If you were in the streets of Doha, Qatar, today, you might see a large black sedan drive past, trailing a life-size mockup of Damien Hirst's sculpture of a real dead shark suspended in a tank. This is how an exhibition of Hirst's sculptures at Doha's Al Riwaq Art Space is being advertised. It's also being advertised through this massive social media campaign. It's sponsored by the woman named the most powerful person in contemporary art by ArtReview this year: Sheikha Mayassa.
James Panero has a fascinating piece in this month's New Criterion on what the collecting power of certain Middle Eastern states means.
They've imported high-ticket Western art, modern and contemporary. American universities like Texas A&M, New York University. The Guggenheim. Leading architects including Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, Rafael Viñoly, Jean Nouvel.
There's no question what those entities get out of the deal. It's green. It makes the world go round. Oh, yeah, and there are some niceties.
The cultural partners that Qatar and the other Emirates are importing to their principalities largely claim to be there in the interest of greater global understanding. There is a “conviction that interaction with new ideas and people who are different is valuable and necessary, and a commitment to educating students who are true citizens of the world,” as New York University says of its presence in Abu Dhabi. Of course, our Western elites would show little interest if these countries were still merely made up of poor fishermen and pearl divers. They are there to sell, but what precisely are these countries out to buy?
Soft power, much like the American C.I.A. wielded in the Cold War, and cover for continued basic human-rights abuses, Panero writes.
He tells the story of the Qatari poet imprisoned for 15 years for allegedly insulting the Emir. One of his poems asked the same question Panero poses: "Why, why do these regimes/ import everything from the West—/ everything but the rule of law, that is,/ and everything but freedom?”
Panero then goes on to share the story of the expensive Western art bought under the Shah in Iran, which, in order to avoid being destroyed during the revolution, had to be scurried off into storage—where it remains.
The terrible history of Iran demonstrates what can happen when a modernist culture merely overlays a repressive regime. In such circumstances, artists and organizations might profit by spreading modernity, but they are also abetting a compromised state. The two go hand in hand, liberalizing on the one and oppressing on the other. The art, meanwhile, continues its own transformation, evolving from images of Provençal peasant life and visions of abstract thought into symbols of autocratic power. Should a state like Qatar ever collapse, the results would leave a hole not only in the art market but in the culture of art itself. In the meantime, épater la bourgeoisie has become state policy in the modernizing capital of Doha, while épater l’Emir remains a capital offense.
This "hole in the culture of art itself" is interesting. Does he mean that if a state like Qatar, holding all this art, were to collapse, then the art would either be destroyed or disappeared, and that would constitute a "hole in the culture of art itself"? Like a bullet through the body of Western art?
If that were to happen, I could hardly sympathize with any of the players. (Maybe some of the artists, the dead ones, but certainly not with someone like Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons.) Because the wound is self-inflicted. In fact, a "hole in the culture of art itself" is a preexisting condition. Rich Americans are not Mother Theresas, even if you compare them to rich ruling Qataris. This art is already made of the conditions of widespread inequality, and you might even call it human-rights abuses, when you consider statistics about how the poorest Americans live today.
Anyone who follows the rise of the art market can safely say that global demand has moved beyond the realm of aesthetics on to other concerns. Blue-chip art has become a speculative sport, a trophy hunt, a diversified hedge, and a means for money laundering. Art now serves any number of functions that have little connection with value and connoisseurship.
When I.M. Pei says he wants culture to be more emphasized in oil and gas states, yet culture at these levels means little more than money, then who is influencing whom in these purchases? It's just money versus money. The rich and the ruling always find their way to each other. The real borders are not between countries but between them and everyone else.
Hat tip to Mister Sean.
But In 2006, I wrote a full profile of Francine Seders that I think is worth revisiting, because Seders turned out to be even more interesting, more wonderful, and more ineffable than I suspected when I set out to write the piece in the first place. From the story:
Today, at 40, the Francine Seders Gallery is the oldest gallery in the city still run day-to-day by its founder, and probably the city's most unlikely art success. Even Seders herself is surprised by it. "I never cater to people with money, which would help," she says, wearing a dress and folding her hands in her lap, looking like a cross between Cezanne's proper, upright wife, and Bonnard's languorous Marthe. "What can I talk to them about? They don't want to talk about the books that I read. Maybe I should play golf and have a martini."
Rather, the 80-year-old is learning Chinese from books and gardening. She'll still work from home, where she'll still be the dealer who never deals.
Christmas Eve is the gallery's last day open. The final show is works by Norman Lundin, Dale Lindmann, Dina Barzel, Michael Howard, and Diann Knezovich. She's always got something around by Jacob Lawrence and Gwen Knight, so if you don't see anything, you might ask. Don't forget to look at the art in the staircase that leads to the basement. (Gallery.)
Captionless photos run through Aaron Huey's book of photos from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota like an unruly river, some to the edges of the pages, overflowing the banks of what we see. There's beautiful bleakness, mostly free of context—maybe because, as Huey told me, "the more time I spend [at Pine Ridge], the more confused I am about what to do with it."
As a journalist for National Geographic and Harper's, Huey became a righteous advocate, exhorting the federal government to honor the treaties and give back the Black Hills. You may have seen his "Honor the Treaties" poster campaign with street-art mogul Shepard Fairey.
But there are problems.
Matika Wilbur is the kind of photographer who calls ahead. She laughs loud and makes friends easily and sleeps on the couches and floors of her subjects. If she gets sick, like she did this past August, after too many nights with no sleep, driving through the American West with her camera, she is offered an actual bed, and actually takes it. In August, it was Steven Yellowtail who insisted she take his bedroom and he would sleep on the family couch. He'd never met her before. He only knew she was a friend of his older sister's and that she was doing something she wouldn't be able to do unless she had couches and beds and floors to sleep on. What she's doing is spending several years—as long as it takes, and as long as the grant money and Kickstarter funds last—visiting and taking pictures of every Native American tribe in the United States.
She's been traveling a year so far, at the wheel of her improbable black sports car, one woman following her own grand vision. But...
Remember that time when I got very excited at my discovery that the former directors of the Frye had collected a bunch of photography and donated it to the Hutch? And all those in-depth questions I had, about comparing the Frye collection with the photo collection and...
Well, it turns out that what's at the Hutch is the Kullman Collection, donated in 2010 by the family of Frederick S. Kullman, an attorney who'd lived in Bellingham. Full press release (I don't think I was on their list in 2010—now I believe they have added me, most likely to keep me from erroring them in future).
How did I get this so wrong? Evidently there is a plaque that names the collectors. I missed this entirely. GAHH. But a word in my defense: What you see in the gallery is not the usual gallery-naming convention. The namers' names (the Greathouses) are writ large across the top of the wall, with the collectors' names smaller. I did not notice any plaque. This plaque may be a little more obscure than is best for clarity's sake.
Anyhoo. The collection is notable regardless of who put it together; it's just not Frye-related.
This was, however, a pretty great comment comparing W. Eugene Smith's all-sweetness portrait of his children to Franz von Stuck's lurid painting Sin:
Thanks to everyone for playing, and my apologies to all of you, to the Hutch, and to the Kullman family.
Tariqa Waters is the owner, curator, and painter-of-Andrew-Jackson. I just happened on Martyr Sauce walking by last night, during the grand opening. It was pretty grand. Most galleries aren't half this energetic right off the bat. Martyr Sauce advertises itself, right on the nutritional label, as 100 percent of your daily needed iron intake, and made of:
Ingredients: Piss, Distilled Vinegar (contains 2% or less of the following) Irreverence, High Fructose Cough Syrup, Non Hydrogenated Snake Oil, Street (and/or) Book Smarts, White Privilege, Black Rage, Natural Flavor, Artificial Color.
The first show is paintings by Elizabeth Lopez. Waters found Lopez working at Seattle Art Museum. "That's where all the rogue artists work, at the cafeteria and gift shop at SAM," Waters says. Martyr Sauce's next opening is the first Thursday in January; scour the low-wage workers at local museums to guess who it might be.
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.
TomorrowSaturday 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.
TomorrowSaturday 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.
It's cold and it's First Thursday. Get out there. Here's what you'll see.
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.
Last night, I happened to stop by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where I learned a few things.
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.
Who were photo collectors??
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.
Neuwirth is also working on some high-gloss, high-concept, art-world-parody, stunty stuff. I'm not as interested in that. But he is an interesting artist, period. Watch him. Oh, and here's a picture of a Maker's bottle for comparison.
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...
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.
*Let me remind you, although you probably don't need reminding, that the artists who live and work in this region use the landscape the way artists from other places use drugs or women. In another example of two artists collaborating on work inspired by time in the Hoh rain forest, here's a review of Anne Mathern and Chad Wentzel's 2008 post-walkabout show at Crawl Space. That show, called This is the Worst Trip, was terrific.
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 Booth here.) 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.
Alain de Botton, purveyor of the idea that art museums are not doing enough to help us solve problems like envying our friends and feeling the dismay of the digital age, will be writing new wall labels for museums around the world. This, he believes, will not only help humans to be happier, it will give art a purpose, make it useful and intimate again, like music or theater has remained, he believes. Art has become macho, distant, tough-guy, almost scientific in its coldness.
Art is for helping you figure out how to be a person, de Botton says. Joshua Rothman of The New Yorker writes:
Museumgoers in Amsterdam, Melbourne, and Toronto will soon be able to judge for themselves. For his part, as we walked out onto the sidewalk, de Botton said that he thinks art is always part of some enterprise or another. To focus on an artwork in itself, and not on the project of which it was a part, is to commit an error. “The Chardin still-life is a political manifesto on behalf of the dignity of ordinary life,” he said. “Someone who really loves Chardin tries to make life possible in a Chardin-esque way. The Lippi painting is an argument about tenderness. Don’t just focus on the painting; be kinder to your kids!”
He paused, thinking about how best to express himself. “What are you supposed to do if you love art?” he asked. “Do you become a scholar of art? Do you become an art critic? Do you write about art? Our answer is that one should try to take the values that one admires in works of art and enact them, and make them more vivid in the world. It’s too easy to ‘love art,’ and to not love the things that art actually loves. But the point is to try and love the things that the artists we love loved. Don’t just love the artist,” he said. “Don’t just love the work they produced. Love what they loved.” Inside the museum, these ideas had seemed contentious. Outside, on Seventieth Street—where trees waved in the breeze, and clouds glowed behind them—they seemed less so.
I'm with Rothman on this—Rothman is both dubious and supportive. In some ways, de Botton's ideas seem little more than those of a 19th-century sentimental education, the aesthetics-as-ethics school of thinking about what art is for.
Let's go through the exercise of trying to simply figure out what the artists you love, love. Take this year's Stranger Genius Winner in Art, Rodrigo Valenzuela. If we want to love what he loves, then what do we love? I'll return to what I wrote about him during this year's Genius season (the nomination profile, followed by the he-won profile). To break it down to its most rudimentary bits: He loves the women artists of this city. He loves people helping each other. He loves paying critical attention to the deceits of Hollywood products. He believes there is beauty in repetitive labor.
While completely awkward, spelling it out like this may not be such a bad idea. Isn't it what we do anyway? And this is not the same as seeking out artists because of the things that they love, but of following your irrational love of an artist to its rational ends: identifying some of the reasons, the real and concrete reasons, why you love them.
At the same time, what about the art you don't love? Is there nothing in that art for you? Should you discount it entirely?
Also, what if you love art that stands for horrible things? Or or or—what if you love art that stands for standing for nothing?
First world problems, man.
The art career of Dawoud Bey—one of the artists to be included in next year's Whitney Biennial in New York*—begins with someone else's exhibition: Harlem on My Mind, an exhibition that drew picketers back in 1969 when it opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a show about black culture organized by a white institution and a white Jewish curator. It did not include a single artist—it wasn't a black art show, even though it was at an art museum. It was a history and anthropology show instead, with news footage and photographs and archival documentation.
Bey was 16 years old, growing up in Queens, when he went down to the Metropolitan. Mostly he went to see the protests, not the show itself. But that day, there happened to be no protesters out. So he went in and found the show. It didn't make much of an impression. His parents had met in Harlem. In many ways, Harlem was his ancestral land. But he didn't get to know Harlem through Harlem on My Mind, even though he did spend time studying the photographs of neighborhood studio photographer James Van Der Zee (later enshrined as a fine artist, but not necessarily originally working in that highfalutin mode). What Bey learned about Harlem from the Met was that Harlem was not found at the Met. Bey would have to find Harlem for himself.
At a press conference this afternoon*, Seattle Art Museum announced a major new acquisition for the Olympic Sculpture Park. It's a gift from Barney A. Ebsworth, the Hunts Point collector/Build-a-Bear investor who's nearing 80 years old. It's called Echo, and according to media reports from its original iteration in Madison Square Park in New York, it's 44 feet tall, made of resin mixed with marble dust, and modeled on a photograph of a 9-year-old girl who's the daughter of the owner of a Chinese restaurant near the artist's studio in Barcelona.
The artist is the Spaniard Jaume Plensa. Over the last decade, since his video towers were installed next to the Bean in Millennium Park in Chicago, he's become a commonly commissioned public artist. He makes figurative works that he refers to as dreamy and poetic.
Echo has her eyes closed. She is physically pixilated, made of blocks of material manufactured based on specifications taken from a computer modeling program applied to her photograph.
From the press release:
The sculpture references Echo, the mountain nymph from Greek mythology. As told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Echo offended the goddess Hera by keeping her engaged in conversation, and preventing her from spying on one of Zeus’s amours. To punish Echo, Hera deprived the nymph of speech, except for the ability to repeat the last words of another. Plensa created this monumental head of Echo, listening with her eyes closed or in a state of meditation. The artist envisions Echo to look out over Puget Sound in the direction of Mount Olympus.
I hope I'll understand the popularity of sculptures like this one when I see Echo out there on the waterfront next year. There was a giant pixilated bronze Plensa head at the Venice Biennale this summer, and it struck me as dour, serious, and dumb—straitlaced and emptyheaded. We'll see what the sparkly white (presumably Asian) girl looks like when she arrives.
There was one other oversized figurative sculpture in Venice this summer: Marc Quinn's Allison Lapper Pregnant, a giant, naked, pregnant woman without arms and with truncated legs—the way she was born. This Venice version was slightly purplish and inflatable, deflated every night and inflated every morning. She was made after the stone version first put up in Trafalgar Square in 2005, when she generated all manner of protests and complaints and headlines. (She still does: the Catholic Church pronounced itself confounded by her appearance in Venice this summer.)
At first, I was resistant to her high-profile ease. But over several days of riding past her on the water, back and forth while she just stayed there quietly watching, she won me over. I can't say exactly how. Maybe it was partly that the thousands of smaller artworks I saw left me so fatigued that I craved her concentrated simplicity. Or maybe, in the end, she was an example of that old mistake we make when we confuse the art for the subject.
Because the truth was that I just wanted to support Allison Lapper's right to hold forth, big and pregnant and naked and with a starkly unidealized body, out in front of a great big old church. Marc Quinn made it still feel like there was something of Allison Lapper present even in this estranged version of her. I'm not so sure what remains in the classicized Echo of the specific 9-year-old girl whose image Plensa used. We don't even know her name.
Here's the real-life story of Alison Lapper, an artist herself, told by Alison Lapper.
*I couldn't go, because I'm so sick I've slept two 17-hour nights this week. Please accept my apologies if you've been wondering why I'm not covering something great that you're doing.
Building 30 is a legend. I visited it last month. It's a beauty. This is where, starting in 1938, the Navy officers stationed at what's now Magnuson Park danced, drank, and mingled in their pressed uniforms. Their dance floor was the room next to the bar, a large, perfectly proportioned space with inlaid patterns in the wood, and a fireplace with marble hearth, and windows looking out on what remains of the forest at the edge of the water.
This place has been mouldering since 1994, empty. It has been a 20-year fight to get the lights on again.
But they did it.
Saturday night is the grand opening celebration—and a fundraiser, so tickets cost $100—and it will be sparkling. The bar and the dance floor will be working once again, having been restored by a project led by SPACE, the group that advocates for cultural uses at Magnuson. Here are all the details on Saturday's event.
If Saturday isn't happening for you, there's still news here: Building 30 is now a warren of artist studios spanning three floors. (List of artists here.) When it fully opens in December, it will also feature a small public gallery.
There are 31 studios, says SPACE executive director Julianna Ross, all spoken for. (Their cost ranges from $12 to $16 per square foot, she estimated.) SPACE is applying for a low-power radio station to run from the building, hoping to provide stoytelling and oral histories of people who used to work at the base. In addition to the gallery, SPACE will run workshops for the kids who live at the Solid Ground housing at the south end of the park. There are more than 130 kids there now.
The funding was a bond that
SPACEthe city has 11 years to pay off; that's where most of the studio rental payments will go. Total project cost was $8.5 million.
SPACE was founded in 1994 and has plenty of advocating left to do, Ross says. There are still empty buildings at Magnuson whose condition deteriorates a little more every day they go undeveloped. Building 18, for instance, has been without a roof since 2004, she says, adding that it was once estimated to be a $1 million fix-up; now the projected cost is $6 million. She believes there'd be plenty of artists to rent to if another of Magnuson's building went cultural.
Most of Magnuson has been given to athletic uses now, the turning of a war campus into a sports zone. That's great in many ways. But Building 30 adds another dimension, or reanimates one that was already there. Building 30 was always gorgeous. Art Deco lived here. Now it's simply back.
My family lived in a refugee camp in Bataan during the late 1980's, this was on the coast near Manila. After the Vietnam/American War ended in 1975 two refugee camps were developed in the Philippines to take on the influx of refugees from war torn countries. Almost a million refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were processed through the Bataan and Palawan camps from the late 70's to the mid 90's. Although the rest of the world might have seen these camps as processing or holding facilities, they were our home. I was only a small child when we lived in the camps, but that experience has shaped who I am today. It was an amazing and, dare I say it, magical place. The people were warm and embracing. It is often people who have the least to give that gives the most. This is very true of the Philippines. It is not a country of wealth, but they welcomed refugees with open arms and great hospitality. Let's give back to the people of the Philippines in their time of need.
Joe Rudko's pieces were set up on shelves at the fair, where they kept going missing like teeth. He takes old photographs and postcards, and turns them into graphic puzzles with gaps you find yourself trying to fill.
More of his work here.
Down low in the museum in a high-ceilinged room with pretty wood floors, the overhead lights have gone a little green. The room is nearly empty. It's the largest in the Henry Art Gallery, built for long vistas and big sculptures that would bust the walls of lesser rooms, but right now, it looks like a school gymnasium put to some nebulous after-hours use. Four enormous rolls of industrial newsprint sit on the floor. Also on the floor: five tightly plastic-wrapped piles of folded white towels, two purple pillows, two light-blue pillows. One wall has two doors. Another wall is studded with three lightbulbs. That's all, and in no way all.
There's a handout with a map at the entrance containing necessary words. About the color-coded pillows, it says, "Pillows that have only been slept on by acrobats" (purple) and "Pillows that have only been slept on by Ornithologists" (light-blue). The piles of plastic-wrapped towels are titled Anyone. Their medium is "Bed linen in weekly rotation by a linen service." They sit unopened here, in between uses future and past. How clean are clean towels? The handout is important because it embodies the idea that you must "take the word of" the artist, Jason Dodge; he uses the medium of language to fill in what's there even if you can't see it. The pillows were slept on, and only by acrobats and/or ornithologists. A local hotel does, really, bring new piles of plastic-wrapped towels to the gallery every few days and take the old piles back to be used. The rolls of newsprint are borrowed from the Seattle Times, and one by one, over the duration of the art show, each roll will be taken back to the factory to become newspapers, leaving empty spots in the gallery.
Dodge arranged all this by asking acrobats, ornithologists, a local hotel, and the Seattle Times to play along. One imagines these conversations were interesting. Another conversation: Dodge arranged for a local farm to bring animals into the Henry for a residency...
(The Affordable Art Fair runs from 11 am to 7 pm today and 11 am to 5 pm tomorrow. Admission is $10.)
The Affordable Art Fair in Seattle—the only US location for the UK-based franchise besides New York—survived its first year, and round two is upon us. Best about last year: The artists represented by galleries in Seattle and Portland looked great, particularly compared to the pap that came from elsewhere. No matter how little bad art costs, it's not affordable.
Prices are limited to $100 to $10,000, though a $20,000 vintage photograph was found at last year's event, and most of the art was in the $1,000 to $5,000 range, which mostly excludes those with less than a rent payment to spend. Fairs survive by charging dealers for the booths, and the dealers must sell enough art—or make enough connections—to justify the rental. It's always a gamble.
This year, 49 galleries are coming to Seattle's Affordable Art Fair, compared to 45 last year. The fuller story, unfortunately, is that some of the best regional dealers will be notably absent...
These have been popping up all over Capitol Hill for about a week, and other neighborhoods, too—I saw some in Wallingford this weekend, and other people have mentioned seeing them around town.
More importantly: Isn't the best poster on the streets this week this one?
It's September 2010, and the provincial government of the North Chinese city of Jincheng is announcing a "high-level attraction plan" to "promote the city's industry upgrade." Workers in the industrial standbys—the coal mines and paper mills that have left the landscape ransacked and blackened—are no longer needed. Workers in cleaner fields like high tech will be paid a lump sum to relocate to Shanxi; they'll be the components of the new operating system.
The Frye's Buster Simpson book is out! It's $50, hardcover, 134 pages, with 282 illustrations, and it's the only comprehensive book about this prototypical environmental artist's life's work. I found its timelines, photographs, maps, interview, and writings by Charles Mudede, Carol Yinhua Lu, and curator Scott Lawrimore indispensable in creating a history of the artist for HistoryLink.
Every one of the books has a different cover, given by Marquand Books, the local/international art book publisher that had a whole slew of old cover prototypes sitting around and waiting for reanimation—the decision fits the artist perfectly, of course. My copy was once a Chihuly book, Chihuly being not only the ghost hovering over all art in these parts in some ways, but also the reason Buster Simpson landed in Seattle in the first place.
In other Chihuly news, Chihuly and his team will be blowing in the hot shop at the Museum of Glass this weekend.
The event accompanies an exhibition of Chihuly's little-known early Irish pieces, only publicly exhibited twice previously. He started working on them on St. Patrick's Day in 1975 at the Rhode Island School of Design, completing the total set of 44 over Thanksgiving weekend. They're categorized into three types: St. Patrick's Day-related, generally Irish, and inspired by James Joyce's book Ulysses. Shortly after this, Chihuly went and Seaver Leslie went on a trip to Ireland and Great Britain. The car crash that took Chihuly's left eyesight happened on that trip, in England.
Trick-or-treating last night, I came across a surprising number of front lawns elaborately transformed into costume cemeteries. Some were meant to be spooky; live ghouls lay in wait at entrances to drag you in. One was dotted with tombstones marking prominent Seattle deaths—the monorail, the Sonics, and a marker set in the future, predicting the end of McGinn's mayoralty.
One of my new favorite real cemeteries in Seattle is the little neighborhood graveyard at Crown Hill, "truly... a country cemetery in the city." (Don't bury Mudede there.) From the road (I haven't gone in yet), the stones look crooked. It's been running since 1903, and from its web site, it sounds like people are still being buried there, though its overall creaky appearance gives another impression entirely. It's the kind of place where you imagine you'd be buried next to infants who died in the flu epidemic of 1918.
During this season of the dead, there's an art installation I recommend near the University of Washington. It's a dark room with nothing in it but benches, sound coming from eight speakers disguised as tables by embroidered lace cloths, and candles. The only light comes from the candles. Here, there is room for the dead to rise up. The gallery is also not on any given art path, so you probably will find yourself, as I did, in there alone.
Steve Peters, a Seattle treasure, is the artist who made the piece at Jack Straw New Media Gallery. He based it on the little chapels in the remote villages of the Portuguese mountains. Next to each might be a graveyard with only a dozen graves. The ancestors buried there continue to feed the earth. They can be heard in the passed-down common names for the local plants and animals, transmitted forward from the Latin. Each chapel has a bell, even though most don't ring, replaced by electronic fakes.
Peters is a descendant of Portugal through the Azores, and he went to the mountains for a sound-art residency, which is where he created his own version of the chapels, describing them as "the resonant chamber[s] for the soul of the community."
His four-channel installation in Portugal has been expanded into eight channels of sound here; local Portuguese speakers added their voices, speaking the names of flora and fauna, both common names and Latin. The wind blows, the bells ring, and you get a little lost in there, in the constant meditative flow of the words and the winds, no tombstones, just, as the title says, encrypted Lições dos Antepassados (Lessons from the Ancestors).
If you're looking for Day of the Dead proper celebrations today, there's one at Seattle Art Museum from 6 to 8 tonight, with free admission. Happy death days, Seattle.