Born in Harlem in 1919, Roy DeCarava came of age amid the
flourishing artistic activity of the Harlem Renaissance. Trained as a painter,
he would not take his first photograph until the late 1940s, and even then it
was to assist his painting practice. However, DeCarava soon turned exclusively
to photography, using the medium to produce a record of everyday Black life in
In 1952, DeCarava became the first Black artist to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship in photography. A series of photographs—“subdued pictures of everyday Harlem existence, from intimate family moments to street play and subway gloom”—were made using the grant, and would eventually be published in 1955 with accompanying text by Langston Hughes in The Sweet Flypaper of Life.
DeCarava, also a musician, would go on to photograph many jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Thelonious Monk, seeking to create a visual equivalent of jazz’s improvisational structure and off-time beat. The artist considered the camera, like the piano, to be an instrument of expressive potential, and mobilized it as a tool. The relationship he saw between jazz and photography hinged on the belief that “in between that one-fifteenth of a second, there is a thickness.”
For the artist, photography was a way to counter his observation that “black people were not being portrayed in a serious and artistic way.” As a result, his images illustrate ordinary Black life perceptively and immediately. His pictures are thoughtful and considered—often exploring light and shadow to assist in his subtly dramatic compositions.
In Man and Girl at
Crossing from 1978, we see just how sensitive DeCarava was to the quiet and
contemplative moments that surrounded him. It’s an uneventful scene—a man and a
young girl wait to cross Schenectady Avenue in East Flatbush. Brooklyn had seen
a rainy day that day, and the gloom sits heavy on the wet cement and asphalt.
Framed by the crosswalk and sidewalk before them, the two figures are
powerfully silhouetted—paused in a still moment of togetherness before
continuing on their way.
– Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collection & Provenance Associate
 Alan Thomas, “Literary Snapshots of the Sho-Nuff Blues,” In These Times, March 27–April 2, 1985, 20.  Randy Kennedy, “Roy DeCarava, Harlem Insider Who Photographed Ordinary Life, Dies at 89,” New York Times, October 28, 2009, accessed June 13, 20169, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/arts/29decarava.html.  Randy Kennedy, “Roy DeCarava, Harlem Insider Who Photographed Ordinary Life, Dies at 89.”
“I’m looking forward to continuing SAM’s commitment to welcoming everyone.”
– Amada Cruz
We are pleased to welcome Amada Cruz to the SAM family this September as the Museum’s next llsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, succeeding Kimerly Rorschach who will be retiring this fall. Amada joins us from the Phoenix Art Museum where she has served as its Sybil Harrington Director and CEO for the past four years. Amada brings with her more than 30 years of professional experience in the arts. In 2015, W Magazine named her one of the 11 most powerful female museum directors in America. She starts at SAM in September 2019 and we can’t wait to see what the future holds. Get to know SAM’s new director in this short interview with Amada and check out our press release for more on this exciting announcement.
SAM: Why were you interested in coming to Seattle and working at the Seattle Art Museum? Amada Cruz: So many reasons! The incredible collection, the generosity of its donors, and Kim’s legacy of excellence. Also, everyone loves Seattle. A great museum with a community of support in a great city. What’s not to love?
What excites you most about SAM’s permanent collection? I know the contemporary art collection the best because it’s my field, but I love “general” museums because they offer entry points for everyone. I grew up going to the Art Institute in Chicago and The Met in NY, and I like getting lost in big museums, making discoveries. But, the most immediate thrill will be the newly reopening Seattle Asian Art Museum, which will be such a pleasure for me to discover and share with our audiences.
At the Phoenix Art Museum, you took many steps to make the museum more accessible and inclusive. Tell us about this work! Phoenix is 40% Latinx, so we focused on welcoming that audience in a sustained way. My first interview was in Spanish for the local Spanish-language newspaper and the Univision station. That was important. I also diversified the staff to the point that 3 out of 5 of the senior staff are Latinx. That change affected everything, including programming decisions (more exhibitions by artists of color) and communications (welcoming of all). We initiated a bilingual program with a big banner over the front desk that reads, “Welcome. Bienvenidos.” It seemed like a small gesture, but the response was huge and (mostly) positive. But we also reached out to other groups, including our local Sikh community and now have a Sikh art gallery. I want everyone to feel like the museum belongs to them.
What do you think the biggest challenge is for museums today? Remaining relevant when people are engaging with culture in so many different ways and with so much competition for attention. We live in a distracting world, so how do we get people to slow down enough to engage with art? It helps to have three distinct sites like SAM, each one offering a particular experience—the urban downtown space, a grand building in a public park, and a spectacular sculpture park by the water.
Which restaurant will you eat at first when you get to Seattle? Please send me recommendations! I’ll eat almost anything (once) but really love seafood . . . and wine.
In This Imperfect Present Moment closes Sunday, June 16! Don’t miss this chance to see works across a wide array of media by artists hailing from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Cotonou/Rotterdam, Luanda/Lisbon, Baltimore, to Los Angeles, and New York. These works have been brought to Seattle by local collectors who are intrigued by how these artists convey vibrant narratives that resonate across global boundaries. While you’re here take a close look at Surah al-Fatiha (the Opening), by Capetown artist Igshaan Adams.
Visiting Igshaan Adams in his studio in Capetown is to step into a zone
of transformation. He works with a group of weavers who wander in and out as he
shows you mounds of materials that are being upgraded to carry stories and
interpretations of Sufism, the mystical sect of Islam, which offers alternative
ways of looking at the world. He speaks of his love of the mysticism of Islamic
texts, and how they provide guidance for the realities of daily life. Learning
about his family provides further insight for his development as an artist; he
was raised by Christian grandparents who were supportive of his faith, fasted
with him during Ramadan, and invited imams over to the family home. As you trip
over ropes and nearly stumble into a massive maze of beads that are being
arranged in a spiral with a mystic rationale, you try to keep track of the mesmerizing
pull of the artist’s sincerity. His descriptions of involving the sacred to
encourage humankind’s capacity for good and nobility set a tone of deep introspection.
In the instsallation, you’ll see a tapestry named after the first chapter of the Quran. Adams has added beads to convey the opening line, which is meant to be recited and contemplated every time a believer begins to establish a direct connection with Allah. About this, Adams has said, “As an artist, I think I can give a person one moment of reflection or one moment with a different perspective.” So goes this imperfect present description of his effort, which is worth so many more words that you are encouraged to seek out online.
– Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art
Image: Surah al-Fatiha (the Opening), 2016, Igshaan Adams, South African, b. 1982, woven nylon rope, beads, 94 1/2 x 94 1/2 in., Private collection, photo courtesy of Blank Projects, Cape Town.
Blue Star Museums: free admission to military personnel and their families. Just show your military ID. The military ID holder plus up to five immediate family members (spouse or child of ID holder) are allowed in for free per visit (special exhibition surcharge may apply).
UW Art Students get free admission with sticker on their student ID
Basically, you have no reason not to visit! And remember, entry to SAM’s permanent collections is always suggested admission! You can come experience our global collection year-round and pay what you want.
The summer edition of the Stranger’s Art & Performance Quarterly is out! Recommended SAM shows in the visual arts listings include Hear & Now, 2018 Betty Bowen Award Winner: Natalie Ball, Victorian Radicals, Zanele Muholi, Material Differences: German Perspectives, You Are on Indigenous Land: Places/Displaces, and Claire Partington: Taking Tea. They also recommend upcoming events Summer at SAM and Remix.
The newspaper collection, says Dixon, preserves “an important, critical part of American history. To see that [this] time existed and that it’s captured in the pages of these newspapers so that people can actually see and read what we said—not what someone else is interpreting from afar—but what we said, how we articulated revolution in this country, that’s the importance of them.”
From the Los Angeles
Times: The Natural History Museum of LA County announced a
major rethink of the La Brea Tar Pits site; the Olympic Sculpture
Park’s designer Weiss/Manfredi is one of three firms making proposals for the
desperately need talent in all sorts of positions—curators represent a fraction
of the staff of museums,” Anderson said. “We’d be thrilled if an accountant
emerges from [the Souls Grown Deep initiative] and finds their way into the
museum profession, but they’re an accountant who has knowledge and experience
in a particular cultural remit that otherwise they may not have.”
Situated beside the sublime glass and steel edifice of the Seattle Public Library Central branch stands Fountain of Wisdom (1958–60), designed by George Tsutakawa. This piece was the artists’ first public fountain commission after a prolific career as a painter, sculptor, and teacher in the Pacific Northwest. Within the Seattle Art Museum’s collection is Fountain (1971), a bronze metal sculpture that helps tell the story of Tsutakawa’s unique Japanese-American experience.
Tsutakawa was born in Seattle in 1910 and spent his early years in Capitol Hill, not far from Volunteer Park. At the age of seven, like many American-born kibei, he was sent to Japan for an education in Japanese art and culture. When he returned to Seattle a decade later, he studied sculpture at the University of Washington and spent his summers working in the Alaska canaries. Drafted into the US Army during World War II, Tsutakawa returned to UW as a graduate student on the GI Bill. Soon after, he began his teaching career in the School of Art.
During the mid-1950s, artist Johsel
Namkung introduced Tsutakawa to a book called Beyond the High Himalayas.
Included were descriptions of ritually stacked stone structures accumulated by
travelers at mountain passes as private and public spiritual offerings.
The influence of these obos proved to be profoundly impactful on
Tsutakawa, forming the basis of much of the rest of his life’s work. After
creating a series of abstract wooden sculptures, Tsutakawa
translated obos into metal sculptures and public fountains.
Fountain stands over five
feet tall and is composed of a single vertical axis that holds a stack of
abstract forms: a footed base, a pronged shallow bowl, intersecting
parabolic-shapes, and a hallowed ovoid. It is easy to imagine this sculpture as
a fountain, water flowing over and through the bronze forms; the symmetry
adding to its geometry.
From 1960 until his death in 1997, Tsutakawa designed and fabricated over 70 fountains. His work can be found all along the West Coast, as well as in Washington, DC, Florida, Canada, and across Japan. Fortunately for Seattleites, a crowd-sourced map has been created to help us locate this important artists’ public works.
– Steffi Morrison, SAM Blakemore Intern for Japanese and Korean Art
 Kingsbury, Martha. George Tsutakawa. Seattle: Bellevue Art Museum and University of Washington Press, 1990.
SAM’s intricate and stunning sculpture of The Lamentation over the Dead Christ by Massimiliano Soldani Benzi is currently on view in Body Language, but wouldn’t be if it weren’t for a years-long project that restored the piece to its former sheen. To make this possible, our conservators worked with a team at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, the original home of the sculpture. See images from the process and find out more about the conservation process from our conservators before you see this sculpture in person.
Massimiliano Soldani Benzi’s bronze sculpture The Lamentation over the Dead Christ (SAM 61.178) was cast in 1714 and acquired by SAM in 1961 as part of the Samuel Kress Collection. SAM’s Head of Conservation, Nicholas Dorman, led a multi-year fundraising campaign to study and treat the sculpture. Completed in December 2018, the project encompassed three broad goals: analysis of the surface and cleaning, replacing the lost crown, and constructing a new period-appropriate base.
The sculpture was loaned to the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence in 2017, where it was featured in Making Beauty: The Ginori Porcelain Manufactory and Its Progeny of Statues. The exhibition discussed the relationship between Soldani and the Ginori Porcelain studio: after his death, Soldani’s heirs sold some of his wax models and molds to Mr. Carlo Ginori, who reproduced them in porcelain at his Florentine workshop. The bronze Lamentation over the Dead Christ was displayed next to its porcelain cousin for the first time, both having been cast from the same approximately 56 molds.
The Bargello exhibition was an opportunity to study and document the various layers of degraded, non-original surface coatings—a mixture of black-brown pigmented wax and oils—with Florentine conservator and metals specialist, Ludovica Nicolai. Nicolai has worked on a great number of Soldani’s works in the Bargello collection. In collaboration with Nicolai and SAM’s conservation department, scientific analysis of the coatings was executed by a team of scientists from Adarte, Pisa University and Florence University, in order to inform the cleaning approach. Over four months, solvent gels were used to soften the hardened coatings, followed by cleaning with dental tools and the flexible tips of porcupine quills to gently remove the non-original layers from the surface.
Meanwhile, the missing crown of thorns was re-cast by the Florentine foundry Ciglia e Carrai. Two sources informed the crown’s recreation: a 1970–1990s image of the sculpture located in the Fondazione Zeri archives (housed in Bologna), and the original wax model of the sculpture located in the Palazzo Pitti collection.
At the conclusion of the treatment, a stylistically appropriate wooden base was constructed—whose form echoes the porcelain version in the Bargello exhibition. This replaces the modern stone mount on which it has been previously displayed.
This project was a truly international collaboration. As well as the experts mentioned above, we are particularly grateful to Dr. Paola D’Agostino and Dr. Dimitrios Zikos and their colleagues at the Bargello for their abiding support and for being so generous with their knowledge. To conserve a sculpture like this in its original place of creation is a significant funding challenge, and we wish to thank the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, The Museo Nazionale del Bargello, SAM’s Plestcheeff Fund for Decorative Arts, an anonymous foundation and an anonymous individual donor. Thanks to their support, we can present and share the story of this magnificent Florentine baroque sculpture.
– Geneva Griswold, SAM Associate Conservator& Nicholas Dorman, Chief Conservator
Images: Installation view Body Language, Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman. Before conservation photo: Ludovica Nicolai. Installation view Museo Nazionale del Bargello, 2017, photo: Arrigo Coppitz. During installation and details photo: Ludovica Nicolai. Fondazione Federico Zeri Archive | no. 149804Silver gelatin print, ca. 1970–1989 During treatment in the Bargello Museum galleries, photo: Geneva Griswold. After conservation photo: Ludovica Nicolai. Installed on pedestal photo: Arrigo Coppitz.
Stimson Bullitt Library is featuring a display of three new
acquisitions from its Book
Arts Collection. These artists’ books share a common interest in
documents and other historical records—each, in its own way, addresses the
notion of archives.
by Tammy Nguyen (American, born 1984)—A Surreal Archive: The Young-Mallin
Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2018)—announces its connection
to an archive in its title. This work was commissioned in an edition of 250 by
the Philadelphia Museum of Art Library to commemorate the collector Judith
Young-Mallin (American, born 1937) and her gift of the Young-Mallin Surrealist
Archive to the museum. The archive contains a wealth of materials and books
related to the original surrealist artists and those influenced by their work,
including Young-Mallin’s personal library, research files, interviews,
correspondence, photographs, and ephemera. Nguyen has constructed a book that
includes pop-up elements, along with hidden panels and envelopes. As Timothy
Rub says in the accompanying book’s foreword, Nguyen’s work “playfully mirrors
Young-Mallin’s spirit as a collector.”
items from the archive are incorporated into the book:
Tanning’s Lanova: Design for Ballachine Ballet “The Night Shadow”
(1945); Paul Éluard and Max Ernst’s book Misfortunes of the Immortals
(1943); Young-Mallin’s book The Night the Lobster Telephone Rang (2011);
Richard Avedon’s photograph Carol Janeway with Bronze Sculpture by Ossip
Zadkine (no date); Carol Janeway’s pen and ink drawing For My Valentine
(ca. 1940s); a matchbook advertisement for the exhibition Marcel
Duchamp—Addenda (1974); a photograph by an unknown photographer titled
William Copley and Noma Copley on Honeymoon in Egypt (ca. 1954); and images
of The Stein-Toklas Doll House of Judith Young-Mallin (ca. 1970s), a
work that was created in Young-Mallin’s home by various artists, including
Leonora Carrington, Man Ray, Elsa Schiaparelli, and others.
This Is the End (Peter Norton Family Projects, 2017) is an archive of an unusual project undertaken in the name of art. For many in the art world, the most important gift at the holidays was the “Peter Norton Christmas Project.” Each year between 1988 and 2017, software entrepreneur, art collector, and MoMA trustee Peter Norton (American, born 1943) commissioned an art edition to celebrate the holidays. Created by artists in Norton’s collection and sent as gifts to a few thousand personal friends and members of the art community, these art objects were intended to foster engagement with the world of contemporary art. When the project concluded in 2017, Norton created an archive of the series in another edition: This Is the End (with the subtitle Our Closing Project in Three Parts). It includes a 72-page book titled The End, which details each of the thirty releases. The edition also includes a scorpion sculpture excised from the book, a postcard, an electronic video book, and earbuds. The format of this project and its scorpion theme were inspired by the art of Robert The (American, born 1961). The edition is enclosed in a book box that states “The End” on its cover.
Dayanita Singh (Indian, born 1961) continues her series of “book-objects” with Pothi
Box (Spontaneous Books, 2018). Using images from various Indian archives,
this artist’s book holds thirty black-and-white images of paper archives, a
film archive, and a printing press, held together in a wooden structure. This
“unbound book” is meant to be hung on a wall or placed on a table. Similar to
other Singh projects, the structure allows for the collector to play
a curatorial role by changing the cover image as they please. Unlike other
projects that have been contained in constructed boxes, this work is nestled in
a woven textile with needlepoint letters “Pothi Box,” recalling the archival sacks
featured in her photographs. Pothi Box is a smaller version of a larger
structure called Pothi Khana (2018), which was recently displayed at the
57th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
works will be on view outside of the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library on SAM’s
fifth floor until June 12, 2019. Any questions about our Book Arts Collection
can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Traci Timmons, Senior Librarian
Images: This Is the End, 2017, Santa Monica: Peter Norton,Peter Norton, compiler, American, born 1943, BKARTS N 7433.4 N785 T54 2017.ASurreal Archive: The Young-Mallin Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2018, Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tammy Nguyen, American, born 1984, BKARTS N 7433.4 N58 S87 2018. Pothi Box, 2018, New Delhi, India: Spontaneous Books, Dayanita Singh ,Indian, born 1961, BKARTS N 7433.4 S557 P78 2018. Photos: Natali Wiseman.
We believe art is for everyone and right now everyone can experience a new kinetic sound sculpture installed at SAM’s 1st and Union entrance. Playing music, projecting poetry, and covered in the text, drawings, and collage by artists with lived experiences of homeless, Hear & Now is a collaboration between internationally celebrated artist, composer, and musician Trimpin and Path with Art students presented for you to view for free!
Built from an antique hand-pulled wagon originally built by Trimpin’s father in Germany, the work is activated by pressing the play button situated next to the object. Each tap triggers a different musical composition or poem created in collaboration with teaching artists. Hear & Now is free and accessible to all and will be on view through July 15. Visit the entire museum for free on Thursday, June 6, and catch the Hear & Now Performances and Artist Talkback taking place 6–8:30 pm featuring pop-up performances by the student artists, a movement piece directed by Rachel Brumer and Monique Holt accompanied by the musical compositions played by the sculpture, and a chance to hear from Trimpin.
Get primed for Thursday evening with this
interview with Trimpin and a Path with Art student artist.
How did you start working with Path with Art?
Five years ago, I was Composer in Residence with the Seattle Symphony
Orchestra. The last year of the three-year residency involves a public-outreach
workshop. I decided to work with a group of Path with Art student artists. I
was first introduced to Path with Art at a performance at the Hugo House; I was
impressed with the artistic caliber of all the performing artists.
Tyler Marcil: Jennifer Lobsenz, the Program Director at the time, asked me to participate in this project in the summer of 2017. We worked with Christina Orbe for six weeks and Yonnas Getahun for two weeks over the course of eight workshops at Trimpin’s studio.
During these workshops, we created found poetry – I had never
done anything quite like that before. I took a story that I had already written
called, “The Woman on the Sidewalk,” and pulled words from that story to create
new poems for the sculpture. A year later, I was invited to record work for
Path with Art at Jack Straw Cultural Center.
What is the significance of the wagon wheel as a foundation
for the sculpture? How does it relate to experiences of homelessness?
When I was beginning to conceptualize the interdisciplinary workshop, mobility
and transition was a major consideration. Aware that most homeless people are
in continual transition, the wagon-wheel was a starting platform to build up
the story, not just metaphorically, but literally as a sound object which is
mobile. It is similar to the way the wagon was used in my family to haul a
variety of items around, and I still remember watching my father when he was
building the wagon from scratch.
How did the artists collaborate on the creation of the final
Tyler: The first group to meet was our group—the poets. The visual artists then took the found poems we created, turning these magnificent words into different pieces of art. Then the musicians came and made compositions inspired by the language and the artwork.
Hear & Now allowed many people to contribute their skills to this larger
project. The people who were involved all have different ways of expressing
themselves. Through this project, their voices are heard, and they are able to
speak from their soul through their medium. Without this
opportunity, they might feel silenced—without a voice, or without their voices
Can you share a moment of discovery or breakthrough in the
process that left an impression on you? Why did that moment stand out to you?
Artists in general are not collaborating with other artists very often. A part
of the workshop was to teach each student that we don’t have to compete with
each other; and we actually can work together and contribute each individual’s
expertise to make the project successful. This process was very important to me
and the project would not exist without the great commitment and interaction of
each individual student.
Tyler: I don’t like hearing my own voice. When we were recording our stories at Jack Straw I could feel my heart racing because it’s a voice that my mother created by teaching us to speak a certain way. I could hear the –eds and the –ings. Those were important in my household growing up.
When I was forced that day to listen to my voice I cried inside
because I realized—my voice is beautiful. And had I known that it was
beautiful, I would have listened all along. And now when I ask people, what
is it about my stories or poetry that you like? They tell me, it’s your voice.
What do you hope the sculpture can inspire in a viewer?
My hope is that the viewer can hear and see that a group of Path with Art
student artists—adults—who have lived the experience of homelessness, addiction
or other trauma, have earned the ability, knowledge, and imagination to
collaborate, design, write, and compose and to achieve a project at this high
Tyler: I hope that Hear & Now will bring awareness of people who have lived experience of homelessness. That the person living that experience could be you. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be prejudiced, or disown others as though they don’t exist.
And I think by having a sculpture that shares these wonderful
voices, not only are you hearing their voices, but your hearing that they’re a
person. The voice you hear is coming from them, from their humanity.
How does the upcoming performance connect to the sculpture?
For the upcoming performance, the students are performing live, interacting
with the instrumentation of the wagon with their own voice or instrument.
Tyler: It ties together these themes of voicelessness and visibility for those experiencing homelessness. It connects to the sculpture because it’s using American Sign Language to present stories for those who cannot hear or speak, and ties in this concept communicating in different ways—with our voices, but also with our hands. This whole project is about lifting up those who have so often been silenced, and widening our circles of empathy and understanding, and the performance brings together both people with lived experience, and those without while exploring these themes.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM Content Strategist & Social Media Manager
Images: Installation view Hear & Now at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photos: Natali Wiseman.
Path with Art would like to extend a special thank you to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods for making this project possible.