We are reopening March 5! Get tickets today »

Muse/News: A Prize for Lauren Halsey, Sites of Power, and Prince in The Rain

SAM News

The downtown Seattle Art Museum will reopen to the public on March 5, just in time for the special exhibition, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle. And there’s something else to look forward to: Last week, SAM announced that Lauren Halsey is the recipient of the 2021 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize, which is awarded biannually to an early career Black artist. She’ll have a solo exhibition at SAM in winter 2021. ARTNews, Culture Type, Artdaily, Hyperallergic, Seattle Medium, The Stranger, and The Skanner all shared the news.

Local News

In honor of Black History Month, Charles Mudede and Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger present “five extraordinary films directed by five extraordinary Black directors” they’ve virtually discussed as part of the Stranger’s Film Club over the past three months. Catch up!

“Funny, anxious, angry, discursive”: Stefan Milne of Seattle Met gets a sneak peek at (Don’t Be Absurd) Alice in Parts, poet Anastacia-Reneé’s new exhibition opening at the Frye Art Museum on February 11.

Margo Vansynghel of Crosscut interviews Natasha Marin about her new virtual exhibition, Sites of Power; part of her ongoing Black Imagination series, it features audio and video testimonies from Black creatives.

“For Black people, these are really unique and special moments because so many of our intersectional identities are sort of subsumed by our phenotypic Blackness,” Marin says. “People don’t want to see us as being possibly more than one thing at once — of both and and— happening all at the same time.”

Inter/National News

Artnet asks a slew of experts to name 12 artists “poised to take off” in 2021. On the list? Lauren Halsey, the LA-based artist just named the winner of SAM’s Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize.

ARTnews on Sam Pollard’s new documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light, which devotes running time to exploring the legacy of artist David Driskell, who curated the landmark 1976 LACMA exhibition Two Centuries of Black American Art.

Julia Jacobs of the New York Times takes a look at the different approaches museums across the country have taken to the pandemic.

“Navigating the pandemic and shifting government responses has not been easy for museums. Some spent tens of thousands of dollars to try to make sure they could reopen safely in the fall for an art-starved public — only to be ordered to close again several weeks later as the outbreak worsened.”

And Finally

“He wants to know if you can make it rain harder”: The oral history of the best Super Bowl halftime show ever.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: land of the sunshine wherever we go, 2020, Lauren Halsey, mixed media on foil-insulated foam and wood, 97 x 52 x 49 inches. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Allen Chen.

Muse/News: SAM Reviews, Neddy Finalists, and a Latinx artists Showcase

SAM News

All SAM locations are currently closed until further notice. That means you can’t see City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped A New Seattle right now, but you can read The Daily of UW’s article by Andy Chia about the exhibition’s celebration of collector Jinny Wright.

“‘Jinny was always a self-effacing person, but she had a love for art and humanity. She never wanted to say we’re done with art,’ [Catharina] Manchanda said. ‘She would want us to press forward into the future with the curiosity and hope that she had.’”

And while the opening of Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence may be delayed, you can check out the artist’s interviews with Marcie Sillman of KUOW and Aaron Allen of the Seattle Medium.

“‘My thoughts are [for everyone to] be a good citizen,’ says Thomas. ‘If SAM is closed down that means all of the exhibits cannot be seen. This is not personal to me and so we all have to deal, we all have to do our part. I’m lucky because my show will be up at least for a year, so if all things go well people will be able to see my show within four to six weeks.’”

Local News

Mark Van Streefkerk of South Seattle Emerald previewed the virtual edition of Legendary Children, which was presented on Saturday. Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the event highlights the talents of queer and trans Black and POC creatives and is co-presented by SAM and the Seattle Public Library.

“A welcome reprieve from isolation, a hub of safe extroversion”: The Daily’s Austen Van Der Veen on the wonders of Volunteer Park. SAM’s reimagined Asian Art Museum, which reopened in February of this year only to close again in March, is mentioned; the museum looks forward to yet another reopening in the future.

Cornish College of the Arts has announced the eight finalists for the annual Neddy Artist Awards, The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig reports. Priya Frank, SAM’s Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, served as one of the jurors for the awards, which will grant $30,000 each to the two winners.

“‘I feel so excited and proud for the choices we made when selecting the eight finalists,’ said Frank in a statement. ‘All exceeded the criteria, and I was touched by the ways they express their talents in such profound and inspiring ways that allow us to see the beauty and humanity in art as a reflection of life.’”

Inter/National News

This weekend, LACMA unveiled a new outdoor sculptural installation by Alex Prager. Titled Farewell, Work Holiday Parties, the piece features “15 eerily realistic, life-size sculpted figures enjoying (enjoying?) an insurance company holiday party in full swing.”

Four activists were acquitted after taking a ceremonial spear from Marseille’s Museum of African, Oceanic, and Amerindian Arts; they successfully defended the action as free speech.

Artnet’s Brian Boucher explores the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s soon-to-debut $385 million expansion. It will feature their dramatically expanded holdings of modern and contemporary art, particularly of works by Latin American and Latinx artists.

“Fully one-quarter of the art on show in the new galleries is by Latin American and Latinx artists. Among the prizes are works by Lygia Clark, Gego (aka Gertrud Goldschmidt), Hélio Oiticica, Mira Schendel, and Joaquín Torres-García.”

And Finally

The saga of the Pig Couch.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence at Seattle Art Museum, 2020, © Seattle Art Museum, photo: Spike Mafford.

10 Surprising Facts about Artist Kerry James Marshall

If you haven’t yet seen Kerry James Marshall’s glittery, figurative paintings in Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, maybe these 10 surprising facts about him will pique your interest!

1. He is married to Stranger than Fiction actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce.

2. A master of many mediums—Marshall has made work in collage, drawing, murals, and even comic books.

3. Marshall created Rythm Mastr in reaction to the absence of black superheroes in comics growing up. His comic book series features black superheroes with powers derived from gods in the Yoruba pantheon.

4. The first time Marshall saw an original artwork was on a field trip to LACMA in the sixth grade.

5. Black social realist painter Charles White was a mentor to Marshall who considered seeing White’s studio for the first time “a life-altering experience.”

6. Marshall considered a career in children’s book illustration.

7. Ralph Ellison’s novel The Invisible Man inspired Marshall to make his painting Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaUlbICD1qX/?taken-by=kerryjamesmarsh

8. Painted in 1980, two years after Marshall’s college graduation, Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self was the first painting he ever made of a Black figure.

9. Marshall received the MacArthur “Genius Grant,” for exceptional merit and creative works.

10. He knew in kindergarten he wanted to be an artist after his teacher Mary Hill showed the class a scrapbook full of greeting cards, pictures, and other imagery.

Don’t miss Marshall’s work in Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas. These three artists are shaped by distinctive historic events, unique in style, and united in questioning the narratives of history through Black experience. On view until Sunday May 13!

– Nina Dubinsky, Social Media Coordinator

Image: Installation view Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Object of the Week: Round-corner wood-hinged cabinet

“Why are we drawn to a work of art?” is an interesting question, but it’s also a clumsy one that is too broad to tell us much. “Why are you drawn to a work of art?” That might get us somewhere. What about an artwork compels you, reader, to pull out your phone for a selfie, or take down a note with the artist’s name, or fix an image of it in your head, so you can tell your friends about it later? What makes it resonate with you, in thought or emotion? One person might respond to the look of a piece—qualities like exceptional craftsmanship, a vision of beauty, or a herculean effort of construction—while another cares most about the conceptual content, the artwork’s associations with history, the way it offers timely social commentary, or how it prompts imagination.

Here’s some proof that art rocks: Art, and readings of art, are as diverse as people. Individual perspective colors our experience of art, as it does the rest of life. What we’re looking for, we can find. And different folks might see a wide range of facets to the exact same piece.

SAM’s Round-corner wood-hinged cabinets welcome visitors to the first gallery of Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi. That they are a nearly identical pair, “a set of twins,” fascinated artist-curator Tabaimo, who is interested in how we read multiples. Even though our eyes see and our brains understand that there are two, we can still experience a sense of confusion because the boundary between them is slippery.

The cabinets date to the 16th century, when they were fashioned from a precious wood called huanghuali. The rich marbling of the wood grain acts as a natural ornament for the tall, quietly stunning single-panel doors. While the beauty of the wood itself takes center stage on the panels, the difficult method of construction and finely carved trim provided plenty opportunity for artisans to strut their stuff, and strut they did, notably in the softly rounded upper corners for which the cabinets are titled.

These were high-ticket items, reserved for the court and elite classes. They acted as status symbols, speaking wealth and prestige over their owners, and also fulfilled the most basic of utilitarian functions, as storage for books, scrolls and other scholar’s accoutrements. Grand wardrobe cabinets like these took the place of closets in traditional Chinese homes, and when you picture a closet in your head, and then you look at these cabinets, you understand why. They looked really good while they were hiding stuff.

Because huanghuali wood was a choice material during an important period in the making of Chinese furniture, it still carries an association with that time and culture, kind of like how marble sculpture can bring to mind Golden Age Greece for those of us familiar with the European art tradition. Tabaimo is not the first artist to pick up the historical associations of huanghuali wood and bring them into a conversation about contemporary ideas. Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has used huanghuali wood in spherical constructions like LACMA’s Untitled, Divine Proportion that are boldly un-utilitarian, contrasting the storied functional use of huanghuali.

Don’t miss Tabaimo’s playful installation at the Asian Art Museum that animates these cabinets with the artist’s unique vision, and remember to bring your perspective to the equation.

–Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Image: Round-corner wood-hinged cabinet (gui), 16th century, Chinese, huanghuali wood, 72 x 37 x 20 in. Seattle Art Museum, Sarah Ferris Fuller Memorial Collection and an anonymous donor, 89.20.1 and 89.20.2, Photo: Paul Macapia.