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Thought-provoking Exhibitions in Seattle

Jessica Jackson Hutchins “Wrecked and Wretched”

Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave, ph. 206.622.9250; Wed-Sun 11am-5pm, FREE; runs until May 5

Beginning of Jessica Jackson Hutchins’s dance performance (artist pictured on the left; she did not participate in the dance.)

Jessica Jackson Hutchins began the tour of her exhibition with a tall narrow stained glass window Shadow Swing commissioned by the Frye Art Museum for their lobby. Comprised of beer bottle glass that is fused and leaded with other types of glass, it is over 24 feet high and only 19 inches wide. As we looked, it changed color several times, responding to the light. But this wonderful window, off beat as it was with its bulges and cracks, was by far the easiest piece to look at in “Wrecked and Wretched.”

As we enter the first large gallery, we see two large painted canvases hung over ladders to create an enclosure, with strange ceramics at their base. The works do not attract us, but rather push us away with their odd colors and forms.

As we enter the largest gallery we are confronted with large, oddly shaped ceramics placed on broken off chairs: sometimes the ceramic echoes the colors in the patterned out-of- date upholstery as in Lascaux Reprise 2012/2018.

Lascaux played a major role in the performance that activated these pieces for one evening. One dancer sat behind it in a chair embracing it as another dancer put on a ceramic form that looked like a very heavy set of containers that hung over his shoulder. A third dancer moved more freely around the room interacting with ceramics hanging on the wall. The three performed an excruciating dance that suggested constant effort to connect to each other and occasionally almost succeeding: one dancer held out a long carrot while another dancer reached toward it with a strange device. The most moving moment was when they briefly came together in spite of their heavy loads.

Hutchins has said she doesn’t like the idea of art being “about” something. But for me, especially after seeing the performance and seeing so many addicts in the street every day, it is about addiction in many different ways.

In describing work like Milagros 1 Blue Arm, a painting with ceramic arms attached to it, the artist said, “I made arms for junkies I knew.”

Milagros is made for healing. Hutchins felt her works were “on behalf of suffering people, as symbolic stand ins for their enfeebled body parts.”

The artist declares “The title ‘Wrecked and Righteous’ just came to me, as sometimes titles do; it has a cool musicality and a punky sensibility. The hard-lived, the desperate, the urgent is much more beautiful and profound (and funny) to me than the refined or skilled. It also suggests the presence of real authenticity, real righteousness.” If you can overcome your basic aversion to these unbeautiful works, they open a door to our suffering addicts that is strikingly empathetic. To know more come to her conversation with Curator Amanda Donnan May 4, 3-4:15pm.

Seattle has several other innovative exhibitions at the moment:

Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, 1400 E Prospect St., ph. 206.654.1300, Thurs- Sun 10am-5pm Adults $14.99; Seniors $12.99

At the Asian Art Museum, Anida Yoeu Ali’s exhibition “Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence” (until July 7) features chadors in brilliant colors. Like “Wrecked and Righteous,” they are going to be animated in performances. The Buddhist Bug on March 23, 2024 (sorry that date has passed.) and The Red Chador will be performed on June 1, 2024. The Red Chador was previously performed in Seattle and all over the world: seven women, each with a different color chador walk through the city and assert the power of women, the opposite of the way we perceive chadors.

Ali grew up in Cambodia, where as a Muslim, she was in a small minority in a dominantly Buddhist country. These works assert her special identity and transform our perceptions.

Her second work The Buddhist Bug is a 328 foot saffron colored creature that twists and turns within the museum into several galleries. There is a human face that emerges from one end (seemingly wearing a hijab) and a pair of feet from the other. Come to the performance on June 1!

Henry Art Gallery 15th Ave NE & UW, ph. 206.543.2280, Thurs 10am-7pm; Fri-Sun 10am-5pm, Free 1st Thursdays

We are lucky to have “LOVERULES —From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” by the well-known Hank Willis Thomas at the Henry Art Gallery (until August 4.) Thomas explores the many techniques of the advertising industry to dehumanize African Americans while also targeting them to buy products. A large painting in the first gallery pays homage to African Americans in Hollywood, but you can only see their faces if you use a flash picture. I was disappointed there was no list of the names.

“At the Twilight’s Last Gleaming” by Hank Willis Thomas.

At the Twilight’s Last Gleaming, a flag covered with stars, hanging from a flag pole and spreading across the floor represents the 20,923 lives lost to gunfire in this country between 2012 and 2022. The artist’s own cousin was shot and killed, leading to this homage.

Winston Wachtler Gallery, 203 Dexter Ave, ph. 206.652.5855,Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 11am-5pm

Another artist who pays homage to relatives who died, here of drugs and addiction is Barry Johnson. “Never Leave Before Saying Goodbye” subtitled “lost Boys” is a deeply felt series of oil paintings on exhibit at Winston Wachtler until April 13 (203 Dexter Avenue). The artist stands, sits or lies among large trees, by the sea, and in a field, deeply grieving his loss.

~Susan Platt, PhD


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