Object of the Week: Ideas for Zanzibar with Dancer from Parade Triple Bill

A pioneering Pop artist, David Hockney has throughout his career pivoted effortlessly from medium to medium, continuously exploring his visual style. Though perhaps best known for his iconic paintings of Southern California swimming pools, Hockney has produced a much larger body of work, ranging from abstract paintings to photo collages to iPhone drawings. However, arguably lesser known is his work in stage and costume design: he has been involved in productions of Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress and Mozart’s Magic Flute, both at the Glyndebourne Opera in England, and Parade at the New York Metropolitan Opera, for which this drawing was created.

Grouped under the title Parade, the Met Opera’s 1981 triple bill brought together three pieces: Parade, a ballet written by Jean Cocteau with music by Erik Satie; Les Mamelles de Tiresias, an opera with libretto by Guillaume Apollinaire and music by Francis Poulenc; and L’Enfant et Les Sortileges, an opera with libretto by Colette and music by Maurice Ravel. Hockney designed the sets and costumes for all three performances.

Satie’s Parade, first presented at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on May 18, 1917—during the height of World War I—takes place in a world of circus acts and street fairs. Though written in 1903, Les Mamelles de Tiresias similarly premiered during the war, in June 1917. The surrealist play was described by one critic as “high-spirited topsy-turveydom” whose deeper themes are about the need to repopulate a France ravaged by war.¹ Lastly, L’Enfant et Les Sortileges, commissioned in 1915, is a “fairy ballet” exploring the inner emotional world of a child, where toys and animals come to life.

There is a long history of artists collaborating on theater and dance productions. Merce Cunningham frequently collaborated with Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, for example, and both the scenery and costumes for Satie’s original Parade were designed by none other than Pablo Picasso. For New York Times theater critic John Russell, Hockney’s designs for the 1981 presentation Parade are “not [Picasso’s] Parade redone from scratch. It is the Parade of 1917 revisited as if in a dream, with Picasso very much in mind, both as the original designer and as the poet of Les Saltimbanques—the tumblers and harlequins who turn up over and over again in the work of Picasso’s Rose period.”²

Largescale painted environment with separate elements based on Hockney’s design for Les Mamelles de Tiresias

Hockney produced many drawings for Parade, but the one in SAM’s collection is for the second opera in particular: Les Mamelles de Tiresias, set in Zanzibar, an imaginary town in France. Taking into account the circumstances surrounding the opera’s 1917 premiere, when the war was at its worst, Hockney incorporated details such as gas masks, helmets, searchlights, and barbed wire, the latter of which is included in this drawing.³ Though the unfinished blue sky suggests a certain incompleteness, it is important to keep in mind that this is, after all, a preparatory drawing. And despite the war-time setting, Hockney still manages to bring his bold, graphic, and colorful style to the mise en scène. In the image above, which more fully depicts Hockney’s playful cubist-inspired world, we get a sense of how such drawings were crucial for his development of these operatic worlds.

–Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Images: Largescale painted environment with separate elements based on Hockney’s design for Les Mamelles de Tiresias, from the 1983-84 Walker Art Center exhibition Hockney Paints the Stage. Ideas for Zanzibar with Dancer from Parade Triple Bill, 1980, David Hockney, Crayon on paper, Framed: 28 x 33″, Paper size: 19 x 24″, Gift of Robert and Honey Dootson Collection, 2010.37.26, © David Hockney.
¹Jeremy Sams, “Poulenc, Francis,” in The Penguin Opera Guide, ed. Amanda Holden (London: Penguin Books, 1997), 282.
²John Russell, “David Hockney’s Designs for Met Opera’s ‘Parade’,” in The New York Times, February 20, 1981, 1.
³ Russell, 1.
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Muse/News: Storme’s cover, Mickalene’s inspirations, and Artemisia’s revenge

SAM News

Hot off the press! On the cover of the current edition of Real Change: Will Wilson’s tintype portrait of artist Storme Webber. Don’t miss Lisa Edge’s review of Double Exposure inside the paper.

“Displaying Curtis’ work alongside contemporary Native artists is part of a growing shift among art institutions, which are becoming more critical of themselves and inviting visitors to do the same. They are becoming more conscious of who is telling the narrative.”

And the exhibition and SAM are both referenced in this New York Times story by Ted Loos on changes at the Art Gallery of Ontario spearheaded by their curator of Indigenous art—and how they reflect changes happening at museums across the U.S. and Canada.

Also: Seattle Business Magazine interviewed SAM director and CEO Kim Rorschach for this feature story on how to collect art; SAM Gallery is also included as a resource for art buyers.

“Most galleries are happy to let you pay over time. And you may need to try out something at home before committing. Says Rorschach: ‘It’s just about having an honest and forthright conversation.’”

Local News

Brendan Kiley of the Seattle Times reports on the future of Pivot Art + Culture, which once presented works from Paul Allen’s private art collection; it will soon house a “putt-putt pub.”

City Arts has a great round-up of visual arts picks, including quilts of Gee’s Bend at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art and photography by and inspiring to Mickalene Thomas at the Henry Art Gallery.

John Stang of The Globalist on The Sea Mar Museum of Chicano/a Latino/a Culture, set to open early 2019 in south Seattle. It will be the “first major museum devoted to Latino history in Washington State.”

“’Latinos have made incredible contributions, not only to the economy, but to the citizens of Washington state,’ said Erasmo Gamboa, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Washington and one of the leaders of the museum project.”

Inter/National News

Those production values tho! Watch this “My Favorite Artwork” video by the New York Times Magazine in which artist Glenn Ligon discusses a self-portrait by Adrian Piper.

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone reports that the Association of Art Museum Directors has launched a paid internship program at museums across the U.S. in an effort to diversify museum staffs.

The Telegraph announces that the National Gallery has acquired a self-portrait by Renaissance artist Artemisia Gentileschi; it is only the 21st painting by a female artist in the gallery’s permanent collection of 2,300 works.

“One of a handful of women who was able to shatter the confines of her time, she overcame extreme personal difficulties to succeed in the art of painting. This picture will help us transform how we collect, exhibit and tell the story of women artists throughout history.”

And Finally

Seattle Met on the local champions of French fry artistry. (Ed. note: The ones at Presse are best.)

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Nina Dubinsky.
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Object of the Week: Model Totem Pole

The black stone used for this carving by Haida artist Charles Edensaw is argillite, a carbonaceous kaolinite shale. Truly unique, this sedimentary rock is found in only one place in the world: Haida Gwaii. Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, the archipelago in British Columbia is home to this very special material and the similarly distinct Haida artistic traditions that have arisen from it. More specifically, argillite comes from the Slatechuck Mountain. And while Haida peoples have accessed the Slatechuck quarry and produced such argillite carvings for centuries, it was not until 1941 that the quarry site (measuring approximately 18 hectares) was officially designated as land belonging to the Skidegate band, assuring that access would remain theirs in perpetuity.[1]

For those who might not identify as geologists, or even amateur geologists, the slate’s black color comes from its high levels of carbon. A kaolinite shale, it is composed of clay material that has been subjected to heat and pressure over geologic time, resulting in a highly uniform and workable rock.[2] For example, it ranks at two and a half on the Moh’s scale of mineral hardness (on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being diamond-hard).[3]

Measuring 19 inches tall, this model totem pole (qwa.a gyaa.angaa) was expertly carved out of one piece of argillite. Perhaps it goes without saying, but the larger the carving, the more difficult it is to do successfully, as natural imperfections in the shale grain can result in fine fractures. Further, argillite is sensitive to its environmental surroundings, and can absorb and desorb moisture quickly; it is essential that freshly quarried argillite is slowly and carefully dried, otherwise it is prone to cracking.

Currently on view in the third floor Native Art of the Americas galleries, this piece makes clear just how skilled and masterful Edensaw was as a Haida carver. The figures on the pole from top to bottom are: a bear holding five stacked cylinders—representing a ringed basketry hat—above an eagle’s head; two human heads on either side, also wearing ringed hats; a bear, holding its tongue; and another bear, holding a seal-like figure with a fish-like tail. Though quite a lot to fit into 19 inches, compositionally, each animal and human figure bears exquisite incising and detail.

Such model poles were primarily made for commercial sale as Haida contact with Americans and Europeans increased during the 1800s. In fact, around the time that this piece was made (circa 1885), argillite carving experienced a surge in output corresponding with an exploration of new forms. As traditional Haida ceremonial objects and practices were increasingly banned by the Canadian government, new forms of creative expression thus emerged.[4] Edensaw was an important figure during this period, whose personal style influenced many other Haida artists living in Skidegate and Masset. With a deeper understanding of argillite’s geological properties, rarity, and cultural significance, this carving by Edensaw is all the more impressive.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Model totem pole (qwa.a gyaa.angaa), ca. 1885, Haida, argillite, 19 x 3 x 2 3/4 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.129
[1] “Haida Argillite,” Simon Fraser University, Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, accessed July 11, 2018, https://www.sfu.ca/archaeology/museum/exhibits/virtual-exhibits/haida-argillite.html.
[2] “Care of Argillite,” Government of Canada, accessed July 10, 2018, https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/conservation-preservation-publications/canadian-conservation-institute-notes/care-argillite.html.
[3] Peter L. Macnair and Alan L. Hoover, The Magic Leaves: A History of Argillite Carving (Victoria, B.C.: British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1984), 17.
[4] Macnair and Hoover, 113.
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My Favorite Things: C. Davida Ingram on Sonny Assu’s Breakfast Series

“I think the value of Sonny Assu’s piece, Breakfast Series in SAM’s permanent collection, has a lot to do with righting the wrongs of history.” – C. Davida Ingram

Consider the value of contemporary Native art through the perspective of Seattle-based artist, curator, educator, and writer, C. Davida Ingram. Visit SAM’s Native Arts of the Americas galleries to contextualize Sonny Assu’s Native formline design elements in his representation of Tony the Tiger or the “12 essential lies and deceptions” in his box of Lucky Beads. How does your perspective on food and access to land change as you consider the serious history behind this seemingly lighthearted artwork?

Artwork: “Breakfast Series,” 2006, Sonny Assu (Gwa’gwa’da’ka), Kwakwaka’wakw, Laich-kwil-tach, Wei Wai Kai, born 1975, five boxes digitally printed with Fome-cor, 12 x 7 x 3 in. each, of 5, Gift of Rebecca and Alexander Stewart, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2006.93, © Sonny Assu.
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Muse/News: Trickstery art, tree stories, and unfinished histories

Just out in the latest edition of the Stranger: This glowing review of Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson by Rebecca Brown.

“But you should see what SAM has done with Double Exposure. The jolts between Curtis’s ‘noble’ (his word) Natives in traditional dress (their own or others’) standing near the lively, light-filled, trickstery art of Wilson, Rector, Nicolson is just exhilarating.”

Prepare to cry: Juan “Neeto” Old Chief Betancourt honored his great-grandmother Antone with an invite to prom, held recently at the Seattle Art Museum. The Seattle Times’ Lauren Frohne and Erika Schultz share the heartwarming story.

Brangien Davis of Crosscut profiles artist RYAN! Feddersen and all her exciting work on view around the region—including her “Post-Human Archive” installation created for the Double Exposure education gallery.

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley reviews Walla Walla artist Juventino Aranda’s “disarming, arresting” solo exhibition, now on view at the Frye Art Museum.

In their July issue, Seattle Magazine names @seattlewalkreport “the city’s best Instagram account.” The artist’s hand-drawn accounts offer “a charming composite portrait of the city in the midst of a sea change.”

“A cacophony of arboreal anecdotes:” Brangien Davis of Crosscut on artist Katherine Wimble’s crowd-sourced project “Forest for the Trees,” which tells stories through our county’s trees.

“’My hope is that people will read these stories, see trees differently and think about their own connections to trees,’ she says. ‘Their lives are intertwined with ours.’”

Inter/National News

Philanthropist and collector Agnes Gund’s Art for Justice Fund announced another round of grants totaling nearly $10 million, going to artists, writers, and policy makers who are working to advance criminal justice reform.

Cultured Magazine names “9 Curators You Need to Know in 2018,” including Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors curator Mika Yoshitake.

Teju Cole for the New York Times Magazine on photography, cultural appropriation, and “getting others right.” The work of Edward S. Curtis is discussed.

“It is not about taking something that belongs to someone else and making it serve you but rather about recognizing that history is brutal and unfinished and finding some way, within that recognition, to serve the dispossessed.”

And Finally

“In a democracy, we do not put children in cages.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson, Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman
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Object of the Week: Atifofoe Susuavor Adanudo

The beauty of this Ghanaian textile lies not only in its striking colors and bold patterning, but in its deeper message of unity. Made with strips of woven cloth crafted by over twenty Ewe weavers, this vibrant adanudo (which translates roughly as “skilled or wise cloth”) highlights the beauty that can be found in bringing together unique artistic voices and, ultimately, difference.

Kente cloth, which originated in the Asante region of Ghana, is today an iconic and widely-produced textile, but it is important to remember that it initially functioned in a royal and ceremonial context within the Asante kingdom. The Ewe, like their Asante neighbors, have a rich textile tradition, and one that relies on a style of horizontal loom-weaving similar to that of Kente cloth. However, unlike the Asante, the Ewe never united to form an autocratic government; this, among other things, resulted in a distinct brand of creative autonomy. Free from the strict designs that would otherwise be determined by a royal court, Ewe weavers—regardless of their region—have been able to explore their own personal style and visual language.

With its high-keyed color palate and dazzling contrasts between warp and weft (a hallmark of such Kente textiles), this adanudo—titled Atifofoe Susuavor Adanudo (A Cloth of Multiple Designs and Much Skill—Even Difference Can Be Unified)—is replete with intricate geometric patterning and inlaid motifs. The creativity and idiosyncrasies inherent in this piece are again a testament to the liberties Ewe artists can take, not to mention their skill. This piece in particular also has an especially interesting backstory: It was created in 2004 by a community of Ewe artists working together with Gilbert “Bobbo” Ahiagble, who was born into a family of master weavers of Ewe Kente cloth. Led by Ahiagble, twenty four artists created and contributed to this adanudo, chosen by Ahiagble for the Seattle Art Museum as an exemplar work from his community and workshop. Indeed, the piece is a feast for the eyes and an amazing display of craftsmanship on a community-wide level.

The syncopated patterning and visual rhythm of Atifofoe Susuavor Adanudo might be composed of seemingly disparate and irreconcilable elements, but, literally woven together, the piece illustrates the power of diversity and the strength to be gained by working together. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Atifofoe Susuavor Adanudo “A cloth of multiple designs and much skill – even difference can be unified”, 2004, Ghanaian, cotton, 106 x 85 1/4 in., African Art Purchase Fund, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2005.29 © Gilbert Bobbo Ahiagble
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Muse/News: A brilliant show, subversive sculpture, and the future of art

SAM News

Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson was highlighted by AFAR Magazine as one of “10 Brilliant U.S. Art Exhibitions Worth Traveling for This Summer.”

And our curator, Barbara Brotherton, was interviewed about the exhibition for a story in London-based Huck Magazine.

“’The work of these artists stands in sharp juxtaposition to the elegant Curtis photographs with their romanticized approach that casts Native people in the past,’ Brotherton concludes. ‘Native people did not vanish. They are resilient and deeply engaged in the issues of identity today.’”

Lots of love for SAM and the Olympic Sculpture Park: Both are recommended in the Stranger’s 2018 Visitor Guide on their list of “Best Places to See Art.” Condé Nast Traveler features SAM as one of their “Best Things to Do in Seattle” on their newly revived site, and Dwell Magazine kick off their list of “Top 8 Outdoor Sculpture Parks” with the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Local News

“’Painters Who [Expletive] Know How to Paint’ is not a shy title for an exhibition.” Darn right, Gayle Clemans. Here’s her Seattle Times review of the “vigorous” show now on view at Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA).

Crosscut’s Michael Upchurch reviews Castoffs, now on view at the Henry, calling Martha Friedman’s deconstructed sculptures of dancer Silas Riener’s body “mischievously subversive.”

The July edition of City Arts is out! It’s the Interview Issue; don’t miss the cover story featuring a conversation between Ijeoma Oluo and Emmett Montgomery.

“Freedom and progress look like something I can’t even envision yet. And I think art is very similar—the future of art doesn’t look like anything you see right now. That’s maybe the next five minutes of art.”

Inter/National News

I say, more Beyoncé videos. But seriously: Alina Cohen of Artsy takes a look at the challenges museums face in this article, “How Art Museums Can Remain Relevant in the 21st Century.”

Check out the University of North Carolina’s “Archivist in a Backpack” project that seeks to “make archive creation more accessible by offering resources that can easily launch community partners on memory projects.”

Remember when the Baltimore Museum of Art announced they’d sell big-name artworks to fund purchases of contemporary art by women and artists of color? Don’t you want to know what they bought??

“’You can’t stop now,’” Bedford says. ‘You have to acknowledge that you will never, at least in our lifetime, get to true equity within the museum. But I think there is virtue in continuing to push for it relentlessly.’”

And Finally

A doozy of a Long Read: Thomas Chatterton Williams on Adrian Piper for The New York Times Magazine.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson, 2018, installed at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Object of the Week: Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma

There is something peculiar about the way we attribute the clarity of some photographs to the world itself. I try to reinforce that paradox by making photographs that convince the viewer that those revelations, that order, that potential for meaning, are coming from the world and not the photograph.

– Frank Gohlke, 1979

Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma is a photograph by American photographer Frank Gohlke, taken in 1981. One of 10 artists included in the groundbreaking 1975 exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, Gohlke emerged as an important voice challenging then-prevailing trends in modern photography.[1] Working against romanticized depictions of nature, Gohlke and others in the exhibition produced photographs described by the curator, William Jenkins, as “eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion.”[2]

Though Jenkins felt otherwise, one could certainly argue that Gohlke’s Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma is in fact a beautiful and emotive image. Sure, it is far from the Platonic ideal of nature, but the photograph’s composition—with its nested and overlapping arcs, dramatic shadows, and abstract patterning—contains within it a certain beauty. It might not be Ansel Adams’s Half Dome, but it is a photograph that elevates otherwise banal and unattractive subject matter, poetically calling attention to man’s impact on the natural world.

Importantly, Gohlke and his New Topographics cohort reinforced the notion of landscape as a manmade concept. It is a word and idea predicated on a human subject who turns the land into an object and, artistically, into an image. The very definition of the word hinges on an aestheticized understanding of nature. In Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gohlke deftly mobilizes photography to highlight the extent to which the landscape is indeed a manmade image, as well as an object—or resource—to be taken and transformed.

The “new” American topography on offer in 1975’s New Topographics was no longer unspoiled or pristine wilderness, but a country comprised of suburban sprawl, connecting interstates, and parking lots. Whether or not we find that beautiful is up to us to decide. Luckily, this work and others from SAM’s permanent collection are on view in the upcoming New Topographics exhibition on view in the third floor Modern and Contemporary Galleries.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1981, Frank Gohlke, gelatin silver photograph, 6 1/8 x 16 in., Pacific Northwest Bell, the Photography Council, the Polaroid Foundation, Mark Abrahamson, and the National Endowment for the Arts, 83.69.5 © Frank Gohlke
[1] The other artists featured in the exhibition were Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, Henry Wessel, Jr., and Bernd and Hilla Becher.
[2] William Jenkins, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape (Rochester, New York: International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, 1975), n.p.
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Get Worldly with The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project

Catch The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project playing a free concert outdoors as the first musical act in our World Music Series. Throughout the summer months SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas presents four free concerts in the Volunteer Park Amphitheater that bring music from all over the world to Seattle. Find out more about the female-focused music group and mark your calendars for their performance, July 13!

The sounds of steel pan music enliven a summer evening outdoors! Originally from Trinidad, the steel pan is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the descendants of slaves brought to the Caribbean from Africa who created this instrument from oil drums and other discarded metal containers. Steel pan can now be found all over the world and captivates the hearts of all those lucky enough to get a chance to play it.

Michael Shantz and I formed The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project (SWSPP) in 2013 as a collaboration. The project started as a weekly beginner steel pan class and within the first year students performed at the Women Who Rock UnConference in Seattle’s Washington Hall. Since then, over 100 women have taken classes and, of that, at least 20 have played in the performance group.

The performance group consists of women with an array of musical backgrounds. Some pan players such as Ceda Clemmons and Miho Takekawa have been playing steel pan for over 20 years, while many others had never played with a musical ensemble before joining SWSPP. The beauty of steel pan is that it’s a highly accessible instrument, you can come into class having had no prior experience playing an instrument and leave being able to play a song as an ensemble 4-6 weeks later, which is the typical duration of the beginner class series. The mission of SWSPP is to give women and girls the opportunity to experience the energy and joy that playing music gives us. The music scene tends to be heavily dominated by male musicians—a boys club of sorts. This project gives women an opportunity to enter the arena of musical performance in a fun and accessible way.

Tashie LeMaitre says of her experience as a group member, “Being a part of this project has been like joining another family. I’ve learned so much since I started playing with The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project and have seen so many new places that I might never have gotten the chance to see. I’ve always loved pan, but have since fallen in love with it even more. I look forward to what the future holds for us.”

SWSPP frequently collaborates with other seasoned musicians in Seattle, both female and male, for larger shows and productions. Ann Reynolds, Marina Albero, Obe Quarless, Makala Romero, Otieno Terry, Adriana Giordano, Teo Shantz  and Kate Olson are just a few of the local musicians with whom the group has partnered. You can catch the group performing on stages all throughout King County!

– Oriana Estrada, Administrative Director, Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project

Photo: Courtesy of The Women’s steel Pan Project.
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