Muse/News: Melancholy smiles, love letters to dance, and Swizz Beatz’s art collection

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced the launch of the public phase of a $150 million campaign to support all aspects of the museum’s mission. To date, the campaign has raised more than $125 million towards its goals. Artnet and Patch.com shared the news.

Armon Mahdavi of UW Daily with a lovely look at The Magic Lantern of Ingmar Bergman, the museum’s centennial celebration of the legendary Swedish writer-director, curated by Greg Olson, SAM’s Manager of Film Programs.

“Olson was seated near me during the showing, and after the film finished, we exchanged glances. ‘I hope we’ll all be alright in the end,’ he said to me with a melancholic smile.”

Local News

The Jacob Lawrence Gallery at the University of Washington is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Crosscut’s Mason Bryan speaks with Michael Spafford, Barbara Earl Thomas, C. Davida Ingram, and others about the artist’s legacy.

Crosscut’s Aileen Imperial with another great video story, this time featuring six local dancers—including David Rue, SAM’s Public Engagement Associate—performing love letters to their art form.

Bones! Feathers! Forklifts! Brendan Kiley of the Seattle Times gets a behind-the-scenes look as the team at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture move their collection into its new “inside-out” digs.

“The coolest thing I found? I don’t want to admit it,” he said. “Mostly evidence of my co-workers from decades ago—someone had been sitting at a desk, smoking while working on specimens, and used one of the shells for an ashtray! They should give it a label: ‘archaeological tool used by museum employee 30 years ago.’”

Inter/National News

Andy Battaglia of ARTnews on the (very sad) news that gallerist Mariane Ibrahim is closing her Seattle space and moving to Chicago. Pam McClusky, SAM’s Curator of African and Oceanic Art, spoke with Andy, noting that “She couldn’t be a more distinctive catalyst for international art.”

Artnet’s Henri Neuendorf reports on the reaction from the arts community to the big news that Amazon has abandoned plans to establish an HQ in New York City.

M.H. Miller of the New York Times Style Magazine profiles producer Swizz Beatz on how he created interest in contemporary art in the hip-hop world—and how he is bringing change to the art market itself.

“Over the past 20 years, he and his wife have built one of the great American collections of contemporary art, and he has quietly become one of the art world’s most important power brokers, a singular advocate for artists in an industry that often exploits creativity for the sake of the bottom line.”

And Finally

Parkland survivors, one year later.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Jen Au
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Object of the Week: Jacob

Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence were married for 59 years, in a harmonious partnership of two prolific and engaged creators that was both romantic and artistic. Though it was Jacob whose star would rise over the years, becoming celebrated around the world for his dynamic pictorial style of historical narratives, Gwendolyn continued her studies—in painting, drawing, design, and dance—and served vital roles in the cultural community of their adopted city of Seattle.

With this intimate portrait of her husband (Jacob, 1986), Gwendolyn explores her own artistic project, distinct from her husband’s grand themes of history and social justice. Instead, she pursues an expressive and personal idiom, reflecting the emotional truths of the immediate world around her.

Gwendolyn—or Gwen, as she was affectionately known—began the portrait in 1960, when the couple was still living in New York City. But she kept returning to it, with final retouches in 1986, when they would firmly be ensconced in their lives in Seattle. She found it challenging to create a portrait of the person she saw every day, in all of the moods and changes that an individual necessarily undergoes over the years. Instead of a frozen moment in time, we instead see the process of a person becoming.

Jacob’s face fills nearly the entire frame, even going out of the bounds of the canvas in one corner. His skin is rendered in broad and unusual strokes of brown, green, and yellow, reflecting against the hint of a red shirt at the neck and glimpses of orange in the background. He wears a calm smile and a somewhat inquisitive brow, exuding kindness.

In the catalogue for Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight, a 2003 solo show held at the Tacoma Art Museum, curator Sheryl Conkleton noted, “As her work developed, Knight became more committed to the interpretation and communication of visual delight in the world around her. It superseded the need to tell a story or to explore the larger meaning of what it meant to be a modern painter.”

When artist Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence died on February 18, 2005—almost exactly 14 years ago—she’d lived in Seattle for 34 years. The city was lucky to have her.

Rachel Eggers, Manager of Public Relations

Image: Jacob, 1986, Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, oil on canvas, 14 1/4 x 10 1/4 in., Gift of the Marshall and Helen Hatch Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2009.52.59 © Estate of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
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Muse/News: Porcelain secrets, lost speech, and an art-world skewering

SAM News

Sammy the Camel headed out on a sunny Tuesday to sell copies of Real Change as part of the paper’s #VendorWeek celebrations.

Sammy got tips from vendor Darrell Wrenn, an autograph from Stone Gossard, hugs from a friend, and some civic conversation with Governor Jay Inslee (that was totally random! We just ran into him!).

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig takes on Taking Tea and “porcelain’s deadly secrets” in the current edition’s feature story.

“Porcelain ‘is way more robust than you initially think it is,’ the artist said the other day at the museum. ‘You can drop it and it bounces.’ That elicited nervous laughter from the staff. But Partington’s genuine appreciation for the material is clear. Taking Tea activates the space in a way never done before.”

Our upcoming exhibition, Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer, is highlighted in arts previews from Seattle Met, The Stranger, and ParentMap.

Local News

Newsletters are the new podcasts: Crosscut launches their arts & culture newsletter, highlighting Cherdonna Shinatra at the Frye, Aaron Dixon at NAAM, and more.

But videos are still going strong: Crosscut also shares their complete 4-part series featuring Susie Lee and four elements of art: clay, water, glass, and light.

And sometimes videos play on a thing called “broadcast TV.” Here’s the latest episode of Seattle Channel’s ArtZone, featuring Quenton Baker, Tres Leches, and a remembrance of Robert C. Jones.

“The aim of this project was to locate a kind of lost speech.”

Inter/National News

First The Square, now Velvet Buzzsaw: The art world is once again skewered on film. (Mostly this is an excuse to share this video of the film’s director hilariously skewering a word.)

A painting by Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun sold at Sotheby’s for $7.18 million, making it “the most expensive painting by a pre-modern era female artist ever sold at auction.”

One of my favorite recent pieces of cultural writing: The New York Times’ Wesley Morris on “racial reconciliation fantasies” such as Driving Miss Daisy and Green Book.

“Not knowing what these movies were ‘about’ didn’t mean it wasn’t clear what they were about. They symbolize a style of American storytelling in which the wheels of interracial friendship are greased by employment, in which prolonged exposure to the black half of the duo enhances the humanity of his white, frequently racist counterpart.”

 And Finally

The polar vortex comes for Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Rachel Eggers.
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Object of the Week: Thicket

In honor of Black History Month, Object of the Week will—throughout the month of February—highlight works by celebrated Black artists in the SAM Collection.

I never did Minimalist art. I never did, but I got real close. . . . I looked at it, tasted it, and I spat it out.

– Martin Puryear, 1978

Known for his highly crafted, abstract sculptures, Martin Puryear since the 1970s has created three-dimensional works that defy easy interpretation and categorization, at once evoking Modernist sculptures by Noguchi, Arp, and Brancusi, while calling to mind African sculptural traditions and Scandinavian design.

A former painter, Puryear’s hand-crafted sculptures offer a highly original response to the Minimalism of the 1960s. And while he indeed embraces Minimalism’s penchant for reductive sculptural forms, his material and fabrication choices evince a commitment to elevating craft and its complement: the handmade. Using materials such as wood, stone, tar, bronze, and wire, Puryear’s greatest collaborator—the natural world—is made clear.

From a young age Puryear was fascinated by how things are made, and would often construct his own objects from wood—whether it be a guitar or a canoe. Decades later, while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, Puryear observed and absorbed local artistic traditions like woodworking, pottery, and weaving. Together, these experiences—coupled with his time at the Swedish Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm, where he studied furniture design—helped shape Puryear’s practice and interest in mobilizing design, sculpture, and craft in the service of examining identity, culture, and history.

The work pictured here, Thicket, is inspired by the shape and volume of a small rock Puryear found while on a trip to the Alaskan wilderness in 1980. Interwoven basswood and cypress give the piece a complex, tangled appearance. Both orderly and chaotic, the crisscrossed beams, struts, and posts are informed by the low Arctic vegetation that houses and protects the snowshoe hare—a rare breed endemic to the region.

In the words of the artist:

I want to make objects that somehow have their own history and their own reason for being and their own sense of themselves. I’m not concerned just with the object’s formal meaning, although it should be an intelligible artifact, a thing of one’s own culture and time. It’s equally crucial that there exist in the work a recognition of the maker, of who I am.[1]

Puryear’s sculptures manage to transcend time and space—blending together artistic traditions from around the world. Further, he is still one of the most important and influential artists working today, a fact confirmed by the recent announcement that he will represent the United States at the 58th Venice Biennale in the spring.

 – Elisabeth Smith, Collection & Provenance Associate

[1] John Ederfield, Martin Puryear (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2007), 173.
Image: Thicket, 1990, Martin Puryear, basswood and cypress, 67 x 62 x 17 in., Gift of Agnes Gund, 90.32 © Martin Puryear (1990)
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New Design Brings History to Light: Seattle Asian Art Museum

One of the most important sources of design inspiration for the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s renovations is the incredible place where it resides: Volunteer Park. It’s been more than 100 years since John Charles Olmsted conceived of Volunteer Park’s design. Yet, it continues to be the city’s most intensely used park—and an essential consideration within the museum’s renovation project that has involved input from national, city, and community groups that include Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, the National Park Service, Seattle Parks & Recreation, and Volunteer Park Trust.

“We took a lot of cues from the Olmsted plan and their design intent, their aesthetic and some of the principles they brought to planning all of the trails and pathways within this park,” explains Chris Jones, principal at Walker Macy, the firm overseeing the renovated landscape design. He continues, “In lieu of putting in plazas around the museum, we’re grading the landscape in a way that maintains the recreation that occurs onsite, really supporting the character of the park as the Olmsteds would, emphasizing a nice pastoral landscape with open lawn and trees.”

In addition to their importance within the pastoral aesthetic, trees intersect with the design process in another way. The design team has been working with the guidance of an onsite arborist, who has been integral to the renovation processes by making recommendations for construction methods and identifying important root areas to avoid, in order to best support the trees’ health.

 

The pathways surrounding the museum are also central to the Asian Art Museum’s landscape renovation plan. This includes creating safer traffic circulation around the museum, constructing a more direct connection between the museum and public transit on 15th Avenue, and improving accessibility to the museum. The plan also realizes two pathways that were in Olmsted’s original plan for Volunteer Park but were never fully established, an element that was developed in response to community groups’ input on the design. Jones says, “The intent was to provide each park-goer with an improvement that’s visible on a daily basis . . . I think we achieved that by coming to a really happy consensus that reflects the input from the community.”

In the months ahead, we will continue exploring the future of the Asian Art Museum as the renovations progress towards the much-anticipated re-opening in 2019.

– Erin Langner, freelance writer

Images: Photo: Eduardo Calderon. Photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Best in Show: We Love Lynda Swenson’s Artwork

You probably assume that most people working at an art museum are pretty into art, but what you might not realize is how many of them are artists themselves. A trip to SAM’s community gallery to see the SAM Staff Art Show, on view through February 3, is a great reminder of the talent that fills not just the galleries of our museums, but the administrative offices as well. Make sure to walk all the way to the end of the first-floor corridor to see the work that won our hearts and the most votes during the Staff Art Show reception. What you’re looking for is an indigo diptych by Lynda Harwood Swenson. Her piece, Sticks and Stones 1 & 2 (Lapidation), contains a lot of tension while also feeling calm and contemplative. Give it a good long look the next time you visit.

Lynda is the Art Studio Programs Senior Associate at SAM. She’s the mastermind behind our free Drop-In Studio events on First ThursdayS and summer Sundays and the interactive art-making activities that SAM offers through our education and public programs. She also recently became a member of Shift Gallery in Pioneer Square where you can see her work in a solo show February 7 through March 2.

SAM: When did you begin making art formally? Were you always working in print media? How did you arrive at it?

Lynda Swenson: I was lucky that I went to a high school that really valued art and art making and my art teacher in high school was a printmaker. She introduced me to the medium and I really fell in love with it and continued working in printmaking through college and most of my adult life.

The title of this piece brings a lot of context to the work about both the topic and materials. Can you expand a bit on the meanings you are playing with?

In choosing the title, Sticks and Stones 1 and 2 (Lapidation), I was thinking about all the negative rhetoric directed at women in the last few years. Because the image is a photogram of stones, I thought it was a really simple way of telling the viewer what they were looking at, as well as what my intention was. Adding the word “lapidation,” which means stoning a person to death, where no individual is held responsible—is suggesting an awareness that this is still happening in places and, metaphorically, it happens in our society all the time.

You said the women in this work are not based on actual people, how did you decide to depict them?

The women’s heads in the work are from a found image from a magazine, I think they were carved wooden heads (I don’t know who the artist is). I manipulated them through a copying process and then the transfer process. I really wanted to depict women from many ethnic backgrounds, even subtle skin color differences mattered in the work.

How are the white lines and shapes created? Are these traces of your process?

The white lines are part of the cyanotype process, they are a byproduct that is sometimes left behind on the paper, or in this case on the vellum, it may be from minerals in the water used to rinse the chemistry out after exposure.

The stones that you used in this work, are these actual stones? Where did they come from?

Yes, the stones are real and were from my yard. They were laid very neatly on vellum sheets that were covered in a cyanotype chemistry and exposed to light—the white parts of the image are where the rocks laid and the blue is where the chemistry was exposed to the sunlight.

Tell us about Shift Gallery, the artist-run gallery you joined this year.

This is currently the 15 year anniversary of Shift Gallery. It’s an artist-run space in the Tashiro Kaplan building on 4th Avenue and Washington Street, near Pioneer Square. Shift is a great venue with a mission of supporting Northwest artists of diverse media and rigorous content. I feel like it’s a great launching pad for Seattle artists to show their work.

What else are you working on right now? Where else can people interact with your work?

I have a solo show opening on February 7 at Shift, running through March 2. I also have work on view at the Coos Art Museum, in the West Coast Ink and Print show in Coos Bay Oregon until February 9.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM Content strategist and Social Media Manager

Images: Photo: Natali Wiseman. Sticks and Stones 1 & 2 (Lapidation), diptych, 33 x 22 inches, cyanotype photogram with image transfer on vellum, photo: Art Grice
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Muse/News: Awards, enchantments, and a lullaby from Rita Moreno

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced that Aaron Fowler is the recipient of the 2019 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize. Fowler will receive a $10,000 award, and his work will be featured in a solo exhibition at SAM in fall 2019. ARTnews, Culture Type, Artdaily, Artnet, and Hyperallergic were among those who shared the news.

“Seattle, prepare to be enchanted by Gibson.” The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley takes a “Look Ahead” at February events, recommending our upcoming exhibition, Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer.

Local News

The Seattle Times debuts an occasional series that asks, “How do they do that?” Up first: Moira Macdonald tries to understand the en pointe balancing poses in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty.

“It’s OK Not to ‘Get’ Art” The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig reminds us in this review of the Danny Giles show at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery.

Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne previews the durational performance piece Cherdonna Shinatra: Ditch, one of three shows opening at the Frye tonight.

“We call her MomDonna, this huge sort of matriarchal ruin in the space. MomDonna is in the space as if she’s been there for thousands of years seeing humans just keep trying.”

Inter/National News

Who else was obsessed with the sculptures created by the character Fonny in If Beale Street Could Talk? Artnet’s Sarah Cascone goes behind the scenes to learn how they did it.

This week in journalism: The New York Times reports that the building housing the Newseum in DC has been sold, and about 1,000 media workers at Buzzfeed, HuffPost, and Gannett were laid off.

Hyperallergic on the portraits of Hugh Mangum, now on view at the Nasher Museum of Art. His glass plate negatives were rediscovered in an old barn and offer a compelling look into turn-of-the-century American South.

“In the scratches, cracks, fingerprints, and delicate color shifts that surround and sometimes cover the sitters’ faces, we are looking at portraits of individuals through the unmistakable portal of time.”

 And Finally

Here’s Rita Moreno singing “It’s You I Like” accompanied by Mister Rogers.

Image: Derion, 2018, hot tub cover, wood, children’s cotton and nylon coats, cotton balls, enamel paint, acrylic paint, broken mirrors, theater seats, concrete cement, 115 x 95 x 28 in. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer. Image courtesy of the artist © Aaron Fowler.
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Native Interpretations of Land: Art Encounters at Olympic Sculpture Park

Every year brings the creative process of local artists to the Olympic Sculpture Park through our artist-in-residence program, Art Encounters. This year Christine Babic (Chugach Alutiiq) is working away on SKIN SEWERS at the PACCAR Pavilion. Babic—in collaboration with her mother, artist Mary Babic (Chugach Alutiiq), and Alex Britt (Nansemond, White)—is combining performance and installation to create a site-specific experience that explores the gap between contemporary and traditional Indigenous works. Art Encounters are a chance to learn about the practice of making art while participating in experiences that respond to the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Seattle region. This year you can get involved by dropping into one or both of the Art Encounters on January 25 and February 22, from 7–9 pm.

SAM: I love this description of this as an intestinal window into a shared history. I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit upon on the connection to land, skin, and history in Skin Sewers.

Christine Babic: Since this residency is at the Olympic Sculpture Park, we wanted to talk about land and what land means for Indigenous people. Through SKIN SEWERS, we’re trying to get a sense of generational gaps and what the spectrum of generations think of land and its meaning. For both my mom and I, who are from Alaska, we’ve talked about subsistence as being the first thing that comes to mind when we think of land—the resources and gifts of the land.

Mary Babic: I was raised in Seattle. I really did not know what Alutiiq meant. I knew I was Alutiiq and I knew I was German. When I moved to Alaska in 1980 I realized I was immersed in Chugach Alutiiq culture. So, I wanted to learn everything I could about my background. I started sewing woods, firs, leathers, and started beading. Friends in the area shared a lot about utilizing the resources we had and living off the land. Not only would you use a seal for its meat (which is very high in iron), but you would also use every part of it. You wouldn’t waste anything. You were always grateful. You would always thank the animal for giving itself to you. That was one thing I learned right away about subsistence. So, I started sewing with the fur. I also learned how to clean the intestine and to blow it out and make things out of it.

Christine: It’s an interesting material because it’s a waterproof material, and it’s semi-opaque. And it has this simultaneous fragility and strength to it. You get it wet to sew with it and then it dries. It can be used as rain jackets. Seal intestine was also used for death masks. It was a kind of protection—a spiritual protection. Not only from the rain and weather but this spiritual protection that comes with using these materials. So, there’s a lot of dualities when using these materials. For us, it’s not only an experiment in Indigenous materials but also this spiritual connection to our culture. Doing these things that your ancestors did—these are Indigenous materials and we are Indigenous people. Only Indigenous people can source seal. They’re protected under the marine mammal protection. The materials used in SKIN SEWERS are synthetics, but we’re going off of tradition and what our ancestors used. When people are displaced from their land, there’s no access to the materials that we’ve always used. Practicing culture and making artwork is part of cultural evolution and is important to us as Native people—SKIN SEWERS is not an answer, this a conversation.

What kind of materials will be involved in this performance?

Christine: For this, we’re using a synthetic intestine which is collagen, pig intestines, and fish skin. So, inner skins and outer skins. Seal intestines is much harder to get. Something I’m addressing is the evolution of Indigenous material and how we use these things in place of seal gut. In my grandmother’s generation, there was a lot of Americanizing going on so she never wanted to be a Native. She wanted to be as assimilated as possible because there was so much racism happening. When my mother moved back to Alaska she was able to relearn our culture and reclaim these things and identities as Native. My mom raised me as a Native person so those ideas are what I’m referencing. I can carry my Native-ness with pride but there is a gap culturally for us, generationally, because my grandmother did not have that option. Through these materials, there’s a lot of acknowledgment happening.

You’ve mentioned learning traditional sewing techniques from your mom. Have you two collaborated creatively before? What does your collaboration looks like?

Christine: Always. In every show, my mom helped. This is probably our first official collaboration. My mom is inspired by tradition, so she’s really obsessed with researching how our ancestors used to do things. I really like performance art and contemporary art. Bringing parts of what my mother taught me into a contemporary context and working together allows me to make performances out of things that you may not necessarily think are performances, like sewing. This lets us look at them in a different lens—that’s interesting for me.

Mary: You definitely take me out of my comfort zone. I do tend to be more traditional in my artwork and I have been working on a curriculum for Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation that teaches about traditional artwork and how to make clothing. I’m working on that project right now. Working a little more contemporary with the material has definitely opened my eyes. The fish skin that we have in the show, we made a non-traditional and traditional tan. We’ve used brains from the deer and some of that is in the window that we have on display. We also did a non-traditional tent which was using glycerin and rubbing alcohol and that I have a video on that I hope to show during the presentation as well.

Have you collaborated with Alex Britt before?

Christine: No, but I really am a fan of their work. They’re very image-based and a photographer. I always liked how they explained their relationship to the body and land. Bringing in different Indigenous perspectives is important to SKIN SEWERS. Obviously, there is such a wide spectrum. Alex’s photos will be a part of the installation. So, I think it will just kind of show the distances and the different ways we think about land and Native perspectives.

When people come to your Art Encounter, what should they expect to experience?

Christine: This is an active installation, where people can move freely about and get close to the materials and watch how we work with the materials. You’ll get a sense of how our ancestors used and talked about these. We’ll also have texts about the duality of materials and how we want to continue to use them and bring these materials and traditions wherever we go and think about them as they evolve. We’re going to have a demonstration to inflate the pig intestine. This is similar to the way that ancestors used seal intestines—blowing them up, drying, and cutting them. The labor that goes into using them, how much time and care goes into the work—the performance parts of SKIN SEWERS are an act of care and respect for the material, the land, and our tradition. The process is valuable and beautiful, using these materials involves being meticulous, careful, and loving. We come from people who are sewers, who sew skins. SKIN SEWERS, as a project, is really to highlight how important the action is and not just the finished object. I wanted to show other people the performance through the physical actions and what that looks like.

For the third year of our winter Olympic Sculpture Park artist residency, we changed things up a bit. Unlike the last two years, this year’s artist was not selected through an open call, but selected in collaboration with yəhaw̓, an exhibition celebrating the depth and diversity of Indigenous art made in the Pacific Northwest. Curated by Tracy Rector, Asia Tail, and Satpreet Kahlon, yəhaw̓ opens at King Street Station March 23, 2019. You can see more of Christine Babic’s work when it opens! We’ll see you there.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM Content Strategist and Social Media Manager

Photo: Jessa Carter. Photos: Nina Dubinsky
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Object of the Week: 1974 calendar

Serizawa Keisuke’s 1974 calendar series is a collection of twelve paper stencils done in the katazome style. This is a technique that Serizawa adopted from textile design in which the artist applies a type of resist paste through a stencil before dyeing the fabric.[1] Paper provided a cheaper medium than cloth during the scarcity of wartime, and in the following years Serizawa began producing stenciled calendars like this one.[2] Serizawa’s stencils were later called kataezome, which distinguishes the pictorial quality of his work—e meaning picture in Japanese.[3]

In the 1974 calendar, while every month has similar elements, each one also maintains a unique style, with distinct sets of colors and images. In the January calendar, for example, orange is the dominant color, providing a patterned board upon which the dates are alternatingly carved into or out of. The orange is echoed in the foliage of the trees that sprawl above the calendar, and underneath the two figures that flank the grid of dates on either side. Despite the profuse design, the images themselves are minimal in detail.

In the calendar for the month of May, while orange accents are visible, blue is the dominant color. The neatly patterned grid from January is abandoned, and a procession of figures walks straight through the second and third weeks of the month on what ambiguously resembles a path, a tree branch, or perhaps a river. A bird flies overhead, drawing attention to the misalignment of the weekday letters.

Serizawa was associated with mingei, a folk art revival movement that was established in the early decades of the twentieth century. The movement lauded ideals of the anonymous craftsperson who made inexpensive objects that served daily utilitarian purposes. In this case, Serizawa is not anonymous, but his stencils exhibit several characteristics of mingei.

While mingei looked for beauty in everyday objects, Serizawa’s calendar makes every day into a thing of beauty. As we approach the final days of January, time marches on, much like the figures who cut through the May calendar. Here’s to beautiful days ahead, whether neatly organized or eclectically crafted.

– Maria Phoutrides, Curatorial Intern

[1] Susanna Kuo, Katagami: Japanese Textile Stencils in the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum, (Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1985): 1-3
[2] Hugh Cortazzi, “Keisuke Serizawa (1895-1984),” Arts of Asia, 25, no. 2 (1995): 79
[3] Joe Earle, Serizawa: Master of Japanese Textile Design, (New York: Japan Society, 2009): 94
Images: 1974 calendar, 1974, Serizawa Keisuke, stencil, 14 1/2 x 11 in., Gift of Frances and Thomas Blakemore,98.53.132.5 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. 1974 calendar, 1974, Serizawa Keisuke, stencil, 14 1/2 x 11 in., Gift of Frances and Thomas Blakemore, 98.53.132.1 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
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