In This Imperfect Present Moment closes Sunday, June 16! Don’t miss this chance to see works across a wide array of media by artists hailing from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Cotonou/Rotterdam, Luanda/Lisbon, Baltimore, to Los Angeles, and New York. These works have been brought to Seattle by local collectors who are intrigued by how these artists convey vibrant narratives that resonate across global boundaries. While you’re here take a close look at Surah al-Fatiha (the Opening), by Capetown artist Igshaan Adams.
Visiting Igshaan Adams in his studio in Capetown is to step into a zone
of transformation. He works with a group of weavers who wander in and out as he
shows you mounds of materials that are being upgraded to carry stories and
interpretations of Sufism, the mystical sect of Islam, which offers alternative
ways of looking at the world. He speaks of his love of the mysticism of Islamic
texts, and how they provide guidance for the realities of daily life. Learning
about his family provides further insight for his development as an artist; he
was raised by Christian grandparents who were supportive of his faith, fasted
with him during Ramadan, and invited imams over to the family home. As you trip
over ropes and nearly stumble into a massive maze of beads that are being
arranged in a spiral with a mystic rationale, you try to keep track of the mesmerizing
pull of the artist’s sincerity. His descriptions of involving the sacred to
encourage humankind’s capacity for good and nobility set a tone of deep introspection.
In the instsallation, you’ll see a tapestry named after the first chapter of the Quran. Adams has added beads to convey the opening line, which is meant to be recited and contemplated every time a believer begins to establish a direct connection with Allah. About this, Adams has said, “As an artist, I think I can give a person one moment of reflection or one moment with a different perspective.” So goes this imperfect present description of his effort, which is worth so many more words that you are encouraged to seek out online.
– Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art
Image: Surah al-Fatiha (the Opening), 2016, Igshaan Adams, South African, b. 1982, woven nylon rope, beads, 94 1/2 x 94 1/2 in., Private collection, photo courtesy of Blank Projects, Cape Town.
Stimson Bullitt Library is featuring a display of three new
acquisitions from its Book
Arts Collection. These artists’ books share a common interest in
documents and other historical records—each, in its own way, addresses the
notion of archives.
by Tammy Nguyen (American, born 1984)—A Surreal Archive: The Young-Mallin
Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2018)—announces its connection
to an archive in its title. This work was commissioned in an edition of 250 by
the Philadelphia Museum of Art Library to commemorate the collector Judith
Young-Mallin (American, born 1937) and her gift of the Young-Mallin Surrealist
Archive to the museum. The archive contains a wealth of materials and books
related to the original surrealist artists and those influenced by their work,
including Young-Mallin’s personal library, research files, interviews,
correspondence, photographs, and ephemera. Nguyen has constructed a book that
includes pop-up elements, along with hidden panels and envelopes. As Timothy
Rub says in the accompanying book’s foreword, Nguyen’s work “playfully mirrors
Young-Mallin’s spirit as a collector.”
items from the archive are incorporated into the book:
Tanning’s Lanova: Design for Ballachine Ballet “The Night Shadow”
(1945); Paul Éluard and Max Ernst’s book Misfortunes of the Immortals
(1943); Young-Mallin’s book The Night the Lobster Telephone Rang (2011);
Richard Avedon’s photograph Carol Janeway with Bronze Sculpture by Ossip
Zadkine (no date); Carol Janeway’s pen and ink drawing For My Valentine
(ca. 1940s); a matchbook advertisement for the exhibition Marcel
Duchamp—Addenda (1974); a photograph by an unknown photographer titled
William Copley and Noma Copley on Honeymoon in Egypt (ca. 1954); and images
of The Stein-Toklas Doll House of Judith Young-Mallin (ca. 1970s), a
work that was created in Young-Mallin’s home by various artists, including
Leonora Carrington, Man Ray, Elsa Schiaparelli, and others.
This Is the End (Peter Norton Family Projects, 2017) is an archive of an unusual project undertaken in the name of art. For many in the art world, the most important gift at the holidays was the “Peter Norton Christmas Project.” Each year between 1988 and 2017, software entrepreneur, art collector, and MoMA trustee Peter Norton (American, born 1943) commissioned an art edition to celebrate the holidays. Created by artists in Norton’s collection and sent as gifts to a few thousand personal friends and members of the art community, these art objects were intended to foster engagement with the world of contemporary art. When the project concluded in 2017, Norton created an archive of the series in another edition: This Is the End (with the subtitle Our Closing Project in Three Parts). It includes a 72-page book titled The End, which details each of the thirty releases. The edition also includes a scorpion sculpture excised from the book, a postcard, an electronic video book, and earbuds. The format of this project and its scorpion theme were inspired by the art of Robert The (American, born 1961). The edition is enclosed in a book box that states “The End” on its cover.
Dayanita Singh (Indian, born 1961) continues her series of “book-objects” with Pothi
Box (Spontaneous Books, 2018). Using images from various Indian archives,
this artist’s book holds thirty black-and-white images of paper archives, a
film archive, and a printing press, held together in a wooden structure. This
“unbound book” is meant to be hung on a wall or placed on a table. Similar to
other Singh projects, the structure allows for the collector to play
a curatorial role by changing the cover image as they please. Unlike other
projects that have been contained in constructed boxes, this work is nestled in
a woven textile with needlepoint letters “Pothi Box,” recalling the archival sacks
featured in her photographs. Pothi Box is a smaller version of a larger
structure called Pothi Khana (2018), which was recently displayed at the
57th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
works will be on view outside of the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library on SAM’s
fifth floor until June 12, 2019. Any questions about our Book Arts Collection
can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Traci Timmons, Senior Librarian
Images: This Is the End, 2017, Santa Monica: Peter Norton,Peter Norton, compiler, American, born 1943, BKARTS N 7433.4 N785 T54 2017.ASurreal Archive: The Young-Mallin Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2018, Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tammy Nguyen, American, born 1984, BKARTS N 7433.4 N58 S87 2018. Pothi Box, 2018, New Delhi, India: Spontaneous Books, Dayanita Singh ,Indian, born 1961, BKARTS N 7433.4 S557 P78 2018. Photos: Natali Wiseman.
In 2016, the Seattle Asian Art Museum invited acclaimed Japanese artist Tabaimo to study the museum’s collection and curate an exhibition. The resulting presentation, Tabaimo:Utsutsushi Utsushi, was based on the concept of utsushi, which literally means “copying or paying homage to a master’s work.” Tabaimo selected several historical objects from SAM’s Asian art collection to present alongside her own work, some of which she produced specifically for the show. The last gallery of the exhibition featured the museum’s beloved pair of 17th-century Crows screens and Tabaimo’s response, a video installation that imagines new possibilities for the screens’ depicted action.
The subject of the Crows screens is a murder of black-feathered birds set against squares of gold leaf. Descending en masse from the top left-hand corner of each screen, the crows wind their way down to a rocky crag along the bottom edge. In photographs of the screens, the birds appear as silhouettes, though an in-person viewing reveals the unique texture of each creature’s feathers, eyes, beak, and claws. The dynamism of the scene is created through the movements of the individual crows. In some places, they fly towards each other, suggesting an impending clash; in the upper right-hand corner, two birds take part in a midair tussle; and even those grounded crows spread their wings, look about, and caw.
In Tabaimo’s video utsushi of Crows, the birds are flattened into black silhouettes floating against a background of gold squares. Here, the squares take part in the action too. One by one, they sink into the pictorial space revealing rectangular hollows into which the feathered-beasts fly. An exhibition text explains:
In Japanese culture, it is a custom to tidy things up at the end of an event. Crows are often associated with untidiness because they look for food among garbage and create litter. Tabaimo does not intend for us to leave the gallery with a clear understanding of the exhibition, but rather, she would like to invite lively discussions by ending it in an ambiguous way, just as the crow brings untidy debris.
– Murphy Crain, Asian Art and Gardner Center Coordinator
 Not a killing! A group of crows is called a murder.  Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi exhibition brochure
“The resulting collection is a riot of color and texture that playfully draws the viewer into a world—the experience of another human being—impossible to ever fully know, but commanding one’s full consideration anyhow.”
Nancy Guppy included Like a Hammer and the community celebration on Thursday in this New Day NW segment highlighting local arts happenings.
Image: CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF OF YOU, 2015, Jeffrey Gibson, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians/Cherokee, b. 1972, high fire glazed ceramic, repurposed tipi poles, wool, acrylic paint, wool blanket, glass beads, artificial sinew, copper jingles, and nylon fringe, 72 × 29 × 38 in., Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan, image courtesy of Jeffrey Gibson Studio and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California, photo: Peter Mauney.
We are excited about Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer opening in just a few short days and want to make sure you know all the free and discounted ways to see this new, colorful, and exuberant exhibition!
Artist Jeffrey Gibson is of Cherokee heritage and a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. He grew up in urban settings in Germany, South Korea, the United States, and England, and his work draws on his experiences in different cultural environments. In his artwork, Gibson creates a new visual language from familiar items associated with Native powwow, such as glass beads, drums, trade blankets, and metal jingles, which are overlaid with markers of queer club culture as well as the legacies of abstract painting. The inspiration and community of dance clubs and pop music reverberate throughout his work.
Mark your calendars with these opportunities to see this visionary contemporary exhibition where powwow meets pop culture meets punching bags.
Also on opening day, Jeffrey Gibson will be in attendance and offering a free talk and screening of new video works. Don’t risk it, reserve a free ticket for Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer and Next Steps at 7 pm on Feb 28!
SAM also offers free and discounted passes to visit our special exhibitions for community organizations or colleges and universities. Find out more and fill out our form to get yours today!
First Thursdays, tickets are to see Like a Hammer are half off and the museum is open late. Swing through on March 7, April 4, or May 2.
First Fridays, seniors get half-off entry to Like a Hammer. If you’re 65+, mark your calendar for March 1, April 5, or May 3.
We’ve also go special deals for teens to pay $5 for a ticket to Like a Hammer through our partner organization TeenTix. Oh, and kids 12 and under are always free!
We also offer free entry to caregivers accompanying a visitor, employees of other museums, gold or flash card holders, and members of the press with ID. Check out our FAQ for more information and other ways to get discounts!
While we’re at it, did you know that it’s always suggested admission to visit SAM’s collection galleries? These are just a few ways SAM connects art to life!
We read each other’s body language all day, every day. In the museum, surrounded by artworks depicting a variety of figures and movements, this instinct can be put to an international test of how well we understand gestures and postures. A walk through the galleries can simulate what it’s like to be in another country, where you don’t know the verbal language and need to navigate based on reading bodies.
In the exhibition In This Imperfect Present Moment, a person’s body is telling you to stop and recognize that their moment has come, and you are a vital participant. They are ready to talk. Which language are they likely to speak? Toyin Ojih Odutola was born in Nigeria, grew up in Alabama, went to art school in San Francisco, and now lives in New York. She’s given many insightful interviews that provide a sense of the conversation you might have with her about her work. For now, here’s just one quote: “I’m attracted to the understated in art: moments that can be quickly passed over, but are complex and layered. There’s nothing wrong with bombast, and the maximalist in aesthetic and presentation, and I often exploit those very qualities. But nothing beats the underwhelming, the quiet, the subtle. When you see the economy of line used so effortlessly—that always gets me, because it isn’t easy.”
– Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art
Utopian visionaries are rare these days. If Black Panther moved you to consider what might be possible in the future, there’s an artist who is opening a new portal into the world of possibilities to come and you can see their work at SAM right now as part of In This Imperfect Present Moment. Athi-Patra Ruga introduces characters from a mythical metaverse. You can see what this means in his performances, which are available online. His avatars wear high heels and balloons, ride zebras, walk down dirt roads or city streets, and occasionally swim upside down. He knows how to turn heads and get people to stare at unexpected visions. For this sculpture, he covers a neoclassical bust with beads, flowers, and gems to mock the usual stagnancy of a bronze-cast monument. He has stated that “our statues are an indictment of our poor imagination.” Calling this sculpture The Ever Promised Erection, Ruga says, “The humorous tone of the title points to the fallacy and impotence of the posturing of the nation-state.”
Ruga replaces the failed state with an ideal femme-centric futurist nation called Azania, inspired by rumors of an ideal Africa described in ancient American myths. You can get to know Azania and see their queens and territories by looking at his large-scale tapestries and videos. His tapestry maps record an Ocean of Repentance, where cleansing waters protect and surround islands inhabited by women. It takes a distinctive rigor to create and carry an entire nation in your mind. When meeting Athi-Patra Ruga, you sense him as someone dedicated to keeping his alternative world alive and well. He’s now about to open his first one-person exhibition in London at the Somerset House, and for those who crave utopian universes, Ruga can take you there.
– Pam McClusky, SAM’s Curator of African and Oceanic Art
Images: Installation view of In This Imperfect Present Moment at Seattle Art Museum. 2018, photos: Natali Wiseman.
Want is the desire to possess or do, or the feeling of lack or being short of something desirable. As long as you’re wanting, you’re usually in a space of trying to gain something for yourself and yourself only. This is a result of individualized thinking, which is one of the pillars of the Western-American ideology. So what does freedom from want look and feel like? And what does it require of us to consider living free from want?
This possibility is explored by Saya Woolfalk, a New York-based artist who uses science fiction and fantasy to reimagine the world in multiple dimensions. With her multi-year projects No Place: A Ritual of the Empathics and ChimaTEK: Virtual Chimeric Space—the latter of which is on view in Lessons from the Institute of Empathy—Woolfalk creates a world of Empathics, a fictional race of women who are able to alter their genetic make-up and fuse with plants. With each body of work Woolfalk says, “I want a person to experience something that simultaneously makes them slightly uncomfortable about the potential of the world that I have created, but also gives them an excitement about a harmonious, multi-cultural society.”
While seemingly very different from human beings, the Empathics actually reflect our multicultural society in myriad ways. Through these beings, who have developed the ability to think collectively, we learn just how powerful the effects of empathy are when honed and used to empower a society in the direction of cultural evolution.
Freedom from want has the potential to take us to a place where this kind of evolution can be realized. In this free state, we are enabled to shift our focus from individual want to helping others gain what they require in order to experience the satisfaction of their needs. With the pressures of scarcity and fear eliminated, a new form of thinking emerges from a place of equity and equality.
Moving closer to freedom from want as a reality—as opposed to an out-of-reach ideal—challenges us to consider others instead of only the self. It challenges us to remove the ego—to listen and understand. It challenges what we consider necessary in order to live happy and successful lives. It challenges us to move beyond individualized, self-centered thinking and towards an elevated level of collective thinking, which is necessary for harmonious living and ultimately stimulates our capacity for acceptance, benefiting every global citizen.
– Adera Gandy, Visitor Services Officer
Image: Installation view of Lessons from the Institute of Empathy at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, Seattle Art Museum, photo: Nathaniel Willson
Unless you’re looking at this image on a gigantic screen with perfect resolution, you’re missing the impact of this Saint Woman. She’s slightly larger than life, which fits the premise of the artist who elevates her subjects to a status that goes beyond our normal vision. Amy Sherald paints portraits that are not trying to convince you they are a substitute for the actual person. Instead, she paints archetypes. She is taking the time to change our minds about what a portrait can be, an evocation of a saint whose name you do not know, but who is standing and waiting for you to recognize them.
This saint is surrounded by a halo of what may appear as bright yellow on your screen. If you’re just seeing a flat expanse of color, you’re missing the depth of a painted surface that is full of nuance, with swirling dimensions that activate this setting. The same nuances of color are true of the skin, which is in variations of gray. Amy Sherald chose this color shift for a reason, “to exclude the idea of color as race.” She also has this woman’s body face forward, while her head is turned in profile. What captures her attention is unknown, and it challenges you to wonder why she’s holding herself so still while her dress is blown in a breeze of urgency. It’s the stance of a saint who’s worth coming to see in person. Visit her with a trip to see In This Imperfect Present Moment, an installation of artworks by 15 artists conveying vibrant narratives that resonate across global boundaries.
– Pam McClusky, SAM’s Curator of African and Oceanic Art
Images: Saint Woman, 2015, Amy Sherald, American, b. 1973, Oil on canvas, 54 x 43 in., Private collection, photo courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago. Installation view of In This Imperfect Present Moment at Seattle Art Museum. 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.