top of page

A Summer Banquet of Exhibitions

For the summer, I offer a quick tour of a few of the special exhibitions in our region. I have not yet seen many of these myself, but I will give you a short description to whet your appetite and remind you of some destinations while you are traveling around for other reasons.

Perhaps the most unexpected exhibition is “Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration” at the Schack Art Center in Everett (until September 5, 2016.) Chuck Close has been a world-renowned artist since the early 1970s, when he first showed nine-foot-high portraits in black and white. Close was born in Everett, Washington, and this exhibition marks the first time his works have been shown there. It has been traveling the world since 2003, constantly updated with new work. The Schack Art Center version spans from 1972 –2014. Although the exhibition appears to be a series of portraits, actually, the focus of Close’s art is process, experimentation and collaboration. The portraits, all of celebrity friends in the art world, form the starting point for a dizzying array of techniques. Dive into his first mezzotint, Keith, 1972, at the beginning of the exhibition. Right next to it are details of the mouth, and other fragments, which demonstrate how rich the detail is in each part of the print. Included in the exhibition are wood cuts, silkscreens, lithographs, a few paintings, and dazzling tapestries, as well as test charts, woodblocks, pulp paper samples, linoleum, paper samples, and a brass “shim” used to create a paper pulp print. But be sure to go to the back of the last wall upstairs to see the Woodbury prints, a luscious black and white process that predates photography.

Now for our quick tour of other exhibitions. First, go to the Frye Art Museum’s “Young Blood,” because it closes on June 19. It features art by two brothers both nationally known, both raised in Seattle. Noah Davis, painter, and Kahlil Joseph, filmmaker. The exhibition is also homage to Noah Davis, who died in 2015, so it is tinged with that sadness but Davis had a groundbreaking career as both an artist and a pioneer in creating alternative spaces in Los Angeles. Jen Graves of the Stranger claims “I Haven’t Seen an Art Show This Good in Seattle in a Long Time.” Go and decide for yourself. On June 18, from 2–3 pm, there will be a gallery talk by curator, Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes.

Before July 4, see “Martha Rosler, Below the Surface” at the Seattle Art Museum. Two collage/photographic series by the globally renowned Rosler brilliantly collage consumerism and our brutal wars. The first series dates to the Vietnam War, the second to the Iraq war forty years later. The cold fact is that we are still consuming at home and destroying abroad. No one says it better than Rosler.

The summer show at the Seattle Art Museum will be a good partner to the Chuck Close exhibition: “Graphic Masters: Durer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, and, the unexpected, R. Crumb. You may not have heard of Crumb, best known for his role in underground comics, but you will see that he holds his own against these old masters with his amazing illustrations from the book of Genesis.

If you like books as art and/or classical mythology, go to the University of Washington Special Collections, in the basement of Allen Library South for “Just One Look” (until July 29). Thirty-two new artist books inspired by classical stories such as Medea, Scheherazade, or Cupid and Psyche. About one third of the exhibition is in the lobby and easily accessible, including one of my favorite artists, Carletta Carrington Wilson. Her encaustic/mixed media book is based on the story of Thisbe. Two thirds of the exhibition is inside the Special Collections, so you need to pay attention to their hours. (10 to 4:45, closed on weekends).

At the Northwest African American Museum, the renowned curator Deborah Willis created the exhibition “Posing Beauty in African American Culture” (until September 4). Well-known photographers, over the last century and up to the present, expand our understanding of “how we see ourselves and are seen by others.” Willis has been curating astute photography exhibitions for decades.

(Lauren Kelley, Pickin’, 2007, color-coupler print 23” x 23 1/8”, Courtesy of Northwest African American Museum, on view in “Posing Beauty in African American Culture”)

The Wing Luke Museum presents, as always, unique exhibitions. “Khmer Americans: Naga Sheds Its Skin” reveals new perspectives on Cambodia “so much more than the Killing Fields.” “Tatau/Tattoo, Embodying Resistance” explores political aspects of tattoos in the Philippines and Pacific Islands in the context of opposing colonialism. “Do You Know Bruce: Breaking Barriers”, (part II of a three part series) provides perspective on the ways Bruce Lee countered racism as a film star/martial artist. The major exhibition in the George Tsutakawa gallery upstairs “Everything has Been Material for Scissors to Shape,” pairs the work of three contemporary Asian Pacific American artists with objects in the Museum collection and archives in order to “highlight identity, appropriation and labor.”

(Stephanie Syjuco, Cargo Cult, one of a series, 2013, digital print on outdoor vinyl, 48 x 63”. Courtesy of the artist. On view at Wing Luke Museum in “Everything has Been Material for Scissors to Shape.”)

At the Tacoma Art Museum see “Edvard Munch and the Sea” (until July 17), an appropriate Northwest topic with brooding Norwegian overtones, and “(Re)presenting Native Americans” (to October 30), a selection of depictions of Native American from the last century, an intriguing partner to “Posing Beauty.” If you are eager to see what artists in our region are doing today, visit “Northwest Art Now” until Sept 4. This rebranded Northwest Biennial includes 24 artists from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho who create installation, video, audio, paintings and sculptures, something for everyone.

On to Portland! Inside the Portland Art Museum, the Center for Contemporary Native Art, features “Dene bāhī Naabaahii”, two contemporary native artists Demian DinéYazhi’ (Diné) and Kali Spitzer (Kaska Dena/Jewish). They offer us “a transdisciplinary and multimedia space that reaffirms their dedication to cultural revitalization through language and social engagement—a contemporary and radical act of survivance” (referring to nourishing Native culture beyond simple survival). This exhibition closes on August 28, but CCNA will have another contemporary Native art show opening in the fall. Also not to be missed at the Portland Art Museum: “Native Fashion Now” (until September 4) from the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, a pioneering small museum near Boston. The Native “maverick” fashion designers span 50 years with almost 100 works.

Of course, there is much more to see! Go and Explore! But don’t miss the Friday Films in Volunteer Park on July 15, 22 and 29 that partner with the exhibition “Mood Indigo.” Music will start at 8:15pm and the film at 9pm. And then of course we have our free Shakespeare in the Park. I will leave you to find those on your own.

By Susan Noyes Platt,

bottom of page