both unsettling and lovely. They were overlays of love and war, six-foot ink paintings of pietàs set in the ongoing Iraq war. The Madonnas wore dark, shadowy, realistically rendered burqas—such drapery—and the Christs were uniformed soldiers in camo and boots. Prayer-carpet motifs in pinkish red swirled beneath the figures, and calligraphy in English and Arabic quoted from popular songs by Courtney Love, Linkin Park, and the Chemical Brothers.
Garmendia has technical chops, her influences are drawn from a passport full of stamps, and she isn't afraid to take on the biggest imaginable subjects. Cameron explained that Garmendia was born in Cuba, where her parents were jailed, where she saw terrible things. For her, war, torture, and love come together, and they are real...
by Jen Graves
on Mon, Nov 25, 2013 at 3:05 PM
THE STORM INSIDE Here is a view of the installation just before the gallery closes for the day, when the light is lowest. This is what you see through the gallery door as you approach the entrance, storms of dark paper waiting to swallow you.
Wade Kavanaugh and Steven Nguyen started their latest collaboration with solo walkabouts. Each artist walked his own 40-mile loop through the Hoh Rain Forest.* Then, they came back together and set to work, and what they made together is a storm of twisted black paper.
You enter Suyama Space and this storm appears immediately like a gothic fantasy, first glimpsed through the narrow entranceway at the end of the ramp leading from the door to the gallery. Right away, you want to get close; the surface is so detailed. Some of its knotty ropes and coils are messy like morning hair. Some are pretty: charred roses.
You're drawn to walk around, and keep going, because the eye wants more of these surfaces, until finally, you are on the other side from where you entered, and beckoned by a sudden little path to enter the eye of the storm, where its tallest whipped peaks rise up. Inside, it's a black grotto. Grim, pointy towers jolt up above you. Basically, you're a child in a Grimm fairytale.
The spell of the Hoh is something else, unnervingly dense and wild even to locals, but especially to outsiders. Kavanaugh and Nguyen live in Brooklyn. Each time they've made art in Seattle, it has had to do with our landscape: once very specifically, in reproducing the Denny Regrade in the gallery (the Regrade being a local phenomenon nearly as unnerving as the wilderness of the rain forest), and another time, orchestrating a great flock of white birds crashing through a black wall in the aftermath of the BP oil spill off the coast of Florida in 2010.
Their current installation, Drawn from the Olympics, is tangled, romantic, operatic, and inevitable. Its subject is not human, like the oil spill or regrade were, but its towering indifference feels personal, especially given the private little tunnel—and especially if you see the installation at night, when it's dark out and there's no light in the gallery and the only light you get is either the midnight blue of the night outside or the yellowy light of the adjacent architecture offices.
I haven't seen the installation during the day, and I'm not sure I want to. I prefer to feel that I only half-saw it, in the half-light, and that there are things hidden there that I'm just as well not having to face.
But here it is, in a professional installation shot taken at the height of light. This to me looks like the morning after a fire.
by Jen Graves
on Fri, Nov 22, 2013 at 9:13 AM
Courtesy of the artist
Spar Wilson, a graduate of the University of Washington's bachelor in arts program in 2011, works like an inventor, building robotic machines that send colored light through layers of lenses and water onto the walls.
Have you been to Interstitial Theatre in its temporary home at the former three-story Ekberg's furniture building in Belltown yet? Here's what I wrote about the all-video collective when it opened in this fantastical temporary location in October—a location without heat and lights, so huge shows of video installations are brilliant there. IT will only be in the space, provided through Storefronts Seattle, for one more month, and tonight is the opening of its last show there, a group exhibition called Hydrosphere. I got a preview of it last night.
The works are (mostly) water/weather-based installations: a giant inflated weather balloon with distant bodies of water projected onto its bulbous, lightly swaying surface (Andy Behrle); videos shot looking down into a crystal chalice with champagne, menstrual blood, and breast milk in it, mounted on the walls of a claustrophobic pink sitting parlor (Kate Ryan, Saint Genet member); old 1950s soft-coreish "static films" mapped onto windows so it feels like you are eavesdropping from outside (Jon Womack); a wild tumble down the rabbit hole of Google image search (Flynn Casey).
On the very bottom floor, which feels like it's ten stories under the ground rather than just one, is a huge room that's empty except for a few scattered votive candles on the floor and a soundscape emitting from speakers, inspired by the Aurora Borealis. It's called Space Weather Listening Booth and it was inspired by Nat Evans and John Teske. (I first loved Space Weather Listening Boothhere.) I can't stress how dark it is down there. It is an arcade of darkness. It is perfect for listening. On December 6, there will be a live performance down there, with a big shag rug spread out for lying on. I'd bring a pillow and sleeping bag, too.
The opening will feature live performances by Alice Gosti, and the team of Rashelle McKee and Alisa Popova.
The show was not entirely built when I saw it last night, so it's hard to say exactly what you'll see tonight. But there are at least a few strong, fascinating works by artists likely to be new to you, and the atmosphere is unbelievably urban-romantic and strange (wander into the back rooms and find the vanishing staircase). Admission is free. You cannot go wrong.
Courtesy of the artist
Maja Petric created this lightbox (this is a detail) using landscape photographs she took in Eastern Washington, stitching them into what feels like a tectonic panorama.