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Wrong is right – the shock of the flaw

That old grade-school test question - Which of these does not belong? - offers a key to the aesthetics of the expressively hot, as opposed to the classically cool. The hint of crazy within the solid citizen, the blood in the water and the worm in the rose (mortal, guilty) move us in a way that visions of perfection rarely do. In honor of the flaw, a small survey of its recent, robust manifestations. Douglas Gordon Three Inches (Black) 1997 (image via) Susan Robb: Three from the last decade (images via) Winkler + Noah, from The … [Read more...]

Recently in Seattle

If human history were underwater, Alwyn O'Brien's ceramic vessels could serve as the bleached bones of the Ancien Regime, the decorative drained and dead on a dark sea floor. 4 Descending Notes 2010 Manganese Clay and Glaze 9" x 7" x 5 1/2" Hand-rolled coils make her lacy vessels. Born past their prime, they are in their own weird way pristine. Story of Looking, 2010 Porcelain and glaze, Two Pieces 12 1/2" x 14" x 5" Following Thelonious Monk, she knows how to use the wrong note. See the brutal foot on the right, … [Read more...]

Picasso’s flesh world

Collectors who hire experts to solve problems that don't exist till help arrives are responsible for the equivalent of bad face lifts on old masters. What the artists intended too frequently recedes under an abrasive cleaning or a deadening layer of varnish. Current practices discourage irreversible interventions. That means John Currin's work is a little safer than artists who preceded him, such as Picasso, although having the money to buy good advice doesn't guarantee it will be heeded. I know a collector who washed a DeKooning … [Read more...]

Welcome back, David Wojnarowicz

Nice to see David Wojnarowicz (wana-row-vitch) back in the news, making the monkeys dance. It's no surprise that the usual people want to use their deliberate misunderstanding of his work to rally their frightened base. It's also no surprise that the Smithsonian once again proves to be cowardly. Remember its Enola Gay exhibit from 1995? The examination of this country's use of the Atom Bomb  started as scholarly and turned into a my-country-right-or-wrong cheering section, after suitable pressures were applied. (A protest letter about the … [Read more...]

Image Transfer – Remix Culture at the Henry

Humans see, humans do: After the first horse drawn on the first cave and the first pot incised with a decorative line, everything became imitation. You don't need a weatherman to know which way that wind blows, or that in the contemporary period, it blows harder. In selecting the 12 artists featured in Image Transfer: Pictures in a Remix Culture, associate Henry curator Sara Krajewski looked for those whose engagements with image recycling make them visual mix masters of note, those who aren't just riding the currents but helping to steer … [Read more...]

Give me a head with hair

Mequitta Ahuja Wriggle, oil on canvas, 41"X26" 2008. Could have been titled, Medusa takes a nap. Geoffrey Chadsey Welterweight, 2002 Watercolor pencil on rag vellum, tape 57" x 24" Another great Chadsey figure with flowing locks. (Not safe for work.) Lauren Grossman Behold 2003 Iron, wool, steel. 13"x21"x12" Rolls on casters. Mequitta Ahuja, again. Flowback, oil on canvas, 68"X51" 2008 … [Read more...]

Bill Cumming: 1917-2010

I think people will forget me when I'm dead. I'm going to add a codicil to my will, to forbid anybody from speaking my name. Bill Cumming, from profile in the PI, 2005 When died of heart failure at 93 Nov. 23, he was the last member of the original Northwest School, a group of painters who brought national prominence to the region in the 1940s and 1950s. Cumming was a teenager in the circle of Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Guy Anderson and Kenneth Callahan. Although for reasons of health and politics Cumming didn't paint much in the … [Read more...]

Alden Mason – to live in a brighter world

From a 2008 profile I wrote in the PI, when there still was a real PI: Growing up as a shy kid with an overprotective mother in the Skagit Valley, Alden Mason studied bugs, watched birds become blurs in the sky and fish leap in the river. He was no good at sports because he couldn't see the ball, and no good at math because he couldn't see the blackboard. But on winter mornings he liked to stand close to cows whose breath made fat, white bursts in the air. To escape the strictures of home, he wandered into fields to smudge furrowed lines … [Read more...]

Noah Davis – back to the future of painting

Born in Seattle in 1983 and now living in Los Angeles, Noah Davis paints in the eye of a temporal storm. The present is calm as past and future rage around it.Noah Davis Bust 2 2010 Oil on canvas 36" x 36" The past: Cranium to nose quote Picasso. To the extent that the figure resembles a squashed thing, an insect smeared on a window, there's Francis Bacon, without Bacon's sense of rage and hurt. In the future as Davis imagines it, the detachment of the dead has invaded the bodies of the living, allowing them to crumble without complaint, like … [Read more...]

Scan this: Fourth Amendment underwear

As the site says, when searches go too far, underwear can express your views. (via Dominic Holden.) There's still the excessive radiation to consider. Comes in bras and panties too, of course. … [Read more...]

Roy McMakin – art assumes the position

If Joesph Beuys is right that anything can be art and John Cage is right that anything can music, then Roy McMakin's furniture makes perfect sense. His chairs, tables, chests and stools both deliver and undermine the idea of utilitarian subservience. Within the fine craftsmanship of  their construction is a subversive insistence on a right to be wrong. Currently at Ambach & Rice is McMakin's Five Chairs and Ten Tables, a sweet little show with a large contemplative back beat.  Remember Alice's uncertain relationship to an … [Read more...]

William S. Burroughs says thanks

...for the memories, America. (Via Michelle Nicolosi) … [Read more...]

Happy Thanksgiving from Zoe Strauss

She's serving roasted cauliflower:Looks like broccoli to me, which reminds me of E.B. White's tagline for a 1928 New Yorker cartoon drawn by Carl Rose (Image via)On Thanksgiving in Seattle, a pipe froze at my house and burst, just in time for a house guest, who's arriving from Portland in an hour or so. Fortunately, we are eating elsewhere, and there are buckets of snow in the bathroom for that homey historic touch. As Strauss wrote in her email:Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Whether you celebrate it or revile it, have a great day filled with … [Read more...]

Chris Engman – working for a living

Chris Engman's photos are evidence of his interventions. Using the deserts of Eastern Washington as stage sets, he constructs material plays about his process. Six barrels become a triangle, the red always in the middle bottom and the other colors rotating. He shoots a photo, rearranges the barrels and shoots again. Time passes in the sky, which shades from blue to mottled dark to white. VARIATIONS, 2010 Archival inkjet print 52 x 44 inches Edition of 6Titled Dust to Dust, the exhibit at Greg Kucera Gallery is overhung, which is a problem for … [Read more...]

Rachel Maxi – paintings in your pocket

Rachel Maxi paints landscapes and still lifes you can carry in your pocket, your purse or briefcase. Larger ones are never bigger than two arms extended. She gives her portraits of ordinary places an extraordinary glow, as if a street sign, garbage bin, stretch of roadway or flower in a vase were a monk at the moment of enlightenment. I missed her recent exhibit at G. Gibson Gallery, but Gail Gibson was kind enough to unwrap a few to show me. From 12th Ave S., North Beacon Hill, 2010 oil on panel, 18 x 24 inchesFrom Columbia City, 2010 oil on … [Read more...]

Kelly Mark !@#$%^&*

Toronto's Kelly Mark belongs to the generation that identifies itself with the word "slack." In 2006 in front of the Henry Gallery (website currently down), she reprised her performance from Toronto's The Power Plant. Carrying blank signs, her group presented an opening night audience with her idea of militancy, chanting: What do we want?Nothing!When do we want it?Never!Her videos, drawings, wallpaper, sculptures and photographs strike a deadpan note, like Buster Keaton but minus his anxiety. I Don't Need A Therapist, 2008 Crosstitch on … [Read more...]

Patrick Holderfield – Seattle snow story

From Patrick Holderfield's cell phone. A narrative is easy to sense but hard to decipher. … [Read more...]

Ellen Lesperance – dare to be dull

Portland's Ellen Lesperance won the Seattle Art Museum's Betty Bowen Award in September, much to to the befuddlement of many in Seattle, who'd never heard of her. She has an exciting website, especially for feminists who appreciate the wider progressive history of their movement. Her site opens with rousing chants from decades-old street actions, currently, We don't want Cruise! Using archival footage, Lesperance photographs sweaters worn by demonstrators and  recreates them, first in yarn, second abstracted in gouache on paper. Five of … [Read more...]

Drawing insects – the fine and the coarse

In the 11 years he has operated his aesthete's paradise/curio and jewelry shop in Ballard, called Souvenir, Curtis Steiner has never featured himself in a solo show, till now, through Dec. 3. The insects in his ink drawings on paper - Insects and Alphabets - step on dainty feet out of 19th Century England, when entomology was a pastime as common as chess, surrounded by the kind of elegant handwriting that helped define the leisure class. Each insect holds court on the page, antenna twitching, surrounded by the calligraphy known as cursive. Last … [Read more...]

Marsha Burns – I grow old

From The Love Song of J. Alfred PrufrockT.S. EliotAnd indeed there will be time To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?" Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair -- [They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"] Image (part of a series titled Shanghai Expo), comes from Marsha Burns' daily photo stream, which she sends to a fortunate few via email. There is no other way of seeing it. You have to know her. There are, of course, other poses to strike on the way to the exit. I saw an elderly man walking … [Read more...]

Ripe and juicy as still life

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 … [Read more...]

Dead air at the Henry Gallery

There are moments when the correct answer to the question - What are you thinking? - is nothing. You're listening to your stomach gurgle or staring at your shoes, your hands, your sleeping dog. Public personalities are paid to snap, crackle and pop. Curated by Sara Krajewski, Harry Shearer's The Silent Echo Chamber at the Henry Gallery presents them as they wait for the go light and the text prompt. They sit in their seats with nothing to do and no one to share it with. Surrounded by dead air, they slump and grow slack. I'd love to see … [Read more...]

Good picks for Seattle artist innovator’s award

Last September, Artist Trust announced the finalists for its new Arts Innovator Award, which delivers $25,000 to two Washington State artists each year, the first three years funded by Dale and Leslie Chihuly. Early in October, the Artist Trust panel picked its winners: Leo Saul Berk and Margie Livingston. Jen Graves decried these choices, calling them "devastatingly conservative." I'm tempted to say that by her reasoning, the fascinating people at parties are the ones who wear lamp shades and dance on tables, but I want to take the … [Read more...]

What lingers after an absence

The pleasure of engaging a old task comes from the tally-ho sense that a time-out will produce improvement. Surely a refreshed and renewed writer will find purpose, tone and image to clarify complexities into an amplitude. The chess master in Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union had no such hopes about his game. Returning to test yet another challenger, he said, "All the blunders are there on the board, waiting to be made."Onward to blunders: In New York last month, I imagined time spread out before me like Wallace Shawn's dinner with … [Read more...]

Back in the game

I'm back, better and will post Monday. Thanks for your patience, notes and concern. Antibiotics, take a bow.  Tobias Wong … [Read more...]

A brief halt

I'm in New York till Oct. 10. Posts unlikely till I get back. (Image via) … [Read more...]

Two top Seattle artists open galleries

With the fall of Howard House and other spaces shaky on their pins, the appearance of two promising newcomers is heartening news. Norman Lundin and Robert Yoder will open their own galleries this fall, each devoted to other artists. Lundin is represented in Seattle by Francine Seders Gallery, where his exhibition, Gray Light: Four Years of Painting, continues through Oct. 3. (My review here.)Lundin, Arctic River at Night oil / canvas, 2010 24 x 36"The title of Lundin's new venture is Prographica: Fine Works On Paper.Lundin:I am developing it in … [Read more...]

Martina Sauter – mixing memory and desire

Martina Sauter is all about conjunction. Her photos are a collage of film stills from Godard, Hitchcock and Lynch, random shots taken in her daily life, views from her studio as well as her bleak back yard. What she makes of her composites is not seamless. The edge of a wall has its own thick edge, and the interior is recessive.Schwarzer Rock 2010 Dual panel C-print, 11.75" x 9.25" From diverse moments she makes a mood. If Schwarzer Rock features a sleep-walking Cindy Sherman-type from the black-and-white film stills, Teppich sets the kind of … [Read more...]

Mike Simi – memorial to a drunk dad

Mike Simi's I Drink Alone is a memorial to his dead father. The cup is glazed with his father's ashes.Watch the video here - driving drunk in honor of the dearly departed. Simi grew up in Newberry, Michigan, in a family full of prison guards - father, uncles, brothers. He's an artist in Seattle. … [Read more...]

Money, the impoverished visuals

To earn it, clocks are punched and shirts are pressed. Piotr UklanskiFew jobs are secure. You may do your able best, but you're still going to be fired. Then you'll hole up by yourself and think it's your fault. (Via I'm Revolting ) Even when artists make money, they don't make money. SuttonBeresCuller (Distribution of Wealth, 2009 100 uncirculated one-dollar bills cut to portray the percentages received by the artists and their dealer. 46 x 11 x 6 inches ) Of course there are exceptions, although most of the exceptions are dead. Andy Warhol's … [Read more...]

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