12 posts categorized "Seattle Galleries"

Talking Heads Not Talking

Somehow, Harry Shearer intercepts satellite feeds of TV network news personalities as they sit waiting for the show to start or resume.

It's mysterious to me how he does this technically and how he clears copyright. Perhaps because the images captured are of public figures - Anderson Cooper, David Gergen, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, to name a few - statutory and common law rights of personality do not apply? –

In any case, each feed seems to loop longer than any typical break for commercials. And you get to see how each personality passes the time. Chris Matthews stares into the camera as though he were facing himself down in a mirror. Larry King presses his chin into his upturned fist, just as he does when listening to his guests. Then-Senator Obama languidly flips the pages of what looks like USA Today.

I find the "before and after" moments on C-SPAN to yield more insight on the political character, but these silent passages of Harry Shearer's curation - if you give them the same attention you would lend the pictured celebrities when they are talking on the air - do throw into relief how driven these people are. I imagine the average person would look restless and guilty, like she had better uses of her time.

To see things as they are not meant to be presented, that is a gift and that is an essence of art.

So it is fitting that you may see a collection of the Harry Shearer videos, running simultaneously, now at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. The show is called "Silent Echo Chamber."

This post is republished from William Carleton, Counselor at Law.

Reminder - Isaac Layman closes August 14

This just in from Scott Lawrimore. Couple days left to see the big Isaac Layman show. Isaac is a huge talent, the real thing. You should see this work if you don't already know it.

Sounds like Scott is moving, too; will have to get to the bottom of that.

From: scott lawrimore [mailto:scott@lawrimoreproject.com]
Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:11 PM
To: William Carleton
Subject: Reminder - Isaac Layman closes August 14

Last few days to view Isaac Layman's 110%

Exhibition closes this Saturday, August 14.

Our new space in Pioneer Square opens September 2nd with:
Isaac Layman - Double Down
A critical response created in the wake of  110%

Details forthcoming.

 Lawrimore Project • 831 Airport Way S • Seattle, WA 98134

Stones and a Glass House

The City of Seattle has a controversy on its hands over what to do with some space that will become vacant at Seattle Center, a public area where many performing arts and civic events take place.

A well organized group has proposed a Chihuly museum. Everyone seems to agree, or assume, that this proposal will be wholly funded by the Wright family and won't cost taxpayers anything. It's also stipulated by just about everyone, it seems, that the Chihuly proposal will be the best, economically, for Seattle.

IMG_0651But many feel the Chihuly folks have claim jumped. They don't like how smoothly the Chihuly group showed up with a packaged deal, and want more civic process around the decision of what will fill the available space. Seattle Center is not private property; it is owned and operated by the City of Seattle.

The controversy has moved political forces to slow the process down. Input is being sought; those with alternatives to propose have been asked to come forward. KEXP, an independent radio station with a large online following, looks to be the leading challenger to Chihuly.

Art critic Regina Hackett's latest post about the controversy is the most intelligent and persuasive piece I've read on the affair. She says that "on Dale Chihuly's tide, other boats can rise."

A public hearing took place Wednesday evening at Seattle Center, and I went. A friend went up to the mike and offered his own thoughts on what should be done. He and most of the persons who spoke were civic and polite. But a few who oppose the Chihuly idea were smug. One fellow said he supported a Chihuly museum "in the Northgate Mall," implying that Chihuly's work is tacky for being commercially successful.

I know no good deed goes unpunished and that a prophet has no honor in his own country, among his own kin, and in his own house. But wouldn't it be refreshing if Seattle's government had enough sense to ride out the resentments of the bewildered, went ahead and claimed the brass glass ring?

Isaac Layman Show at Lawrimore Project

The new Isaac Layman show at Lawrimore Project is very different from the prior one.

First impressions of the new show: 

  • There's an older person's sensibility at work here, at odds with Layman's youth. An older sensibility, but contemporary, not belated.
  • The photos are now actually paintings, in spite of being photographs, or layers of images, or digital renderings (I'm not sure which). The fact that a camera is involved merely means these paintings are rendered without paint. 
  • What results is a kind of reductionism: the surfaces of the canvas have no texture. The photographic-like smoothness of each surface rhymes, too, with the consequences of the portraitist's choice to give the subjects time to prepare for the shoot: the oven has removed its racks, the cupboard has ordered its dishes, the doors have walked out of the frame and have taken their hinges with them.
  • The scale of the Otter Pop paintings means you have no choice but to relate them to color field paintings from the last century. But Layman's have so much more narrative resonance than those paintings ever could.

Alexander Calder Show @ the Seattle Art Museum

You learn how incorrigibly playful Alexander Calder must have been from the 1961 film by Carlos Vilardebó, Le Cirque de Calder, now playing in a video loop at the Seattle Art Musuem as part of its exhibit of the Jon and Mary Shirley collection of Calder's work. The film is of a puppet circus that Calder performed for friends throughout his life. Calder's skills with wire and handmade contraptions are on display, as Calder makes the puppet performers and animals move and perform circus tricks. "Madame, Monsier," he calls out, in the voice of the puppet ringleader, when a new act steps up. Some of the wire-frame-and-cloth circus animals even leave behind poops, which Calder covers with sawdust and sweeps away before bringing in the next act.

Calder was born at the end of the 19th Century and he died over 30 years ago. Some of the work on exhibit is over 70 years old. And yet, the only thing in the show that seems dated is the film (and that is because of the film quality and tell-tale tinniness of the soundtrack, not the play it captures).

A00307The show of hanging mobiles, standing mobiles, wire sculpture and jewelry is also a playground. And more is in play than the mobiles in motion: they are lit to cast strong shadows, and placed to be physically accessible from every (terrestrial) angle. The jewelry is under glass, as it should be, but the rest of the work is not. You are asked to not touch, but the fact that you can -- or might step the wrong way and be swiped by a fin of sheet metal -- makes the show fun. Even black circles on the floor, meant to demark the radial sweep of the hanging moblies (and thus no-go zones for pedestrians), contribute to the fun: I saw a mother and child chasing each other along one of the circles. But the main reason you do not touch the objects is because they are at work; and that fact relieves you of the duty of having to regard them as sacrosanct. (Pictured in this paragraph: Bougainvillier, 1947. Photo copyright © 2010 Calder Foundation. Used in accordance with the fair use guidelines on the Calder Foundation site.)

One has to think that the Shirleys are responsible for how humanely the show is laid out. It's awfully generous of them, not only to lend their collection, but to permit it to be shown in such an accessible way.

Cfp44_002 Calder in his Roxbury studio, 1944. Photograph by Eric Schaal. Copyright © 2010 Calder Foundation. Used in accordance with the fair use guidelines on the Calder Foundation site.

Although the work is fresh, particularly in the ensemble of this show, sheet metal is no longer a particularly contemporary artistic material. The passage of time makes Calder's material seem like construction paper, albeit that of a giant craftsman. Matisse had his large colored paper to take scissors to, and he laid the pieces out in two dimensions; Calder cut from sheet metal and wired his pieces to hang and balance in space and define a different kind of volume, an accessible interior.

Which Came First? The iPhone by Apple, or the pPod by SuttonBeresCuller?

Wikipedia reminds me that the iPhone was announced by Steve Jobs in January 2007, and was first sold in June of that year. Best I can tell, this may have been the same stretch of time SuttonBeresCuller were building the pPod. The name, "pPod," references the iPod, of course, and the iPod has of course been around forever. But make no mistake: the pPod prefigures nothing less than the runaway iPhone, and is its dimensional antithesis.

Here's a picture of the iPhone displaying the Earth inside. The metaphor is obvious: a world may be explored within; the world may be accessed through it. The iPhone is the ultimate networked appliance, a portal to everything, and it fits in your hand.


The pPod by contrast promises to put you in the middle of the machine. Literally, physically. You can sit inside, play movies, listen to music, and watch the world outside via cameras positioned on the pPod's four vertical surfaces. And let me emphasize that the world, from a pPod perspective, is outside. The device sits on four casters, so I guess if you want to see new places, you can move it (though it doesn't look like you would be able to navigate it from within). (The images below are from the SuttonBeresCuller site).


When MI6 and I visited Lawrimore Project Thursday night last, the pPod was resident in the gallery's video space and was playing 60s lounge music as the three video screens featured animation of a dancing pPod. Scott Lawrimore showed us where the pPod's cameras are mounted; the feed to the video screens can be switched to show what the cameras can pick up. Although the window is transparent from the outside looking in, apparently, from what Scott told us, from the inside, it acts as a mirror. (The gallery is otherwise filled with newer work by SuttonBeresCuller; a great review by Jen Graves will make you want to go see the show for the new work, as much as to experience the pPod.)


Come to think of it, the iPhone's single camera is also quietly embedded, almost flush with the smooth surface of the device. Here is a shot of the back sides of an iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. Notice not only the cameras, but how the laminate surface of these later-model iPhones mimic the smooth surface of the pPod. (This image is by gillyberlin and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.)

Good Luck, Assholes (at the Frye)

Twirl, don't promenade, to the Frye to see "The Old, Weird America: Folk Themes in Contemporary Art," a traveling exhibit organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

The show is a hodgepodge, which means you can slip right past the works that don't pull you in, and focus on the gravity wells of genius that do.

Not to be missed, for my money:

  • The show's signature piece, a kinetic sculpture by Cynthia Norton entitled "Dancing Squared." Here's how the catalogue describes the facts about it: "Aluminum, hardware, electric motors, dresses, wire. 90 x 180 x 180 inches." But you have to see this in motion. It is as good as you can imagine it from a still or video.

  • Greta Pratt's "Nineteen Lincolns," an affecting series of portraits of contemporary Lincoln impersonators. Pratt photographs each to reveal his individuality, even as the similarity of costumes, postures and beards throughout the series asserts a common allegiance to an American ideal of the genuine. Lincoln Number Three has the uncannily sorrowful aspect one imagines the actual President might not wish to have revealed in his own portraits, but did. You can see images of all of the Lincoln work at Gretta Pratt's site, linked to above, but the prints are worth seeing at scale and arranged in a grid on a large wall at the Frye.

  • Eric Beltz's graphite drawing, "Good Luck, Assholes: Thomas Jefferson's Vision of Death," at once hilarious and sublime. All elements of Beltz's vocabulary are fully realized in this piece: detailed rendering of period architecture; expert, currency-worthy founding father portraiture; subversion of the cursive font of authority; selective use and repetition of iconic motifs; and more I can put my finger on (the elements work together and yet are discrete) but can't quite explain.

Ken Kelly Paintings at Howard House

I'm walking back to the office from the Seattle Lunch 2.0 event that was held at Gist, and the paintings visible through the storefront windows at Howard House have caught my eye. Ken Kelly Paintings at Howard HouseI've gone in. It's a great show: canvases of various sizes, all "duo-chromatic" (e.g., red & yellow, blue & white, tan & black), all figuring what I'll call hand-wrought barcodes

The spirit of Mondrian (my favorite painter) is here. As with Mondrian's pre-New York geometries, Ken Kelly's look regular and smooth from a distance, but reveal themselves to be hand wrought and textured when you approach the canvases. 

Here's a link to an image of one of the canvases in the show. The artist is scheduled to talk at the gallery tomorrow, November 14, 2009, at 1 p.m.

Hand-Held Grey: Jasper Johns's Light Bulbs

Among the tactics for making a common thing seem unusual (changing its material, texture, color; putting it in an unexpected context; displaying it from an uncommon angle), the simple strategy of making that thing bigger (or, trickier to pull off, making it dramatically smaller) usually pulls me in, makes me attend, at least in the first instance.

Jasper-2 Jasper Johns, Light Bulb I (1958).

Scale is not altered, however, in Jasper Johns's "Light Bulbs," a show which originated at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and is now at the Henry Gallery. In a series of 8 sculptures, set inside three walls featuring lithographs, etchings and drawings, all produced between1957 and 1976, the 20th Century's iconic incandescent light bulb is transmogrified. The materials, texture, context and purpose of the Johns bulbs are all substitutes for those of the manufactured light bulb represented. But the physical scale of each light bulb in the Johns show is the same as that of the light bulb you buy at any grocery, drug or hardware store.


I focus on this choice of scale--this deliberate preservation of the physical dimensions of the functional, every-day manifestation of this ideal--because I suspect this may be what endows the Johns light bulbs with their uncanny intimacy. A manufactured light bulb's weight, its properties of displacement, are so familiar, so domestic, you not only identify it with your eyes but you relate to it with the tactile memory of how you hold and manipulate it, from shelf to sleeve to socket to waste can.

Because Johns's chosen dimensions are of a form we can remember holding and working with, we relate to these pieces with a familiarity that confounds all of Johns's other strategies to de-familiarize us with the object. Three sculpted light bulbs from 1960 are displayed in a single case at the show (you can see this case in the picture above, at the bottom). These bulbs are realized, respectively, in plaster, bronze and oil on bronze (this latter featuring a painted circular "GENERAL ELECTRIC" stamp). Each is of a piece with its rectangular display base of the same material. It's odd to see a bulb reclining this way, like the nude in the Ingres painting, pictured below.

IMG_0697 Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Workshop (1780–1867), Odalisque in Grisaille.

On the other hand, the base of each Johns bulb arguably becomes a tableaux for the bulb in transition:  the moment after you have pulled a bulb from its cardboard sleeve with the corrugated paper lining, and have laid it down on a table, while you fuss with the light fixture you must first remove in order to get at the socket needing a replacement.

IMG_0712 Of course, you cannot actually touch the Johns bulbs. Jen Graves, in an excellent review relating this show to another now at the Henry, expresses how Johns' "idea-objects" (as she puts it) "have been elevated to the status of the magical and the rare." They are far too valuable as Johns-branded art objects to be touched. A single, sculp-metal relief is the only thing in the show not protected by glass; a sign by it reminds you not to touch, though, and tape on the floor marks a safety-space around the piece that you should not encroach (you can see this at the top of the picture of the exhibition room).

The "Light Bulbs" show is kind of quiet coda to the massively impressive Jasper Johns "Gray" retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2008. That show brought scores of huge canvases and multiple lithographs to the airplane hangar-proportioned showrooms of the Met. I recall seeing a light bulb sculpture there, along with a sculp-metal flashlight, tucked away as curiosities. But in this smaller show, in the single room at the Henry, there are no large distractions (as there are no overt, anthropomorphic allusions, such as the Ingres image above). As you spend time in the room, you come to realize that the prints are not independent two dimensional representations of light bulbs, but instead are studies specifically of the very light bulb sculptures on display in the room. It is a virtual heaven of a self-contained, self-sustaining vocabulary of art and representation.

The show has an almost perfect catalog, too, published by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. It includes pictures of two of the sculpted bulbs from 1960 (one in plaster and one in bronze painted in oil) that are in the collection of the artist and apparently have not been publicly displayed before. Brilliantly, all of the pictures of the sculpted bulbs in the catalog are of exactly the same width and length of a real, household light bulb. I held one up to each page and confirmed that this is so.

Seattle Art Museum's Street Posters

Following a meeting this morning in the Pioneer Square area of Seattle, I came across two banks of posters at complementary sides of the same street corner.  The posters promote upcoming shows at the Seattle Art Museum.

IMG_3026The image above is from the Main Street flank of the southwest corner of Third Avenue and Main.  The exhibition promoted here, according to the Seattle Art Museum website, "shows how well-known artists like Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, as well as lesser-known peers around the globe, worked to undermine the supremacy and sanctity of painting."  That sounds exciting to me -- more interesting than the work "quoted" in the posters.

But I like the insistence of the posters, how they occupy the walls, the warping of the paper from the glue (wheatpaste?).  They have no competition in the vicinity, like a style newly imported from another city.

The installation of posters just around the corner from the above, on the Third Avenue side, promotes an upcoming show of Andrew Wyeth work.  This works better as street art, though I am more interested in seeing the survey show promising Johns and Lichtenstein.