Come Back to SAM! Get tickets now »

Muse/News: Fall into Art, Madrigal’s Music, and Painting A Democracy

SAM News

The Seattle Times’ Fall Arts Guide landed this Sunday; here, Megan Burbank looks at the upcoming season of visual arts. Burbank also visited SAM on its first day being open again to the public; she reported on the “subtle, early-bird cheer” of the galleries.

“And for the most part, things were surprisingly normal. Traffic in the museum flowed easily. Between a pair of spectators chatting casually on a bench and the lack of windows, time passed easily, and aside from the masks and the crowd level, it didn’t seem all that different from visiting a museum pre-COVID.”

Last week, the Seattle Times’ Alan Berner dropped by for a visit to Alexander Calder’s The Eagle at the Olympic Sculpture Park, which has been tented all summer for a major repainting. Keep an eye out for its unveiling in all its Calder-red glory.

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Paige Cornwell recently profiled Edy Hideyoshi Horikawa, a decorated veteran who served with the celebrated 442nd Regiment while his family lived in an incarceration camp and who became an artist and teacher upon his return. He celebrated his 100th birthday in August and was fêted with a drive-by parade.

Rena Priest shares her essay with Seattle Met from a forthcoming collection that explores Seattle’s storytelling heritages and what its UNESCO City of Literature designation means.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores interviews Seattle conductor Paula Nava Madrigal about how she’s “disrupting the traditionally white, male discipline of conducting.” Madrigal will once again conduct a Mexican Independence Day concert, which this year is going virtual.

“‘There’s an energy that comes from the orchestra that I’m communicating to the public,’ she explains. ‘It’s like a time machine where I am bringing the past into the present and creating the future.’”

Inter/National News

The New York Times reports on two important New York art-world news items: The Met’s hiring of Dr. Patricia Marroquin Norby (Purépecha) as its first full-time Native American curator, and the Studio Museum’s continued innovation of its artist-in-residence program, with four artists named to remote residencies this season, including Jacolby Satterwhite as a mid-career artist.

Artnet is out with its annual Intelligence Report on the art market, which this year launches an “Innovators List”: “a group of 51 entrepreneurs, artists, dealers, and others who are lighting the way toward the future with vision, chutzpah, and grit.”

Hyperallergic’s Valentina Di Liscia reports on Vote.org’s nonpartisan initiative that “seeks to channel the power of art to encourage voter participation,” working with artists such as Sanford Biggers, Jenny Holzer, and Julie Mehretu.

“Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey believes that art may hold the key to educating and mobilizing citizens across the nation to exercise their right to vote… ‘If we lower the barriers to political engagement and turn more people out to vote, together, we can paint a more representative democracy.’”

And Finally

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Award finalists are out. Tag yourself; I’m Faceplant Baby Elephant.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L Fried

Object of the Week: Inflammatory Essays

Originally plastered around New York City without attribution in the late 1970s and early 80s, Jenny Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays were made to confront passersby. Though she was relatively unknown at the time, Holzer’s careful combination of poetics and politics soon drew international attention and acclaim. In 1990, she became the first woman to officially represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, and was awarded the Golden Lion—the Biennale’s top prize. Just six years prior, Seattle Art Museum’s Contemporary Art Council sponsored the installation of Essays along a wall at Second Avenue and Pike Street in 1984. The posters would resurface 16 years later at SAM as part of the 2001 exhibition, Art of Protest.

Each essay, comprising 100 words and neatly arranged in 20 lines, is laden with conflicting views. As Leah Pires recently wrote in Art in America, “The concision and conviction of the language invites easy agreement—a feeling that is quickly complicated by the contradictions that become apparent when the statements are read together.” The commercial history of offset printing, coupled with Holzer’s typographic choices (the essays’ typeface is reminiscent of billboard advertisements), suggests a mass-distributed message in an aggressively declarative tone. The first line in one essay reads: “FEAR IS THE MOST ELEGANT WEAPON, YOUR HANDS ARE NEVER MESSY.”

These texts do not mirror Holzer’s own sentiments, but are rather drawn from the writings of anarchists, dictators, and revolutionaries around the world. Such voices include Emma Goldman, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, and Leon Trotsky. Whether directly stated or implied through irony, Inflammatory Essays critiques power and control, sex and abuse—themes that continue to inform Holzer’s practice today. Her work is meant to provoke, but Holzer is well aware of the weight words carry. In a 2016 interview with Even Magazine, she says, “Later I found it necessary and proper at times to be careful…I’ll put tough stuff out, but not what might incite gratuitous, hideous violence. I’m pro-expression but not pro-murder…I think it is utterly irresponsible and reprehensible…to incite violence in a political campaign, or anywhere else. One should not do it. We are a murderous species. We don’t need encouragement. Once we get rolling, it’s hard to stop.” 

Produced 40 years ago, Inflammatory Essays feels eerily contemporary. In a polarized era marred by fake news, the quick dismissal of credible journalism, and our self-imposed curation of media, Holzer urges us to question the statements we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Through their challenging and, at times, aggressive statements, Inflammatory Essays continues to elicit critical public discourse by means of self-examination.

Rachel Hsu, SAM Exhibitions Coordinator

Images: Inflammatory Essays, 1979-82, Jenny Holzer, offset posters on paper 17 x 16 3/4 in., Gift of the Contemporary Art Council of the Seattle Art Museum, 2012.9.20 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. Poster Project, Seattle, Washington, USA, 1984, © 1984 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Installation view Art of Protest, Seattle Art Museum, 2001, photo: Nathaniel Wilson. Inflammatory Essays, 1979-82, Jenny Holzer, offset posters on paper 17 x 16 3/4 in., Gift of the Contemporary Art Council of the Seattle Art Museum, 2012.9.16 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. Inflammatory Essays, 1979-82, Jenny Holzer, offset posters on paper 17 x 16 3/4 in., Gift of the Contemporary Art Council of the Seattle Art Museum, 2012.9.21 © Artist or Artist’s Estate.