Poster for "Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect"

Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

SAM News

“See Wyeth whole and re-evaluate his stature as an artist,” says Michael Upchurch in his exhibition preview featuring an interview with curator Patricia Junker that appeared in Sunday’s print edition of the Seattle Times. Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect opens this Thursday.

“Because reproductions of his work circulated far more widely than the paintings themselves, Junker says, few people in recent years have had a chance to take true measure of his achievement. Younger people she talks to know his name, but don’t know the art. The SAM show promises to change that.”

Welcome the return of layers with SAM’s video featuring Haida artist/fashion designer Dorothy Grant talking about her exquisite Raven Great Coat, now on view on the third floor.

Local News

City Arts’ Margo Vansynghel on Pantry by Joey Veltkamp and Ben Gannon, which ran for one night only as the final show of Calypte Gallery.

“The jam became a personal metaphor for loss, and the act of making jam a means of preserving something inevitably slipping through their fingers—‘canning the memory of something that was,’ as Gannon says.”

Seattle Times’ Gayle Clemans invites you to get “[UN]contained” at CoCA’s new artist residency site held in three shipping containers; the first three artists were Anastacia Renee Tolbert, Anissa Amalia, and Edward Raub.

Darren Davis of Seattle Met interviews the inimitable Waxie Moon on the eve of his (non-singing) opera debut in The Barber of Seville at Seattle Opera.

Inter/National News

Behold, 24 newly minted geniuses. OK, they prefer to say “MacArthur Fellows.” Amongst the ranks are painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby, photographer Dawoud Bey, and two authors soon visiting Seattle.

Yes, wire hangings! The innovative wire sculptures of mid-century artist Ruth Asawa are now on view at David Zwirner. Artnet asks: why did this re-appraisal of her work take so long?

Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald will paint the official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery. They are the first black artists commissioned to paint a presidential couple.

And Finally

I think we can all agree that GIFs are an important and moving art form. Now, there’s an instant camera that creates GIFs you can hold in your hand.

– Rachel Eggers, Public Relations Manager

Photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Breakfast Series by Sonny Assu

Object of the Week: Breakfast Series

On Monday, October 9, we celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the contribution of these communities to global economy, governance, and culture. It is also a day to expose the ongoing suffering of indigenous peoples world-wide as a result of more than 200 years of colonization. In this work of art by  Sonny Assu, called Breakfast Series,  we are initially confronted by the familiar colorful cereal boxes of our youth, luring us with their smiling animal mascots promoting sugar-laden cereals. Upon closer inspection, we see that Assu has turned the pop art inspired graphics on the five boxes into commentaries about highly charged issues for First Nations people—such as the environment, land claims, and treaty rights. Tony the Tiger is composed of Native formline design elements, the box of Lucky Beads includes a free plot of land in every box, and contains “12 essential lies and deceptions.” The light-hearted presentation, upon further investigation, exposes serious social issues.

The cereal boxes and their contents become a metaphor for the unhealthy government commodity food forced upon Natives and First Nations, and that took the place of the healthy diet of fish, seafood, venison, berries, and wild greens that indigenous people thrived upon for thousands of years. Food sovereignty—the right of access and control over native foods and community health—has become an increasingly significant issue as indigenous people struggle at disproportionate rates with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

– Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art

Image: Photo: Ben Benschneider. 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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Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Adera Gandy

Meet this month’s Visitor Services Officer (VSO), Adera (uh-dare-uh) Gandy, an actress, performance artist, and muse raised in the small waterfront suburb of Des Moines, Washington. After high school, Adera moved to Washington DC to study acting at Howard University. After two years of higher education, she chose to leave school to explore the city while working a receptionist job and paying for acting classes at The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory. She moved back to Seattle in 2014 to be close to her family and the refreshing landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Prior to working as a VSO at SAM, Adera worked in admissions at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop), formerly known as the Experience Music Project (EMP).

SAM: What are your thoughts on Troy Gua on view at TASTE Café in SAM?

Adera Gandy: Troy Gua’s work is stunning. At first glance I’m sure my pupils dilated. I love how rich the pigments are and the silky texture. The pieces on display are hard NOT to look at. I especially like Mana 2  for the shades of blue and the gradient effect. Every time I’m in TASTE Café, I walk up to that piece and get as close as I can respectfully. It’s nice to have digital print work in the museum for a change and I hope visitors and staff take the time to check it out.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?

Currently, my favorite piece on display is Holy Family with St John the Baptist and Saint Catherine by Antonio Guardi. It’s breathtaking. This painting glows and I love the jewel tones. The image is so soft and pillowy and gold and silver all at once. It seems to be shrouded in mystery, yet so inviting. I often wonder if a secret is being shared and what the figures sound like. It’s just so beautiful.

Who is your favorite artist?

Beyoncé, definitely.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?

Lose the judgement and open your mind. It’s so easy, as the viewer, to look at a piece of art as if it has to prove something to you. We actually do this with people too. This is something I try to practice while viewing myself: Let the piece be what it is. The artist behind whatever work you’re looking at is human, just like you. Their own thoughts, feelings, memories, experiences, traumas, doubts, dreams, passions, prejudices, fantasies, fears, and wishes went into their creation. Relieve yourself of the burden of “understanding” artworks and simply allow them to live. Resist the temptation to judge what a complete stranger has made as “good” or “bad.” And if you find yourself slipping, challenge your own thoughts and feelings; be honest with yourself about what part of your life’s story has led to feeling angered, aroused, or at peace while viewing a particular painting or sculpture. You might discover something within yourself and develop a more meaningful relationship with the work and the artist behind it.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?

When I’m not working at SAM, I’m traveling, journaling, reading, auditioning, plotting my next Instagram performance art piece, and working on collaborations with other Seattle artists. I am looking to get into art modeling as well. Right now, I’m developing a website and blog with a friend of mine who lives in LA called Sacred Souls, which is intended to promote practices meant to spread love, cultivate compassion, and heal the collective mind and spirit. I’m really excited for it! I’m also nurturing honeydo, the theatre/movement performance duo I’ve formed with one of my best friends and collaborators, Lindsay Zae Summers. We are debuting at Kitchen Sessions at the Bellevue Art Museum the evening of Friday, November 10.

– Emily Jones, SAM Visitor Services Officer

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Installation view of European art galleries at Seattle Art Museum, 2017, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

SAM News

Like the suddenly falling leaves, fall arts happenings are swirling all around. The Stranger offered their “complete guide” to the best of October—including SAM picks like Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, the Jean-Pierre Melville film series, and the (sold out!) Diwali Ball.

Noted architect Tom Kundig leads a tour of the best Seattle architecture in this CNN Travel video; the Olympic Sculpture Park is one of his picks.

We enjoyed this Architects Newspaper salute to Denise Scott Brown on her 85th birthday; in which they share notable stories of her general awesomeness. Scott Brown—along with her partner, Robert Venturi—designed the original Seattle Art Museum that opened in 1991.

“There’s a million ways to be a woman. There’s a million ways to be a mother. And there’s a million ways to be an architect.” –Denise Scott Brown.

Local News

Watch this lovely KCTS tribute to ceramicist Akio Takamori, featuring interviews with his former UW colleagues and students, including Patti Warashina and Jamie Walker. His Blue Princess (2009) is currently on view at SAM.

“The boundary between the figurative and the abstract is erased in curious ways,” says the Seattle Times’ Michael Upchurch in this glowing review of the Frye Museum’s two new photography shows.

Farewell to Jon Rowley, the “fish missionary” whose art form was teaching us to appreciate perfect things like Copper River salmon and Olympic oysters.

Inter/National News

Author Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. You really need to read Tacoma bookseller/Ishiguro Superfan Kenny Coble’s tweetstorm when he heard the news.

The Art Newspaper takes you inside two new recently opened museums: the Zeitz Mocaa in Cape Town and the Yves Saint Laurent museum in Paris.

What’s the most iconic artwork of the 21st century? Artnet asked experts to weigh in. Mentioned: Mickalene Thomas’s Le Déjeuner sur L’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires, coming to SAM’s walls in February as part of Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas.

And Finally

We can now listen to ripples in space-time. (Really!)

– Rachel Eggers, Public Relations Manager

Image: Installation view of European art galleries at Seattle Art Museum, 2017, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III

Object of the Week: Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III

It’s early October and the sun is still shining in Seattle. These early fall days in the Northwest always feel like something special: a lull between the over-scheduled blaze of the summer and the damp grayness of winter, when Seattleites can still take advantage of the great outdoors. And what better way to do so than with a stroll through the Olympic Sculpture Park, visiting some old favorites—or maybe some sculptures you may have missed among the summer crowds.

Tucked away at the top of the park’s signature Z-path is George Rickey’s Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III (1973). A deceptively simple composition, the sculpture consists of two stainless steel square elements, mounted slightly offset from each other on a tall pole. The surfaces of the squares are burnished in a gestural, almost painterly pattern, perhaps belying Rickey’s early background as a painter. Overall, its simplified geometric forms, lines, and planes are reminiscent of a history of constructivism—an early 20th century avant-garde movement on which Rickey published a book in 1967—and the aesthetics of the New York minimalist artists who were his contemporaries. What really distinguishes Rickey’s work, though, is not its form or material, but a different element altogether: movement.

Rickey was one of the pioneers who brought movement to abstract sculpture. Referring to them as “useless machines,” his kinetic works are meticulously engineered so that their components shift, rotate, or spin with even the slightest breeze. In the case of Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III, the seemingly simple squares are in fact compound pendulums, spinning around a central point (the heart of the plane) in parallel paths. They respond directly to the effects of nature, from the most dramatic windstorm to the lightest gust of air.

It is fitting that Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III is located so near Alexander Calder’s iconic Eagle, as Calder’s kinetic sculptures were a major influence on Rickey’s own “useless machines.” But where Calder’s work exudes a playful, organic, biomorphic quality, Rickey’s is rooted in geometric exactitude, an interest in the poetry of a precisely engineered object. He recalls the development of these ideas when he began making kinetic works in 1949:

I committed myself to a completely new technology, a new esthetic, new criteria, a new kind of response from others and a new antiphony between myself and the new object I held in my hand. I had to wonder whether Calder had said it all; when I found he had not, I had to choose among the many doors I then found open. I had to learn to be a mechanic and to recall the physics I had learned at 16. . . . I had embarked on a long-term project—to make an art in which every object had to be preconceived and had to be able to go through its motions completely and satisfactorily, or I had made nothing at all.1

The sculpture is only truly activated when this order with which it was designed—based in an acute understanding of mathematics, engineering, and physics—comes into contact with the disorder of nature. Rickey intended this interaction—he meant for his kinetic sculptures to be installed outdoors, bearing all of the elements—and it is in this interplay between science and nature where the work is its most lyrical. So the next time you’re taking advantage of a sunny fall day in the sculpture park, I invite you to stay awhile and watch the sculpture at work—spinning precisely and gracefully as it heralds every change in the weather.

– Carrie Dedon, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

1 George Rickey, interviewed by John Gruen, in “The Sculpture of George Rickey: Silent Movement, Performing in A World of Its Own,” ArtNews, April 1980, p. 94.
Image: Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III, 1973, George Rickey, stainless steel, 97 x 68 x 68 in., Gift of Martin Z. Margulies, 2007.263, Art © Estate of George Rickey/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
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Art Champ: Lawrence Cenotto

Lawrence Cenotto, SAM’s multi-talented Events and Group Sales Manager, was selected the crowd favorite in the SAM Staff Art Show that hung in the South Hall Community Gallery, August 30 to September 24. A SAM employee since 2012, Cenotto has been making art for much longer than that. He often feels as if he was born in the wrong era and wishes he could have been a court painter for some king or queen hundreds of years ago (and he would like to point out that if any royalty or rich benefactors are reading this that he is available).

A Washington native, Cenotto grew up in Lakewood (which he reminds us is where COPS was filmed) and went to Gonzaga in Spokane (the other place in the state where COPS was filmed, Cenotto points out). His two passions have long been art and sports, though eventually the art became his focus. He recently combined the two when he got to be on a private, after-hours tour of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors with Russell Wilson and Ciara and take a picture of them in the Obliteration Room, a highlight of his five-and-a-half years here at SAM. This gets us to today, where we’ll be talking with Cenotto about his creative drive and his winning painting, Santa Maria della Salute.

SAM: When did you start painting? 

Lawrence Cenotto: My first memory of making art is drawing animals I found in books at my grandparent’s house or drawing football players on Monday Night Football while watching with my grandpa when I was about five or six years old. I’m sure there was some tempera or finger painting in there somewhere, but I didn’t really start painting until high school when I started making watercolors of The Beatles and landscapes from photos I found in the stacks of National Geographic magazines we had in the art lab.

Did you study art at Gonzaga?

I started as an art major there, yes, but an early morning class my first semester staring at slides of pre-historic art made me feel like I was sitting in Ben Stein’s class in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off so I switched to a business major while keeping art as a minor so I could still take the studio classes.

I see a lot of paintings of Venice on your website, did something about that specific location inspire you? Did the Seeing Nature exhibition strike a chord with you?

Venice is my favorite city, along with Paris. I‘ve always been a big fan of architecture. The uniqueness of the city, mixed with my northern Italian bloodline, made me fall in love with the city. I’ve always liked building things and my brain  is wired very much like an engineer, but my heart draws me to the art side of things. Had I gone to a different school I probably would have gone into architecture but Gonzaga did not have an architecture program. I respect the art form from a design perspective and all the planning that goes into it (I am very meticulous) and maybe painting buildings is my way of getting that out of my system like I’m George Costanza pretending to be an architect. Seeing Nature was definitely one of my favorite exhibitions that SAM has had (probably right behind Intimate Impressionism) because it incorporated a lot of paintings of Venice with my favorite art movement, Impressionism.

Can you tell me more about the two versions of you painting, Santa Maria della Salute and the 10 years between them? You mentioned that you hope that you’ll think back on this painting in 10 years like you think back on the original, what do you mean by this?  

Unfortunately the older version can’t be seen anymore unless you put it through an x-ray (because I painted the new one on top of the old one) but I do have pictures to show the difference. When I look at the newer version I think it is much better than the older version, so 10 years from now I hope to be able to continue to develop my painting techniques. In the meantime I can indulge myself in delusions of grandeur in envisioning future art historians putting my paintings through rigorous x-ray testing like I’m Leonardo da Vinci or something.

Do you often revisit paintings and paint them again? 

Not very often. This might be the second painting I have re-done, though I am currently working on one that I originally completed around the same time period. One of my biggest problems in painting is that I get too excited to start the painting itself so I rush through the drawing process and often find things I wish I had changed, which is hard to fix once the paint is wet. I think I’m saving myself time but it ends up taking longer than if I had just focused on finalizing the drawing. It’s like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football . . . he knows that Lucy is going to pull it at the last second but he can’t help himself.

What inspires you? 

I don’t claim that my art has any deep meaning or significance. I just try to capture moments and places that I find beauty in. Since I don’t have a knack for photography, painting is the way I best express that. Other artists definitely inspire me—I want to be able to see the world as they do and I want to challenge myself to see if I can compare to their skill. I am definitely more of a realist, although I would like to have more of a “painterly” style like Edouard Manet (my favorite artist). I have a hard time not trying to make my paintings look as real as possible. My other favorite artists are Diego Velasquez and Canaletto (who I am probably the most similar to in terms of style and subject matter and last name).

Lastly, how long have you been playing fantasy football? Because I have lost every game! 

I started the SAM league three years ago but I’ve played with my friends for about 15 years and it’s one of the most frustrating things I have ever subjected myself too. The stars aligned once and I won back in college but other than that it’s a never-ending cycle of disappointment and thinking I jinxed someone when they get injured which is why I never draft any Seahawks. To go back to the Charlie Brown example, I know I’m going to be mad at the end of the year and that the fantasy football gods are going to pull the football away from me at the last moment as soon as I get a glimmer of hope, but I can’t help myself from trying to kick it anyways.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Copywriter/ Content Strategist

Photo: Natali Wiseman
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The Center Wall Street, Iskra Johnson

SAM Gallery Artists on Seattle: Iskra Johnson, Kate Protage, and Kellie Talbot

Have you read the recent Fall Arts Report, State of the Arts feature in the Seattle Times? The current show hanging at SAM Gallery features three artists whose artwork grapples with Seattle’s layers of history and industry. On view through October 15, Industrial Strength is a visual meditation on the objects, jobs, and people that shape the city. We’ve invited our SAM Gallery artists to get personal and offer their own state of the arts and how it impacts (or doesn’t) their creative output. Hear from Iskra Johnson, Kate Protage, and Kellie Talbot on how Seattle has helped, hindered, and influenced them and their artwork. Each of these artists utilizes the cityscape in their paintings and is fascinated by the unique underbelly of Seattle—from the texture of a wheat-paste wall, to the blur of rain reflections, to long-gone landmarks—Johnson, Protage, and Talbot are paying attention to their surroundings and sharing their thoughts on them with you below.

Iskra Johnson

Shadow Wall, Iskra Johnson

The Calligraphic Street, Iskra Johnson

I am a Seattle native and an unapologetic descendent of the Northwest Mystics. I like the sense of being on the edge of the continent and the brooding state of contemplation the natural environment inspires. The frontier also defines the ethics of my social interactions. I see conversation as a practice of risk-taking improvisation, and my personal motto has always been talk to strangers, how else are you going to make new friends? If I had an MFA I could call this “social practice” and get a grant for walking down the street, but unfortunately it’s just my way of being. I was born with a New York personality in a city of impenetrable Nordic reserve.

My work documenting construction sites might really just be about talking to somebody: these men in orange vests with stickers on their hats are the only people on the street not looking at their phones. Although my prints may look like pure contemplations of inanimate beauty, beneath the architectural structure is a confrontation with urban alienation and a path to transform it. All of my work involves photography in the field, and a bit of personal risk. My favorite social practice moment happened a few weeks ago when I was photographing a fire hydrant. A man shouted at me from across the street, are you that girl who takes pictures of fire hydrants? I saw you here last year. He then told me he has never seen fire hydrants the same way. That made my day.

Kate Protage

Bridge Blues, Kate Protage

Familiar Journey, Kate Protage

I left the corporate marketing world to become a full-time painter about 15 years ago. I live a smaller life now, but it’s a good life, and I’m doing what I love.

I couldn’t do it without Jody and the team at the SAM Gallery. They are so good at what they do that I struggle to keep up! I just focus on creating new work, and they handle everything else with ease and grace. Now if I could only figure out how to create faster! Budget, convenience, inspiration . . . all of these factors play into an artist’s ability to create. A home studio offers convenience, but a studio that’s part of a larger artist community can be a great source of inspiration. It turns out that for me, the best solution is a little of both. My husband Chris (also an artist) and I have work spaces at home, but we also share a small space at Equinox Studios in Georgetown, where we’ve found an incredible support system and a strong sense of community. One of my favorite things about Seattle is that a wide array of artistic trends are considered acceptable and cool. I’m surrounded by talent that reveals itself in a variety of shapes and forms and I feel encouraged to develop my own voice. Hearing that a painting of mine is the first piece of original artwork that someone has purchased is an amazing feeling. It is such a privilege and honor to be the catalyst for creating a new collector.

Making art is not just fun: I work longer hours now than I ever did as a marketer, and it’s hard work. As Seattle has become entrenched as a technology and e-commerce hub, our population has grown by leaps and bounds. I know some the challenges that this brings: as a perpetual renter, I’ve had to move further and further from the “popular” parts of town because they’re no longer affordable or accessible. But that population bump also brings more opportunities to connect and succeed as an artist. We live in a city where the possibilities are wide open.

Kellie Talbot

Boy Bar, Kellie Talbot

Market Liquor, Kellie Talbot

In the 28 years that I’ve lived in Seattle I’ve witnessed dramatic changes to the city. Being a professional artist will always have its challenges. Gone are the days of cheap rent but now we see art walks in every neighborhood—there’s even a touring art bus—so I feel the community has come a long way in supporting local artists. Because of my subject matter, I miss the blue-collar economy of the past—airplanes, fishing, ship building. I miss the general surliness of old Seattle. But this new economy has done more than raise housing costs. It has enabled working artists to sell locally and be a part of a vibrant art scene. The days of the Northwest School seem very romantic but I’m sure that is hindsight. I know they struggled with rent and the cost of living too. There will always be the challenge of balancing earning a living and being able to afford living in the city.

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Latent Home Zero

Muse/News: Art News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

SAM News

The Stranger launched their new format last week! The art section’s lead story was on Latent Home Zero by Christopher Paul Jordan at the Olympic Sculpture Park, which closes today—so head over there!

“Equal parts historian and visionary, Jordan uses the overlapping histories of land use, urban planning, and displacement in Tacoma as a microcosm to address the whole history of black migration across the United States. ‘We’ve been everywhere,’ says Jordan. ‘Urban space, rural space, but with every generation comes a new form of displacement, mass migration, and exclusion. Take a step back, how do we take agency of how we construct our belonging away from our homeland?’”

SAM’s Art Beyond Sight tours for visitors with low or no vision were featured in the Seattle Times last week with photos from a recent tour this summer at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

City Arts gets on our level: Priya Frank, SAM’s Associate Director of Community Programs, was interviewed for the October edition of Taste Test. #Radbassador

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Michael Upchurch reviews Humaira Abid: Searching for Home at Bellevue Art Museum, noting that the sculptor “hits a new peak, combining technical prowess with fierce vision to produce charged political drama.”

Via KUOW: Prompted by their daughter’s concern, a Seattle family returned to the Sealaska Heritage Institute a Chilkat robe that hung in their dining room for years, unaware that it was a sacred clan object.

Seattle Magazine highlights Forced From Home, a traveling virtual reality exhibit at SLU’s Discovery Center this week that offers “a more nuanced understanding of the refugee crisis.”

Inter/National News

The New York Times on the Studio Museum’s superstar director/chief curator Thelma Golden and its plans for a new David Adjaye-designed building.

“’So many of the shows she did were not just great shows but reframed art history,’ said Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s current director. ‘Thelma was instrumental in making possible the whole rethinking of not just African-American art but American art.’”

WIRED takes on art in the age of Instagram, asking “where do we draw the line between art and Instagram filler?”

Cabbage Patch Kids, inflatable air dancers, and Shake Shack: Just a few of the wonderful, everyday things that started out as art.

And Finally

Those production values tho! Our friends at Analog Coffee with a helpful tutorial on an art form we at SAM have perhaps overlooked.

– Rachel Eggers, Public Relations Manager

Image: Installation view of Latent Home Zero, 2017, Christopher Paul Jordan, American, Seattle Art Museum Commission, photo: Mark Woods.
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Object of the Week: Mann und Maus

As you’re pondering your Halloween costume this year and watching politicians locked in a game of cat and mouse, you may want to stop by SAM for a bit of inspiration. Installed in Big Picture: Art after 1945 is Katharina Fritsch’s Mann und Maus (Man and Mouse). An enormous mouse towers like a dark specter over a sleeping figure of a man, who is as white as his downy bed. The man seems undisturbed while the animal appears alert and ready to pounce. A bizarre mirage? A nightmarish vision? Or, a secret story of affection? It all depends on your point of view.

When the German artist Katharina Fritsch made this sculpture in 1991/1992, she was working in the context of the recent fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the beginning of a rejoinder of long-divided East and West Germany. Following World War II, allied forces divided the country—the East fell under Russian control, the western portions under that of the United States, Britain, and France. The division into East and West became the fault line of the so-called Iron Curtain. Given the extreme ideological differences on either side of that border, reunification was an unexpected and momentous event, with enormous new social and economic challenges. Fritsch was born and raised in West Germany and grew up during the post-war years. Artistically, Fritsch came into her own in the 1980s, part of an artistic and cultural cohort skeptical and ironic vis-à-vis government and symbols of power. Characteristic of Fritsch is the manipulation of scale that renders the most ordinary domestic animals and objects uncanny or strangely surreal. Mann und Maus makes a nice bookend to another celebrated work by the artist called the Rat King—a circle of sixteen rats, their tails tied in a knot and facing outward in what looks like a defensive military formation. The fact that each rat is 12-feet tall, however, turns the tables and puts us, as viewers circling that formation, in a rather uncomfortable defensive position. Scale remains a key ingredient in the theatrical staging of power relationships, a timeless topic that the artist leaves up to the viewer to interpret. For English-speaking audiences, the title of our work, Mann und Maus, will bring to mind John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel Of Mice and Men, a story worth rereading in view of a global surge in migration and displacement.

– Catharina Manchanda, Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Image: Mann und Maus, 1991-92, Katharina Fritsch, polyester resin and paint, 90 1/2 x 51 1/2 x 94 1/2in., Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2007.118 © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
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