COVID-19 Update: All SAM Locations Currently Closed »

Object of the Week: Willy B

Like much of 2020, the past few weeks have generated a head-spinning number of events that we’ll someday—and perhaps already—recognize as historic moments. This ceramic work by Akio Takamori, on view in the exhibition Body Language, is inspired by one such world-historical event.

Titled Willy B, the sculpture memorializes a single action by Chancellor Willy Brandt, who in 1970 became the first German leader to visit Poland since 1939, when the country was invaded by Nazi Germany. Words are often times insufficient, and the Chancellor instead opted to act: he laid a wreath upon the monument to the thousands of Jews killed in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. As captured in the documentation of the event, Brandt knelt and solemnly bowed his head. This gesture—one of humility, deference, and respect—was seen and felt throughout the world, understood as a pivotal step by the German government towards healing the traumas of World War II.

Takamori was a renowned ceramic artist in Seattle, where he lived and worked for decades. His sculptures bring to life a wide array of figures—villagers from his childhood upbringing in Japan, to more modern political and cultural figures. Regardless of his chosen subject, Takamori is always able to convey, with deep sensitivity and empathy, true human expression.

Made in 2016 during our last presidential election, Willy B was a central work in the exhibition Apology/Remorse at James Harris Gallery. The exhibition focused specifically on men apologizing and, inspired by images in the media, the works explored the social, cultural, and political narratives that underpin such actions. Willy B illustrates, like so many of Takamori’s works, the artist’s longstanding interest in “the deeper meaning of iconography and the truth about human nature.” [1]

Indeed, four years later and on the other side of yet another polarizing election, our country remains as divided as ever. Inspired by Takamori and his depiction of Chancellor Brandt, it is worth considering—when words fail—what kinds of actions and gestures can help a country heal.

– Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collections & Provenance Associate

Images: Willy B, 2016, Akio Takamori, stoneware with under and overglazes, 35 1/2 × 16 × 23 1/2 in., Howard Kottler Endowment for Ceramic Art, Northwest Purchase Fund, Decorative Arts Acquisition Fund, Mark Tobey Estate Fund, Modern Art Acquisition Fund, 2017.12 © Akio Takamori. Installation view of Willy B, 2016, Akio Takamori (Japanese, active in the United States, 1950–2017), in the exhibition Body Language, Dec. 22, 2018–ongoing, photo: Mark Woods. Photo: German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneeling in front of the Monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes, Poland, December 7, 1970. Photo by Sven Simon.
[1]  James Harris Gallery, Akio Takamori: “Apology/Remorse,” https://jamesharrisgallery.com/exhibitions/akio-takamori-apology-remorse

Muse / News: Bergman’s gravitas, an elegy for the viaduct, and the walls of a Seattle collector

SAM News

There was lots of love last week for The Magic Lantern of Ingmar Bergman, a film series full of “grim existential gravitas” playing every Thursday through March 14. It was recommended in Seattle Met’s “What to Do After Work” and in The Stranger’s “Complete Guide to January 2019 Events.”

“Oh, hey, and they’re showing one of the most traumatizing movies about relationships ever made, Cries and Whispers, on Valentine’s Day. Happy coincidence?”

Strike a pose, Seattle Asian Art Museum! The renovated and expanded museum set to reopen this fall is included this Vogue wrap-up on “The Best New Places to Eat, Stay, and Play in Seattle.”

Local News

Seattle artist and professor Robert C. Jones recently passed away at the age of 88; his work soon goes on view alongside the work of his wife Fay Jones in dual shows at G. Gibson Gallery and James Harris Gallery.

“An elegy to the viaduct on the eve of its passing.” For Crosscut, it’s the brilliant Lola E. Peters with a poem for the viaduct (1953-2019).

Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne asks the important question, “What’s Inside the Weird White Boxes at Third and Virginia?”

“What’s interesting about Light as a Common Thread is that the narrative imposes a new gloom around Hogan’s pieces while they’re still in a gallery. Instead of being championed, they’re doomed.”

Inter/National News

Here’s Artsy’s Julia Wolkoff with an editorial on “Three Ways Art History Needs to Change in 2019.”

Art & Object takes a look at Night Coming Tenderly, Black, a new series by photographer Dawoud Bey of twilight landscapes taken at stops along the Underground Railroad.

Shaun Kardinal, artist and lead web developer at Civilization, was featured in Show Us Your Wall, the New York Times’ recurring series exploring art collections.

“I don’t think of them as investments. I only get things that I love. I do know that that piece, Royalties Wanted, by Anthony White, would probably go for three or four times what I got it for.”

And Finally

Know her name! TIFF schooled me—a self-proclaimed Film Nerd—with this amazing thread on queer feminist film pioneer Dorothy Arzner.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations