No matter how wide the panorama or abstract the result, all painting is still life, a frozen arrangement of shape, color, mood and space. Ripe: Juicy Contemporary Still Life at Seattle Pacific Art Center takes a more traditional view, focusing on objects painted in cunning display, or, in the case of Linda Hutchins, sewn.
When I think of ripe and juicy, Marilyn Minter comes to mind, and John Currin. I like my ripe in the edge of rotten: leaves in the fall, not early blooms in the spring. For hard core still life, nobody beats the 17th Century Dutch, although in France Chardin achieved a mournful reply, his simplicities achieving a depth to rival Vermeer‘s. In the 20th Century, Morandi in Italy stands above everyone else. Pop art is not juicy, but Wayne Thiebaud’s cupcakes in San Francisco staked a claim to the quality and brought it home. Luscious and moist, they are nevertheless billboard-style streamlined.
Curated by Katie Kresser, Ripe comes down firmly on the side of subject matter instead of execution. Since my understanding of art reverses the two, there is much here that is not up my alley. By my lights, Natalie St. Martin is a botanical illustrator. Her fruit are ripe, but her delivery is dry. Gregory Jacobsen paints messes, yet the mess is disengaged. Steve Levin specializes in fussy excess. The gooey riot of his forms is sterilized by his delivery.
I didn’t see Zack Bent’s video, not being aware that it’s only on view 1 to 3 p.m. Don’t let the sign in the gallery give false hope. It claims a gallery attendant will be able to produce a key to trigger operation, which ain’t necessarily so.
Christian van Minnen deserves to be in an exhibit of this title, but unfortunately, he seems to be poised in the middle of a difficult transition. His strengths include a Medieval sense of form and a ghoulish intensity to his delicate paint handling. Recently, however, reactionary Pop elements have reared their ugly heads.
In Uvas, the Peter Max-like rainbow and stars shooting out of the head of the figure made of dusty, translucent grapes does it no favors.
Ditto the Valentine heart and comic-strip butterflies in Hearthead.
His fabulous intestinal snake protrusion at the painting’s lower right, however, highlights what is wrong with Jacobsen’s work. Like van Minnen, Jacobsen glamourizes rot. Rot is Jacobsen’s subject, but his execution does not grip the subject. His work is a map to a place instead of place.
Linda Hutchins‘ real jade plant sewn into a transparent organza shroud is lovely. As in the Biblical promise, that every hair is counted, every leaf is honored.
That leaves Eric Elliott. The space in his paintings is a contagion. It sticks to leaves and cramps their
blooms, which press powerfully back, holding their own. He animates
sludge, which is no small thing.
Through Dec. 3.