COVID-19 Update: All SAM Locations Currently Closed »

Muse/News: New Questions, Distant Ballet, and Simone Leigh Represents

SAM News

Seattle Met’s fall print edition is out; for the culture section, Stefan Milne explores the future of equitable art spaces. He interviews SAM director & CEO Amada Cruz and director of equity, diversity and inclusion Priya Frank, as well as artist Barbara Earl Thomas, whose solo exhibition opens at SAM next month.

She likens this moment, with its calls for more equitable structures, to the creative process. ‘Right now, we’re in the chaos phase.’ But if we trust the process, and push through the confusion, eventually a clear idea emerges. Then, says Thomas, you follow it, and ‘not only do you have a truth, but you see a whole new set of questions.’”

Local News

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel reports on the six surprising new art spaces that have opened in King County in recent months.

Mayumi Tsutakawa for South Seattle Emerald on the Pacific Bonsai Museum’s new show, World War Bonsai, which features 32 bonsai all made by artists who were forced into incarceration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II.

Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne has the details on Pacific Northwest Ballet’s season of “socially distant ballet,” including new works choreographed by Jessica Lang.

“To deal with the limitations, and fit with Schumann’s music, performers appear as shadows, sometimes synchronized with the dancer you can see, sometimes moving like a ghost with a mind of its own.”

Inter/National News

T, the New York Times style magazine, convenes a discussion with three artists, a curator, and a writer on the 25 most influential examples of American visual protest art since World War II. The angular, charged Panel 5 from Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series made the list; you can see it next year at SAM.

Artemisia is headed to your TV: Artnet reports that a scripted series on the life of Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, based on Mary Garrard’s biography, heads into production next year.

From Artforum: Simone Leigh will represent the United States at the 2022 Venice Biennale. She will create a new series of sculptures for the US pavilion, which is being co-commissioned by Boston ICA director Jill Medvedow and chief curator Eva Respini.

“‘Over the course of two decades, Simone Leigh has created an indelible body of work that centers the experiences and histories of Black women and at such a crucial moment in history, I can think of no better artist to represent the United States,’ said Medvedow in a statement.”

And Finally

Dancing through Harlem.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Muse/News: Dawn Cerny Wins Award, Venus Suggests Life, and RBG’s Love for Operas

SAM News

SAM announced last week that Dawn Cerny is the winner of the 2020 Betty Bowen Award, an annual juried award for Pacific Northwest artists. Cerny will receive $15,000 and a solo exhibition at SAM in 2021. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig shared the news, as did Artdaily.

Beverly Aarons for South Seattle Emerald interviews Barbara Earl Thomas about her upcoming exhibition at SAM, The Geography of Innocence, which features cut-paper portraits of Black children, many from the artist’s life.

“But she didn’t want to just capture them exactly as they were — she wanted to answer in her work the question, ‘What do I wish for them?’ Thomas didn’t want to talk about what she didn’t want — racism, violence, tragic deaths — but she wanted the work to embody the hope for the children’s futures.”

Tamara Gane for The Washington Post on “art alfresco,” recommending the best sculpture parks in the US to commune with art outside—and leading with SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park.

Local News

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig and Chase Burns previews four “don’t-miss” documentaries at the upcoming Local Sightings Film Festival.

“Washington State Is All Over the National Book Awards Longlist,” reports Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne. Get reading!

Muse/News really can’t take one more story about penguins visiting locked-down museums. Where are the penguins for SAM?? Anyway, here’s Crosscut’s Brangien Davis with her weekly editor’s letter, where she talks life on Venus, penguins in museums (sob!), and art classes for your health.

“I would argue that the Venus discovery is cultural, in the vein of Carl Sagan’s assertion that we’re all ‘made of star stuff.’ The mystifying connections across our vast universe contribute to the culture we humans create, even if subconsciously, or via some microscopic cellular nudge.”

Inter/National News

Yinka Elujoba for the New York Times on Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, which “succeeds in making visible, and even visceral, America’s history with the struggle for racial and political equality.” The exhibition is now on view at The Met and heads to SAM early next year.

The Brooklyn Museum made headlines last week when it announced it would sell twelve works from its collection at auction, to support the “management and care” of its full collection. They are the first major museum to take advantage of loosened regulations—due to the difficulties brought on by the coronavirus—around deaccessioning of works.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away at the age of 87, leaving an immense legacy as a scholar, jurist, human—and opera lover. This tribute offers insights into the legal scholar’s intense advocacy for the arts.

“…those kinds of cases she made her career of are the stuff of opera. The underdog, the ill-served character: Manon Lescaut, Violetta, women who have to struggle their way to the top for survival. They connected to her sense of right and wrong and what is a humane way of living.”

And Finally

“A good time for thinking about Francisco Goya is while the world stumbles.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: The farm that was there and then not, 2020, wood, handblown glass, plaster tape, wire, paint, clay, 27 x 22 x 14 in., Courtesy of the artist, © Dawn Cerny

Muse/News: SAM Reopens, ID Favorites, and Lawrence Revisited

SAM News

Museums in Seattle can now reopen! With new safety protocols in place, the Seattle Art Museum will reopen to the general public on September 11. Catch up on all the details covered in The Seattle Times, The Stranger, Capitol Hill Seattle, ARTnews, and Artdaily.

Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, was Marcie Sillman’s guest on KUOW The Record’s Wednesday show, sharing details on what SAM has been working on and how much we’ve missed you.

Also last week, SAM’s Priya Frank appeared on KING5’s New Day NW, talking with guest host Angela Poe Russell about equity at SAM and artists & organizations she loves.

Local News

“All creative people love a good challenge”: Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Peter Boal speaks with Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald about their upcoming, all-digital season.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig covers the covers of Vogue and Vanity Fair, both of which feature Black artists (Kerry James Marshall, Jordan Casteel, Amy Sherald) creating new paintings of Black women (someone imagined, Aurora James, Breonna Taylor).

JiaYing Grygiel shares restaurant recommendations in the International District from Seattle notables, including SAM’s recently retired Deputy Director of Art, Chiyo Ishikawa. The article is a part of a series, Chinatown USA, which is meant as both a celebration and a call to action amid economic devastation and anti-Asian racism.

“The history of the Asian communities in Seattle isn’t all just barbecue pork buns and egg tarts. The ugly side of Seattle’s past includes anti-Chinese riots, discriminatory laws, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Now here we are, in the middle of a pandemic that has been tinged, including by the president, with anti-Asian overtones, and restaurants in the ID are hurting badly. Yet they’re remaining open.”

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic’s Valentina Di Liscia reports on the newly unveiled monument in Central Park to Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth.

Artnet’s Naomi Rea reports on the recent controversy at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in which they came under fire for acquiring works of activist art from discounted benefits and fundraisers.

In advance of the opening of Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle at the Met (which heads to SAM next year), the New York Times revisits a 1996 interview with Jacob Lawrence. The artist spoke with their then chief art critic Michael Kimmelman during visits to the Met and MoMA, discussing art and technique as they went along.

“The three of us looked at whatever interested him, from Dogon sculptures to Dubuffet. Lawrence was a bearish, humble man, courtly, endearing. ‘I guess there’s nothing wrong with a negative statement,’ he reassured himself out loud at one moment, before screwing up his courage to dis Jackson Pollock.”

And Finally

“The Shooting of John T. Williams, 10 Years Later.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Object of the Week: Portrait Drawing of Gwendolyn Knight

In this delicate drawing Henry Bannarn depicts 21-year-old artist Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence using soft graphite markings and subtle blending and shading. The sketch, folded and preserved by the sitter throughout her life, was gifted to the museum in 2006 as part of her estate. Bannarn’s drawing remained in Knight’s collection until the end of her life, and was stored among many of her own drawings and sketches. Knight moved to Harlem at the age of 13, and attended Howard University and took classes at the Harlem Community Art Center and the Black Mountain College before settling in Seattle with her husband, painter Jacob Lawrence.

Henry Bannarn, c. 1937

Although Bannarn created drawings and paintings throughout his career and taught drawing at the Wheatley House, Minneapolis, his best-known works are his sculptures. Born in Oklahoma and trained at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts, Bannarn moved to New York City to study sculpture at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design. Bannarn’s sculptures were praised by Howard University art history professor James Porter and included in Porter’s 1943 publication Modern Negro Art. Porter praises Bannarn’s sculptures as daringly original.

The Family, 1955, Charles Henry Alston
 

While living in New York, Bannarn rented a studio with fellow artist Charles Alston in Harlem at 306 West 14st street. By 1940 Bannarn and Alston had turned their studio into an exhibition and artists’ space which they named the 306 Group. The 306 Group became a hub of African American artistic production in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The group focused on admitting members who “reflect[ed] and represent[ed] the African American community’s standards for Black American art.”1 Prominent members of the group included Norman Lewis, Romare Bearden, and Jacob Lawrence.

The Studio, 1977, Jacob Lawrence

Bannarn met his subject Gwendolyn Knight when he was teaching at the Harlem Community Art Center, where Knight came to study sculpture with Augusta Savage in 1934. Savage was assigned as Project Supervisor for the Federal Art Project under the Works Project Administration (WPA) and taught a broad group of influential African American artists during that time. Many members of the 306 Group worked for the WPA in the 1930s including Bannarn, Knight, and Lawrence. Having grown up in a poor family in Florida as one of fourteen children, Savage went on to study in France, exhibit at the Salon d’Autumne, and Carnegie Foundation grant to travel through Europe. Savage’s longest lasting impact was in her role as director of the Harlem Community Art Center, where she shaped the careers of a whole generation of African American artists.

Gwendolyn Knight, 1934-35, Augusta Savage

SAM is lucky to have these two portraits of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence by Bannarn and Savage as they illustrate not only the artist at the height of her youth, but also give a sampling of the broad artistic talent that came out of Harlem Community Art Center and the important role of the WPA as a support system for American artists in the 1930s. The discovery of Bannarn’s drawing illustrates the hidden depths of the rich collection at SAM.

Genevieve Hulley, SAM Curatorial Intern, American Art

Image: Portrait drawing of Gwendolyn Knight, 1934, Henry Wilmer Bannarn, pencil on paper, 16 x 10 1/2 in., Gift of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, 2006.58 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. Henry Bannarn, c. 1937, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington. Federal Art Project, Photographic Division Collection. The Family, 1955, Charles Henry Alston (American, 1907-1977), Whitney Museum of American Art. The Studio, 1977, Jacob Lawrence, gouache on paper, 30 x 22 in., Partial gift of Gull Industries; John H. and Ann Hauberg; Links, Seattle; and gift by exchange from the Estate of Mark Tobey, 90.27 ©️ Jacob Lawrence. Gwendolyn Knight, 1934-35, Augusta Savage, painted plaster, 18 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 9 in., Gift of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, 2006.86.
1 Buick, Kirsten Pai. “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Sculpture of the Harlem Renaissance.” In A Companion to the Harlem Renaissance. Ed. Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, 317–336. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015, 327.

Muse/News: Virginia’s legacy, Yardbird goes opera, and the Museum Walk

SAM News

Virginia “Jinny” Wright, a pillar of the SAM family, passed away last week at the age of 91. The Seattle Times obituary of the collector and philanthropist noted that she “lived for art—and dedicated herself to sharing it with others.” KUOW and ARTnews also shared remembrances of her legacy. She will be greatly missed.

KEXP’s Hans Anderson interviewed SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu about the reimagined Seattle Asian Art Museum for their Sound & Vision show; head to their archive for Saturday, February 15 for the story, which started at 7:49 am.

More coverage for the Asian Art Museum appeared in GRAY Magazine, Post Alley, and 425 Magazine.

Local News

You have until this Saturday to check out the Jacob Lawrence works on view at Greg Kucera. The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley wrote about the artist’s “big, beautiful panels for real-life superheroes.”

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig keeps an eye out for what’s “Currently Hanging”; right now, it’s Agnieszka Polska’s Love Bite at the Frye Art Museum.

Tom Keogh for Crosscut on Seattle Opera’s “promising, dynamic production” of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, which explores the life of the jazz legend.

“So the piece, like Parker’s music, is full of extremes, pushing the voice’s boundaries,” [tenor Joshua] Stewart says. “When you have a piece this difficult, you have to bring to it everything you have to offer. You have to go on the full journey.”

Inter/National News

OK, this is definitely a thing: Museum Walk gives you back pain. Hyperallergic has tips to alleviate it from posture expert Mark Josefsberg.

Payal Uttam for Artsy on the most recent edition of the India Art Fair (IAF) in New Delhi, and what it said about the market for South Asian art.

Artnet’s Taylor Defoe reports on the Oakland Museum of California’s recent pivot to measuring their success by their “social impact,” rather than by usual metrics.

“This is coming at a time when museums and other cultural institutions are really trying to make a case for their existence,” says the OMCA’s associate director of evaluation and visitor insight, Johanna Jones, who led the project. “We know we make a difference in people’s lives, now we need to really demonstrate it through measurable metrics.”

And Finally

More movies for your list, post-Parasite.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Virginia Wright in her Pioneer Square gallery, Current Editions, August 1967. Photo: © Mary Randlett. All rights reserved.

Muse/News: The Asian Art Museum prepares, art preachers & martyrs, & #DollyPartonChallenge

SAM News

Check out this week’s edition of the International Examiner, with a special section on the Asian Art Museum that reopens on February 8. It includes articles on Be/longing, the building itself, the Gardner Center, the Future Ancient, a know-you-before-you-go for the opening weekend events, and a special thank-you from SAM. Articles on Boundless and the conservation center should hit online tomorrow—see everything in print now.

Farewell, Flesh and Blood. T.s. Flock of Vanguard had one last round-up of “grim highlights” from the exhibition that closed on Sunday. Up next downtown: John Akomfrah: Future History.  

Local News

Seattle Times’ Megan Burbank heads to Twisp to explore the artsy, the sustainable, and the inventive of its communities.

“Preacher of the arts”: Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel interviews Raymond Tymas-Jones, president of Cornish College of the Arts, who has a bold plan for the institution’s future.

Margo also recently visited with the local performers who came together to form the Art Martyrs Relief Society.

“The concept of their endeavor . . . is simple: Put together one show a year with a kickass lineup, pay the performers royally, preach the gospel that working artists deserve a fair wage, have a damn good time and repeat.”

Inter/National News

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle is now on view at the Peabody Essex Museum. Reviews landed from the Washington Post’s Sebastian Smee and the Boston Globe’s Murray Whyte. The exhibition travels to SAM next year.

Barack and Michelle are going on tour! Hyperallergic’s Hakim Bishara reports on the five-city tour of their official portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, which kicks off in June 2021.

Bethan Ryder for the Guardian on projects around the world integrating museums and interactive learning experiences.

“After a long pause a nine-year-old said: ‘Objects have rights.’ The phrase has stuck. It captures both the need to conserve objects and to consider them as active participants in the museum experience.”

And Finally

Museums take the #DollyPartonChallenge. (SAM’s was the best).

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Jueqian Fang

Muse/News: Catch these hands at SAM, rice cookers at On The Boards, and celebrating the king of love

SAM News

Final week! Flesh and Blood: Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum closes Sunday, January 26.

Last week, we shared the deep dive into the exhibition by T.s. Flock for Vanguard Seattle; this week he’s back with a close look at the show’s notable hands.

Seattle Magazine’s Ariel Shearer has a new blog series for those new in town, exploring the city; this week, she visits Flesh and Blood and talks all things Artemisia.

“It’s an image I’ve seen hundreds of times—as misandrist memes across the internet, a patch on the back of my partner’s denim jacket, to list a few iterations—but witnessing Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes in person at the Seattle Art Museum last weekend still sparked a visceral reaction.”

Local News

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel reports on the “badass” PNW artists who received prestigious Creative Capital grants, including J Mase III and Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi.

The Seattle Times’ Yasmeen Wafai has a great round-up of activities to check out for Lunar New Year and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations.

The Stranger’s Rich Smith previews Cuckoo, Jaha Koo’s upcoming performance piece at On The Boards, which connects rice cookers, loneliness, and the global economy.

“To him, the preprogrammed voice trapped in a mass-market workhorse metaphorically resonated with the life of the average Korean millennial. The ironic sadness of being comforted by a product of a system that creates the discomfort in the first place seemed ripe for dramatic inquiry.”

Inter/National News

Stephanie Wolf for NPR’s Weekend Edition visited the Denver Art Museum’s exhibition of Monet paintings for a behind-the-scenes look at how they actually got there. Seattle Art Museum lent a work to the exhibition.

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone reports that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has acquired the Separate Cinema Archive, a collection “documenting African-American cinema history from 1904 to the present day.”

Nancy Kenney of the Art Newspaper previews Jacob Lawrence: The Struggle Series, which is now on view at the Peabody Essex Museum. The exhibition’s national tour brings the works to SAM in 2021.

“In an election year in which the country is bitterly divided between those for and against President Donald Trump, and over who is welcome to immigrate and become a citizen, it seems likely to resonate.”

And Finally

Recorded live on April 7, 1968.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Jen Au

Object of the Week: Confrontation at the Bridge

This 1975 screenprint by Jacob Lawrence was commissioned on the occasion of the United States’ bicentennial. The prompt: to create a print that reflects an aspect of American history since 1776. Lawrence, one of 33 artists to contribute to the portfolio An American Portrait, 1776-1976, chose to depict the infamous incident in Alabama known as ‘Bloody Sunday’.

On Sunday, March 7, 1965, hundreds of unarmed protesters—led by civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis—organized a 54-mile march from Selma to the state’s capitol, Montgomery, advocating for the voting rights of African Americans. As demonstrators began their route out of Selma, they were met by a barrage of state troopers at Edmund Pettus Bridge. With orders from Alabama Governor George Wallace “to use whatever measures are necessary to prevent a march,” the state troopers attacked the activists—resulting in the death of 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson—using clubs and tear gas. Though the march dissipated due to this senseless violence, two days later the protesters safely reached Montgomery (thanks to court-ordered protection) and numbered nearly 25,000.

As horrible as these events were, what took place on March 7—publicized nationally and internationally—helped galvanize public opinion and finally mobilize Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson five months later.

In Lawrence’s screenprint, the troopers’ brutal actions are represented through the presence of a vicious, snarling dog. To its right, we see African American men and women of various ages clustered together, their political solidarity conveyed through their visual unity. A tumultuous sky surrounds them, whose jagged cloud forms find likeness in the choppy waters below.

This horrible event would leave an indelible mark on our nation’s history and is remembered today for the courage shown by the thousands of activists who marched for a more equitable world. When articulating his choice to depict this important moment, Lawrence recalled: “I thought [the Selma-to-Montgomery march] was part of the history of the country, part of the history of our progress; not of just the black progress, but of the progress of the people.”

– Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collection and Provenance Associate

Image: Confrontation at the Bridge, 1975, Jacob Lawrence, serigraph; ink on paper, 19 1/2 x 25 15/16 in., Anonymous gift in honor of Jacob Lawrence and Gwen Knight, 92.10 © Jacob Lawrence

Object of the Week: In Case of Fire

In Case of Fire is striking. Disorienting and surreal, the black-and-white landscape unfurls into the supernatural. A tree is anchored in a sea storm, a larger-than-life chicken is perched on the remains of a sinking home, animals and human figures are scattered against scenes of disaster.

Just as the flames and embers of fire possess movement, this linocut—a print carved onto linoleum block—captures the turbulent motion of winds, hills, and water swirling in waves across the surface. This fantastical presentation is of an apocalypse. Yet, despite the chaotic and apocalyptic imagery, In Case of Fire feels intuitively familiar. The fragmented images are contained in a single frame, and recall the nature of dreams with their strangely linear order of otherwise disconnected events and forms. Fishing and work-a-day motifs reflect the roles of labor and personal memory.

Seattle-based artist Barbara Earl Thomas is a storyteller. Though born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Thomas remains deeply connected to her Southern roots: Thomas’s parents had “left behind family and friends and a history rooted in slavery and sharecropping to take up 1940s war jobs.”[1] As an art student at the University of Washington, Thomas studied under Jacob Lawrence, who remained her close mentor and friend until his passing in 2000.

The composition and dramatic scope of In Case of Fire is inspired by folklore, myths, Biblical tales, and magical realism, drawing on the storytelling traditions passed through generations in Black history. An active figure in writing, arts administration, and public art commissions, Thomas maintains a social responsibility in her artwork. She invokes issues of inequity and injustice across communities and writes, “It is the chaos of living and the grief of our time that compels me, philosophically, emotionally, and artistically. I am a witness and a chronicler: I create stories from the apocalypse we live in now and narrate how life goes on in midst of the chaos.”[2]

Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

[1]Upchurch, Michael. “Barbara Earl Thomas’ Linocuts Blend the Surreal with the Lyrical.” The Seattle Times, Apr. 12, 2013. https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/barbara-earl-thomasrsquo-linocuts-blend-the-surreal-with-the-lyrical/
[2] “Barbara Earl Thomas.” Claire Oliver Gallery. https://www.claireoliver.com/artists/barbara-earl-thomas/
Image: In Case of Fire, 2014, Barbara Earl Thomas, linocut, 24 × 36 in., Modern Art Acquisition Fund; Gift of John D. McLauchlan in memory of his wife, Ebba Rapp, by exchange, 2017.14.2. © Artist or Artist’s Estate