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SAM art: Two opposing worlds

Dichotomies and oppositions course through the work of Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat, including her two-channel video installation Tooba. This video, currently on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, is shown on two facing screens. The lyrical imagery on each side unfolds at the pace of poetry, despite the fact that there are no words. The film shows a walled garden, the silent hordes that descend upon it, and a woman within it, swallowed by a tree.

Neshat’s work straddles two worlds, and she acknowledges “constantly negotiating between two cultures that are not just different from one another but in complete conflict.” Born in Iran in 1957, the artist moved to the United States to attend university in the late 1970s. When the Iranian Revolution broke out, she remained in the US. Shirin Neshat is perhaps the world’s best-known contemporary Middle Eastern artist, despite the fact that she has lived and worked in the US for decades. Her lived experience between these two cultures gave rise to her “idea of opposites,” the structure upon which her body of work is built.

Tooba (still), 2002, Shirin Neshat (American, born Iran, 1957), 35mm film on DVD and Betacam tapes, running time 12 minutes, Given in honor of Lisa Corrin by Susan and Jeffrey Brotman, Jane and David Davis, Barney A. Ebsworth, Judy and Jeff Greenstein, Lyn and Jerry Grinstein, Richard and Betty Hedreen, Janet Ketcham, Kerry and Linda Killinger Foundation, James and Christina Lockwood, Michael McCafferty, Christine and Assen Nicolov, Faye and Herman Sarkowsky, Jon and Mary Shirley, Rebecca and Alexander Stewart, Bagley and Virginia Wright, Barbara and Charles Wright, Ann P. Wyckoff, 2005.141, Photo: Larry Barns, © Shirin Neshat. Currently on view in conjunction with Elles: SAM – Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park, until 2 December 2012.

SAM Art: Minimal, or maybe not…

A glimpse at Ellen Gallagher’s paintings can be misleading: Grids of small circles on lined paper create the illusion of Minimalism. Step closer to examine those small circles, however, and hundreds of gleaming eyes and occasional rows of mouths are staring at the viewer. Ellen Gallagher, who has African-American and Irish parents, has loaded the calm surface with reminders of the derogatory huge rolling eyes and exaggerated thick lips seen on white actors performing in blackface as part of American minstrel shows a century ago. The artist uses lined pages from children’s composition books, suggesting the fine line between innocent doodling and harmful caricatures.

Host, 1996, Ellen Gallagher (American, born 1965), oil and graphite on paper mounted to canvas, 69 1/8 x 49 7/8 in., Gift of Richard and Elizabeth Hedreen and the Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund, 97.6, © Ellen Gallagher. Currently on view in Elles: SAM – Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists, Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

It’s Elles REMIX Style

Before moving to Seattle to start my fall internship at the Seattle Art Museum this past August, I had already developed an appetite for Remix. I’d never been to one on my many visits to the Northwest but I had seen the posters—shiny, glossy and wickedly designed, I wanted, needed to know more about SAM’s quarterly event.

Aimed at engaging and building relations with young adults, SAM’s Remix events align ever so nicely with the museum’s special exhibitions to create a dance-party-meets-fine-arts experience that gets under your skin in the best way. This fall’s French import Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris weaves its way seamlessly throughout this month’s Remix at SAM Downtown on November 9 from 7:30 pm–12:30 am; showing that ladies can hang with the boys and party just as hard.

DJ Michele Myers kicks off the night in the Brotman Forum with intoxicating rhythms and beats from pop, local favorites, soul and just about anything else you can dream of to keep you dancing your pants off. Watch as choreographers Linda Austin, Anne Furfey and Amy O perform excerpts from Ten Tiny Dances on a 4×4 foot dance floor throughout the night. Enjoy the musical styling’s of Hollis and The Pytons as they perform sets from ACT Theatre’s These Streets—an homage to the grunge movement in Seattle with a feminine twist. Curated by Gretta Harley and Sarah Rudinoff, these sets are sure to get the blood pumping and bring out your long dormant grunge kid.

Head on over to the Arnold Board Room to rest those tired dogs while testing your mettle and your knowledge of pop culture, sports, film and more at the Women All-Stars Trivia with Geeks Who Drink. Or earn your Artistic License with Erin Shafkind at her Department of Artistic Licensing with the help of Jenny Zwick and Tessa Hulls. It’s like the DMV only fun.

Let your activist self run free in the South Hall and create Take Action Buttons with Janet Fagan. Too much activism and not enough space?  Create a Power Band with Romson Bustillo to showcase your inner superhero! Put your thinking cap on at the Second Floor Think Tank and ask yourself Can Women Really Have It All? Join Vivian Phillips and Priya Frank as they explore questions raised by Elles: Pompidou through interactive activities. Give your brain a break and mosey on up to the Fourth Floor Galleries and listen to Seattle Symphony Orchestra harpist Valerie Muzzolini Gordon while she performs music inspired by Elles: Pompidou’s French roots.

But wait there’s more! (Isn’t there always?) It wouldn’t be Remix at the museum without the My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Tours. Happening periodically throughout the entire night, the tours are led by short folks, tall folks, artistic folks, academic folks and just about everyone else in between to offer up their opinions, whether good or bad, about the art and artists featured in the Elles: Pompidou exhibit.

SAM Art: A Cunningham way of looking at the world

Imogen Cunningham is an artist who is revered for radically altering the traditional still life. Like fellow artists Georgia O’Keeffe, Margaret Bourke-White, Ella McBride, and Lola Alvarez Bravo, Cunningham conceived of and portrayed objects in ways that defied conventional picture making. These artists brought plants and constructions alike up close, reducing them to abstract shapes and patterns. Having liberated the portrayal of things from the mundane act of description, they asserted the role of the artist in selecting forms for visual impact, in altering the viewer’s perception, and transforming familiar objects into mysterious works of art.

Cunningham’s style changed throughout her career—her early pictorialist work developed into a mature, modernist aesthetic. Inspired by surrealism, she enjoyed manipulating images both in the camera and the darkroom. The world was a feast for her eyes, and Cunningham captured this vision with curiosity and enduring vitality that continues to resonate today.

Mendocino Motif, 1965, Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976), gelatin silver print, 11 1/2 x 9 1/2 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 89.66, © (1965), 2009 Imogen Cunningham Trust. Currently on view in the Modern American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown, as part of Elles: SAM.

SAM Talks: Nine Antico

We are excited to host French graphic novelist Nine Antico who will be speaking at SAM Downtown in the Nordstrom Lecture Hall as part of the SAM Talks programming for the exhibition Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris Thursday night at 7 pm. This should be a great chance for aspiring graphic novelists and artists in the community to hear a fellow artist speak about their work and meet other like minded graphic artists and novelists. As a fan and collector of comic books myself I am eager to hear a little about Nine’s creative process and how she constructs her graphic narratives.

Although her comic books are all written in French the content she writes about in her most recent work Coney Island Baby (l’Association) is unmistakably American and refers to our own cultural memory. Coney Island Baby features American Icons Betty Paige, Linda Lovelace and Hugh Hefner among other figures from pop-cultulre; the title itself refers to a song of the same name by Lou Reed. As her choice of characters suggests Coney Island Baby navigates the complexities of female seduction through the imagery of Linda Lovelace and Bettie Page through a feminist reading of their respective lives as told by Hugh Hefner to two aspiring Playboy playmates. Hefner attempts to deter the bunny ear-clad Playmates to reconsider their new jobs by showing them the dark side of the Playmate lifestyle by telling them the stories of Lovelace and Page, two women separated by time but similar in endeavors for fame whose dreams were shorted by becoming famous for being naked, rather than by merit of the acting careers they had set out to attain.

Tickets may be purchased online, at the Ticketing Desk at any of SAM’s three sites or over the phone with a credit card by calling the Box Office at 206.654.3121.

 

Ryan Peterson, Program Assistant

Out now on L’Association

SAM Art: Modern Masters

Three of SAM’s modern and contemporary art galleries are currently dedicated to an installation titled Modern Masters, a look at the work of American heavyweights Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler. All three developed their work in the context and aftermath of Abstract Expressionism. Celebratory and ironic, “modern masters,” a popular label for the male painters of that generation, bestows this much-deserved designation upon these visionary women artists in recognition of their hard-fought accomplishments in what was a thoroughly male-defined domain.

Drawn from SAM’s own collection, as well as local private collections, Modern Masters surveys the bold, abstract, gestural production of Joan Mitchell (pictured above); the collage-inflected mid-career paintings of Lee Krasner; and the luminously stained canvases of Helen Frankenthaler. While not a retrospective, this installation provides visitors to SAM a fresh glimpse at the rigor and range of mid-century abstraction.

Installation view of “Modern Masters,” part of “Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists,” Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown, on view through 17 February 2013.

SAM Art: Tiger Lily

While Elles has focused our attention on female artists, works by women have been on view in SAM’s galleries all along, sometimes in unexpected places. Tiger Lily is just one example.

According to Patti Warashina, Tiger Lily’s genesis was rooted in memories of her grandmother. “’At the time it was an interest in religious objects used in society.  I used the format of the alter to emphasize personal moments which I had been thinking about,” said the artist in 1992.

Shaping humble clay into transcendent forms fit for the divine is a tradition as old as ceramics themselves. Drawing inspiration from the ancient vernacular of forms and techniques, contemporary artists work with clay to create sculpture that, to our eyes, is simultaneously deeply familiar and startlingly fresh. Central to all of the ancient cultures represented in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, altars and shrines find their contemporary reflection in Tiger Lily. At the height of the Feminist Movement in the 1970s, Warashina created altars such as this, offerings of feminine archetypes and stereotypes for consideration.

Tiger Lily, 1976, Patti Warashina (American, born 1940), low-fire ceramic with acrylic, 24 x 15 7/8 x 13 1/4 in., Gift of the artist, 89.78, © Patti Warashina. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Victoria Haven

Seattle-based artist Victoria Haven creates work that furthers the discussion of how the language of abstraction can express personal experience. Recently, she has delved into her memories of the Pacific Northwest and her connection to it. In Northwest Field Recording – WA (12” B side), Haven created a drawing in a format that corresponds to the size and shape of a vinyl record – the pattern of the words suggests the circular grooves on an LP. In addition to a reference to music, Haven described the form of this drawing (one of a pair) as being reminiscent of the rings on a tree indicating a life span.

Although steeped in a minimalist sensibility, found objects of a certain kind—ephemera, like a mixed tape or the black double diamond found on trail maps—are starting points for Haven’s most recent body of work, Victoria Haven: Proposed Land Use Action,  which is now installed as part of Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists.

Northwest Field Recording – WA (12″/B side), 2010, Victoria Haven (American, born 1964), ink on paper, 18 1/2 x 18 in., Gift of Rebecca and Alexander Stewart and an anonymous donor, 2011.9.1, Photo: Richard Nicol, © Victoria Haven. Not currently on view. Victoria Haven: Proposed Land Use Action, an exhibition of new work by the artist, is on view until February 2013, Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.