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Object of the Week: Kylix

A kylix is a type of ancient Greek drinking vessel, designed to hold wine for members of a symposium, or an after-dinner drinking party. Seated on cushion-covered couches along the walls of the host’s dining room, these party-goers would recline on their left elbow while drinking with their right hand. Because of their recumbent positions, kylikes were the perfect vessel to drink from. Relatively shallow, and with a handle on either side of the cup, men, and sometimes their consorts could drink without spilling while reclining with ease.

The outside of this particular kylix is decorated with a symposium scene, depicting various red figures. Each man holds a skyphos – another type of wine-drinking vessel – while dancing with an upraised hand. The inside, or tondo, of the kylix introduces yet another scene, and would have been revealed as the attendee finished his wine. The scene depicts two youths reclining on a couch while flinging the contents of a kylix with their right hand. While this may appear like a rowdy moment brought on by an excess of wine, the two men are instead playing kottabos. A fairly challenging drinking game, kottabos was a common feature of the after-dinner festivities, and the kylix was the equipment of choice. Partiers would loop their right index finger through the handle, aim, and fling the dregs of their wine at the target, which was usually a bowl balanced on a stand or floating in water. Playing required agility and good aim, and missing could result in dosing your fellow guests with wine! Perhaps the reward of cakes or sweetmeats made the mess worthwhile.

Hayley Makinster, SAM Curatorial Intern

Images: Red-figure Kylix (cup) with Symposion Scene, active ca. BC 700 – 480
Painter of the Paris Gigantomachia, ceramic, 5 1/8 x 16 1/8 in., Gift of the Norman and Amelia Davis Classical Collection, 59.30
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SAM Connects Free Days to Flesh & Blood

Experience the fierce beauty of High Renaissance and Baroque art at the free Community Opening for Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum on October 17. From 5–9 pm, watch these artworks come alive as Palace Theatre & Art Bar takes the stage for a series of eclectic performances reflecting the darkness, drama, and human emotion of Flesh and Blood. Make a masterpiece of your own as you draw from live models during an art activity led by artist Barry Johnson. Seattle Opera singer will be in the galleries expressing love, devotion, and tragic suffering with pop-up performances. Living representations of the artworks will be embodied by dancers Mikhail Calliste and Michele Dooley. Flesh and Blood presents, as they say in Italy, il meglio del meglio—the best of the best.

Make sure to RSVP, but if you can’t make it to the opening, don’t worry! There are many other ways for you to visit SAM for free or at a discount during Flesh and Blood!

  • Free community passes may be available for community organizations or colleges and universities.
  • Many of our programs include free admission to our special exhibitions on the day of the event. Keep an eye on exhibition-related events.
  • First Thursdays mean discounts to Flesh and Blood!
    Adult: $9.99
    Seniors 65+, Military (w/ID): $7.99
    Students (w/ID): $4.99
    Ages 19 & younger: Free
  • First Friday: Admission to Flesh and Blood is $7.99 for anyone 65 years and older.
  • As part of Museums for All, SAM offers free admission to low-income families and individuals receiving SNAP benefits when you show your EBT card.
  • King County and Seattle Public Libraries offer free passes to special exhibitions.
  • City of Seattle’s Gold and FLASH card program. If you have a Gold or FLASH card, your caretaker gets free admission.
  • Teen Tix pass program makes it possible for teens to visit for just $5!
  • Bank of America’s Museums on Us: On the first full weekend of every month, Bank of America cardholders receive free admission at SAM.
  • 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 the sticker on their student ID

SAM is for everyone and we’re here to make sure anyone can see the art they love! Don’t forget, entry to SAM’s permanent collections is always suggested admission! You can experience our global collection year-round and pay what you want.

Images: The Ecstasy of Saint Cecilia, 1645, Bernardo Cavallino, Italian, 1616–1656, oil on canvas, 24 × 18 7/8 in., Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte. The Virgin of the Souls with Saints Clare and Francis, 1622–23, Battistello Caracciolo, Italian, 1578–1635, oil on canvas, 114 3/16 × 80 11/16 in., Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte.
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Object of the Week: Daedalus/Upliftment

In Daedalus/Upliftment, a young Black man struggles to take flight. His gaze is fixed on the ground instead of the sky, with eyes downcast and obscured by gold sunglasses. One hand is outstretched to conceal himself. The other grasps a plume of pheasant feathers, with a rope tied around his wrist. A wreath of ostrich feathers adorns his neck, draping his chest and blending into bright white pants. The feathers symbolize the deities Yoruba Orisas Obatala of wisdom, and Osun of love.

This full-body portrait portrays someone steady, yet vulnerable, someone who embodies the emotional juxtapositions of freedom and captivity, hope and doubt. The dazzling high-tops—inlaid with gold leaf and spray paint detail, dripping to the edges of the canvas—paired with grayscale triangle-patterned socks are captivating. Although a symbol of value, the gold sneakers carry much weight: a strain against the aspirations and ability to rise.

Daedalus/Upliftment is from Dr. Fahamu Pecou’s 2015 series, I Know Why The Caged Bird Blings, the series title inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” A visual/performing artist and scholar, Pecou concentrates on Black masculinity in his work. Pecou probes today’s media representations, expectations, and images of Black men removed from Black agency—including stereotypes of violence—and their emotional toll on readings and performances of Black masculinity. In 2017, Pecou was the subject of a retrospective exhibition “Miroirs de l’Homme” (Mirrors of the Man) in Paris, France and a recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation “Painters and Sculptors” Award.[1]

Pecou continues to lead speaking engagements across the nation, and gave a TED Talk in Atlanta, Georgia, “An artist’s counterpoint to black masculinity and identity stereotypes,” sharing his own testimonies as a Black man in America.

Daedalus/Upliftment alludes to the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus built wings of feathers and wax for himself and his son, Icarus, to escape their prison. Despite Daedalus’ warning, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax on the wings, falling and drowning in the ocean. Pecou reinterprets this classic tragedy and questions the actions of Daedalus as Icarus’ father. Daedalus/Uplifting provokes a meditation on paternalism and masculinity, with “the breakdown of intergenerational communication and the emotional complexities within the Black male experience that trouble the desire and ability to take flight.”[2]

In the far-right corner of the stark white background, Pecou leaves us a surrealist poem:

Uplift meant

Uplift men

up… lift men

UP! lift men…

Up.

– Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

Image: Daedalus/Upliftment, 2016, Fahamu Pecou, acrylic, gold leaf and spray paint on canvas, 84 × 48 in., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2016.20 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
[1] “The Official Website of Visual/Performing Artist and Scholar Dr. Fahamu Pecou.” https://www.fahamupecouart.com/
[2] Fahamu Pecou: https://www.instagram.com/p/BItROlBDUIg/?hl=en
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Muse/News: Wrapping up, bobbling macarons, and going to camp

SAM News

That’s a wrap on Jeffrey: Gibson: Like a Hammer. As a farewell, here’s Emily Zimmerman interviewing the artist for BOMB Magazine.

“I needed to let go of whether I was an artist or not, and I needed to pursue the things that I want to see existing in the world that don’t exist. What are the things that would leverage this world that didn’t meet my expectations?”

Celebrated Brazilian artist Regina Silveira has debuted a new site-specific installation at the Olympic Sculpture Park’s PACCAR Pavilion called Octopus Wrap. A glimpse of the installation process was captured by the Seattle Times’ Alan Berner. Seattle Met and Crosscut also previewed the installation, which features a series of tire tracks wrapping around the walls, windows, and floor of the building, looking like the arms of an octopus.

“The startling change to the familiar park building embodies elements of play, but also reminds us of the luxury of presuming our surroundings will always stay the same.”

And Smithsonian Magazine featured the sculpture park on their round-up of the “world’s most spectacular sculpture parks.”

Local News

Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture announced that Christopher Paul Jordan has been selected to create the centerpiece artwork for the planned AIDS Memorial Pathway project on Capitol Hill.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores and South Seattle Emerald’s Jessie McKenna both wrote up Alexis Taylor’s Black Among Other Things, an installation at AURA in the Central District about her experiences as a Black woman.

The art of food: Chef Brady Williams won Best Chef in the Northwest at James Beard Awards; the Seattle Times’ Bethany Jean Clement recently picked up a shift at Canlis to learn about their legendary service.

“By the top of the stairs, the macaron begins to bobble; on the penultimate step, it leaps to its death, in its final act somehow managing to shatter on the soft carpeting. A man seated at one of Canlis’ well-spaced, snowy-white-linened tables regards me with a mixture of pity and horror.”

Inter/National News

But is it CAMP? The Met’s latest exhibition—and attendant over-the-top Gala—has everyone reaching for their undergrad copy of Sontag. Here are some thoughts.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) announced this week that Mia Locks will be their new senior curator and head of initiatives; interestingly, they don’t have plans to hire a chief curator to replace Helen Molesworth.

Nadja Sayej for the Guardian on Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, now on view in New York, which traces her work as a “trailblazer of African American arts.”

“She said her legacy is in the work of her students,” notes Ikemoto. “Even when they didn’t have money to buy their own art supplies, she let them use hers. She often said, ‘I know much I was put down and denied, so if I can teach these kids anything, I’m going to teach it to them.’”

And Finally

Can we please do something now?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of “Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap”, 2019, Seattle Art Museum site-specific installation, photo: Mark Woods.



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Object of the Week: Mola

Ancient Andean cultures used complex recording devices known as quipu, fashioned from tally cords, which allowed for the communication and recording of information essential to daily life. The quipu were essential tools for many Andean communities: they were a medium that enabled reading, writing, and, importantly, remembering. Such Indigenous practices nearly disappeared due to colonial suppression. Not unlike the quipu, the Cuna mola—or blouse—produced in the San Blas Islands represents the resilience of a community in the face of colonization.

The Cuna Indians are an Indigenous people who live along the Atlantic coast of Panama and Colombia. In the 16th century they were driven by the Spanish from their original home in Colombia, and moved west toward the coast. Mola, as we know them today, evolved from elaborate body painting. In the mid-18th century, when European settlers introduced cloth to the region, women began to wear simple blouses, painting them with natural dyes in the same manner they had previously decorated their bodies.

To make these elaborate blouses, an artist—importantly a woman—begins with multiple pieces of different colored cloth, and bastes one on top of the other. After cutting multiple designs, the maker then hems the edges with fine stitches. From there additional elements are added, such as embroidery, positive appliqué, or incisions that reveal the layers of cloth below. This reverse appliqué technique is an intricate and time-intensive process that has been mastered and handed down from generation to generation.

The history of the mola is inextricable from the history of colonialism in Latin America. It evolved in spite of European contact and continues to be shaped by contact with non-Native people today. For example, traditional Cuna designs—on both the body, originally, and the blouses—include abstracted linear patterns, stylized flora and fauna, and figures from Cuna mythology. When interactions with outsiders increased due to the construction of the Panama Canal, motifs such as trademarks, slogans, and American products appeared. Further, in the first decades of the 20th century, the Panamanian government tried to ban many Cuna customs, including their language and traditional dress. A resistance was mounted, and in 1925 the Dule Revolution resulted in the autonomy of the Cuna people, granting them the right to govern their own territory and culture autonomously. The mola can thus be seen as a vibrant textile tradition that represents the strength and resilience of the Cuna people.

Elisabeth Smith, Collection & Provenance Associate


Images: Mola, 1950s-60s, Cuna, Panamanian, cotton cloth and cotton thread, 21 × 25 in., Gift of an anonymous donor, 2018.26.10 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. Mola, 1950s-60s, Cuna, Panamanian, cotton cloth and cotton thread, 22 1/2 × 25 in., Gift of an anonymous donor, 2018.26.6 © Artist or Artist’s Estate.

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Muse/News: Riots of color, purple rain in Seattle, and controversy at the Whitney

SAM News

Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer is one of Seattle Magazine’s “22 Best Things To Do in Seattle in April 2019.”

“…a riot of color and texture that playfully draws the viewer into a world—the experience of another human being.”

And SAM installation YOU ARE ON INDIGENOUS LAND: places/displaces is one of the “Top Things to Do in Seattle” for the month, according to Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne.

Read Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel’s conversation with Azura Tyabji, Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate, about the places in the city that inspire her, including the he(art)-warming revelation that she’s been a regular at the museum “since ‘falling in love’ with visual art during the Kehinde Wiley exhibit in spring 2016.”

March 29 saw another edition of the SAM’s recurring Remix event. In case you missed it: The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig previewed her “My Favorite Things” tour. You won’t want to miss the next edition, held on August 23 at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Local News

Seattle artists resist call to work in new youth jail: Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores reports on how 4 Culture staff and some local artists are conflicted about the requirement that 1% of funds for the construction of the new jail go to public art projects. 

Purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka: KING5 News covers Prince from Minneapolis, now on view at MoPOP.

The Everett Daily Herald features an exhibition of paintings by former SAM docent, Phyllis Thornton, now on view at the Mountlake Terrace Library.

“Don’t all artists take liberty with colors?” Thornton said. “That’s why you’re an artist. You want to do what you want, and do it the way you want to do it.”

Inter/National News

The Do Huh Suh exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, featuring Instagram-friendly Hub installations of “colorful, life-sized recreations of the artist’s past homes in delicate fabric,” tops the Art Newspaper’s “Art’s Most Popular Survey” for 2018, with over 1 million visitors.

The Art Newspaper reports on cause of Rio de Janeiro’s tragic National Museum fire.

“The stakes of the demand to remove Kanders are high and extend far beyond the art world,” the letter reads, in part. “Alongside universities, cultural institutions like the Whitney are among the few spaces in public life today that claim to be devoted to ideals of education, creativity, and dissent beyond the dictates of the market.”

And Finally

Muse/News has missed you! Apologies for missing the last two Mondays, but we were busy on vacation in France.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view, Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer, Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman
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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: Party people, Black pioneers, and surrealist snacks

SAM News

Last Friday, SAM presented another edition Remix, its creative late-night out featuring music, tours, and art-making. And as per usual, the beautiful people of Seattle showed up and showed out: Check out these colorful photo slideshows from Seattle Refined and Queerspace Magazine. See you at the next edition of Remix in March!

Local News

Andrew Hamlin for Northwest Asian Weekly on the Wing Luke’s new show, Worlds Beyond Here: The Expanding Universe of Science Fiction; Tamiko Thiel, whose augmented reality experience appeared at the Olympic Sculpture Park in 2016, is included in this group show.

The Seattle Times launches Art Outings, in which their critics find places where art and snack & drinks are brought together. First up: The Frye Museum’s just-launched Third Thursday Happy Hours.

Real Change’s cover story this week: Lisa Edge’s review of Tacoma’s Washington State Historical Museum show featuring rarely shown works on paper by Jacob Lawrence about Tumwater founder George Bush.

“Lawrence depicting Bush’s migration is a convergence of two important pioneers. Bush, in the literal sense as he moved out west a century before The Great Migration, and Lawrence because of the barriers he broke within the art world. The series is an opportunity to learn more about two people who thrived in spite of entrenched barriers.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Sheila Regan reviews Art for a New Understanding, the new survey at the Crystal Bridges Museum, calling it “a serious attempt to redefine what contemporary Indigenous art means today.”

Brigit Katz for Hyperallergic on Color Problems, a “widely overlooked, yet staggering” book on color theory by Emily Noyes Vanderpoel first published in 1901—it’s now getting a careful reprinting.

Carl Zimmer of the New York Times reports on the extraordinary discovery in Borneo of what scientists are calling “the oldest figurative art in the world”—it’s 40,000 years old!

“The early images and figures might have illustrated stories contained vital information for how to survive in hard times, Dr. Conard said. Or perhaps the drawings helped joined people as a group, encouraging them to cooperate—‘a kind of glue to hold these social units together,’ he said.”

And Finally

Snacks – with a Surrealist manifesto.

Photo: Jen Au
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Object of the Week: Ruth Asawa Family and Sculpture

Though this 1957 photograph is by Imogen Cunningham, its subject is Bay Area artist Ruth Asawa (1926–2013). For decades Asawa has been little known beyond the West Coast, and is all too belatedly finding herself rewritten into the history of American art. Rather than concentrate on photographer Cunningham, this post focuses on Asawa, her diaphanous wire sculptures, and her complex identity as a Japanese-American woman artist.

Cunningham’s photograph is a quiet yet evocative image: Asawa sits with her face occluded by the semi-transparent curvature of one of her hanging wire sculptures. She’s surrounded by her four children, ranging from toddler to six years old. Each, including Asawa, is engaged in and absorbed by his or her own activity: reading, playing, observing, drinking, and making. The iconic photograph has often been read in gendered terms, focusing on Asawa’s demonstrated domesticity, femininity, and passivity. Like too many women artists, Asawa has been positioned primarily as a wife and mother—identities that override her identity as an artist, which can and should include these other identities. As curator Helen Molesworth discusses in her recent paper delivered last month at the Smithsonian, “Ruth Asawa: ‘San Francisco Housewife and Mother’,” this image has additional import, positioning art making as a social activity, and Asawa, therefore, as a citizen above all else.

As a child, Asawa would draw and make art while in a World War II internment camp with her Japanese parents. She was not an outside or self-taught artist though, for she attended Black Mountain College and studied for three years and two summers (1946–49) with Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, and Buckminster Fuller, among others. For Asawa, “Black Mountain gave you the right to do anything you wanted to do. And then you put a label on it afterwards. I think that’s the nice thing about what Black Mountain did for its students. It was like they gave you permission to do anything you wanted to do. And then if it didn’t fit they’d make a category for you. But I think Black Mountain helped make something with weaving and with printmaking, and it gave people the freedom to make something of each category.”¹

Black Mountain was a transformative place and time for Asawa, creatively as well as socially: incorporated into Black Mountain’s utopian environment was an attitude that expanded what art can do for society. Therefore, to be an artist is to be a citizen—engaging actively in the world and making choices alongside others.² Though Cunningham’s photograph captures Asawa in her home, surrounded by her four (of six) children, central to the visual narrative is her artwork, which is inextricable from her role as an artist, wife, mother, and citizen.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Ruth Asawa Family and Sculpture, 1957, Imogen Cunningham, Gelatin silver print, 10 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (26.4 x 26.4 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 89.43
¹Ruth Asawa, “Oral history interview with Ruth Asawa and Albert Lanier, 2002 June 21-July 5,” interview by Mark Johnson and Paul Karlstrom, Archives of American Art, https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-ruth-asawa-and-albert-lanier-12222#transcript.
²Helen Molesworth, “Ruth Asawa: ‘San Francisco Housewife and Mother’,” filmed September 12, 2018 at Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., video, 1:07:05, https://americanart.si.edu/videos/clarice-smith-distinguished-lecture-series-scholar-helen-molesworth-154476.
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