All posts in “Mark Tobey”

Photo Archive: Visual Evidence of SAM’s Enduring Impact

The photo archive at SAM begins in 1933 and spans 81 years to 2014, serving as a visual gateway into the expansive history of exhibits, programs, and events that have taken place here. The sheer scale of the photo archive is impressive: various sizes of negatives, color negatives and positives, prints, slides, CDs, and even floppy disks. The archive functions not only as photographic evidence of SAM’s expansion and influence over the course of its tenure, but also as a physical reminder of the advancement in photographic documentation technology.

 

 

In January 2017, we began taking inventory of all the materials in the photo archive. The project currently consists of assessing photographic materials, removing duplicates, improving the overall organization of the files through relabeling and rehousing, and inputting information about the exhibitions and events depicted in the photographs into a digital spreadsheet.

As we progress through the photo archive chronologically, we become more aware of how SAM’s presence in Seattle has inspired and driven the city to become a destination for experiencing art from around the world. The archive is a visual and tactile record of the breadth and scope of exhibitions, events, and community involvement that have shaped the Seattle Art Museum since 1933. Much of the material highlights the annual events that have taken place at SAM, like the Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists (1914–1974), and the Annual Exhibitions of Residential Architecture (1950–1980), architecture tours organized by SAM volunteers of homes in the Puget Sound region.

 

 

A noteworthy event is depicted in a photograph of a prominent SAM donor, Mrs. Kress, greeting Queen Elizabeth in Washington DC in 1961. Mrs. Kress was in DC for the transfer of gifts from the Kress Foundation Collection to 18 US museums, including SAM.

 

 

Another is a photograph of two important figures in Seattle’s arts community past: SAM founder Dr. Richard Fuller and art supporter Betty Bowen, lighting candles on a cake made for artist Mark Tobey’s (of the Northwest School) 80th birthday party held at the museum.

 

 

In 1991, SAM moved from its original Volunteer Park location (now the Asian Art Museum) to its present downtown location on First Avenue. Highlights from the archive during this decade include a file from 1991 that houses color prints and slides documenting the installation of the marble Chinese camels (14th–17th century) at the new downtown location. The photos show installers wearing hard hats working together to elevate the sculptures, now located in SAM’s grand stairway.

 

In a file dated November 19, 1993 there is a public relations announcement with the headline “APEC Economies Present Seattle Art Museum with Gifts from Around the World” and a myriad of photos and newspaper clippings documenting the event. On November 19, 1993, the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park was the site of the 19th Asia Pacific Economic Conference leadership reception attended by heads of state from 15 Asia-Pacific nations. In a display of international goodwill, several economies participating in the conference offered SAM gifts of artwork from their respective nations. The conference also featured a piece by nine-year-old Skylar Gronholz, chosen as the piece that best represents the theme of “international economic cooperation” from a student competition. Skyler unveiled his work to President Clinton and the 15 world leaders during the conference.

 

A file dated February 11, 1994, a seemingly ordinary day, contains a series of prints documenting the arrival and greeting of SAM’s millionth visitor. There is no name listed in the file, but number 1,000,000 was photographed smiling and receiving flowers in front of the admissions desk as well as on her trip through SAM’s galleries. These documented moments within the archive showcase the involvement and enthusiasm of people inside and outside of Seattle who have fostered a space for SAM to successfully bring art to the community; effectively and accurately presenting SAM as a nexus of local engagement and international collaboration.

The Seattle Art Museum’s dedication to bringing art to Seattle residents and visitors alike is made visually evident in the photo archive. Through this project, our goal is to eventually make the archive more accessible. We believe greater access will lead to a heightened awareness and a more nuanced understanding of SAM’s involvement in the region and its enduring impact on the Seattle arts community.

– Kelsey Novick and Holly Palmer, Photo Archive Interns

Object of the Week: Rummage

The word “rummage” has satisfying and nostalgic connotations for me. Hearing it triggers memories of summertime outings to what my grandma called rummage sales, where I’d pore over knick-knacks and tchotchkes in search of another person’s junk that would be my treasure. To rummage is to search with a kind of directionless mind—to not know what we’re looking for until we find it. When we rummage we’re also navigating through a mass of objects, of all varieties, without neat structure or organization. If you think about it, it’s the disorganization and diversity of these things that gives us something to do: We sort the unsorted according to our principles and desires.

In the season of spring cleaning it’s much easier for me to imagine contributing to the rummage pile than doing any rummaging of my own. Still, it seems a fitting time to reflect on Mark Tobey’s important 1941 painting Rummage, celebrating the barrage of sights and sounds found at the Pike Place Market.

The market became a touchstone for Tobey, and in the art of Pacific Northwest modernism, Tobey’s work pictures the market most and best. The connection he felt to the energy, the people, and the goods was quasi-spiritual. Tobey called the market “a refuge, an oasis, a most human growth, the heart and soul of Seattle.”1 His visits to the market were restorative and cathartic, and they also provided plentiful aesthetic stimulation for his work. While he would return to Pike Place for subject matter at various points, the years 1940–1942 saw Tobey complete the greatest number of market studies. Rummage, painted in 1941, fits into this period of concentrated attention.

Tobey gives us a maelstrom of ‘40s Seattle symbols: lounge chairs, mannequins, spoons, wheels, neon signs, birds, and clocks, arranged haphazardly, and pictured from different vantage points. His figures join the scene quietly and timidly, their presence overwhelmed by the visual noise around them. Looking at this painting, I picture Tobey doing his own rummaging, perusing the market’s stimuli and selecting his subjects from it. In a broader sense, he was also selecting from Western art’s tradition of forms in space, Cubism’s rethinking of those forms, and Asian art’s different emphasis on line.

One of the Seattle Art Museum’s best-traveled pictures, Rummage has greeted viewers in Tacoma; Portland; San Francisco; Detroit; New York City; Poughkeepsie; Palm Beach; Cincinnati; Baton Rouge; Utica, New York; Albany; Buffalo; Baltimore; Andover; Copenhagen, Denmark; Frankfurt, Germany; Berlin; Nuremburg; Munich; Hamburg; Essen; London; Colorado Springs; Pasadena; Milwaukee; Valparaiso, Indiana; Fort Worth; Los Angeles; Oakland; Cortland, New York; East Lansing, Michigan; Columbia, Missouri; Newark, Delaware; Tucson; Aurora, New York; Macon, Georgia; Geneseo, New York; Jacksonville, Illinois; Lafayette, Indiana; Neenah, Wisconsin; Madison; Chicago; Pittsburgh; Interlochen, Michigan; Dallas; Osaka, Japan; Omaha; Miami; Des Moines, Iowa; Philadelphia; and of course, right here in Seattle.

Here’s proof that rummaging—seeking and finding—translates well.

–Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

1 Mark Tobey, Mark Tobey: The World of a Market, Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1964, introduction
Image: Rummage, 1941, Mark Tobey (born Centerville, Wisconsin, 1890; died Basel, Switzerland, 1976), transparent and opaque watercolor on paperboard, 38 3/8 x 25 7/8 in. Seattle Art Museum, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 42.28

Object of the Week: Pike Street, Seattle

“The Market will always be within me. Established back in 1907 by the farmers themselves—not for the tourist trade, but as a protest against the high prices paid to commission men—it has been for me a refuge, an oasis, a most human growth, the heart and soul of Seattle. . . .

For me every day in the Market was a fiesta. But, alas, wars came: the old men I had learned to know died; more and more stalls were empty; the Japanese were sent away. Mrs. Morgan, who ran a flower stand, said, ‘Mr. Tobey, the Market ist deadt’ The years dissolve, and I return to visit the Market. A few old friends remain—the brothers of the fish stall, but the interesting sign above their heads has been stolen. The chairs that ascended the incline directly below them, upon which tired shoppers used to rest, have been torn out. But the main part of the Market is still active, still varied, exciting, and terribly important in the welter of overindustrialization. There is the same magic as night approaches: the sounds fade; there is an extra rustle everywhere; prices drop; the garbage pickers come bending and sorting; the cars leave the street which reflects the dying sun. The windows are all that remain of light as the sun sets over the Olympics. A few isolated figures appear and disappear, and then the Market is quiet, awaiting another day.”1

Mark Tobey, Breaker of Art Traditions – Seattle Times, 1946

The Seattle Times published this bio sketch on Tobey on March 17, 1946. Author Margaret Callahan links Tobey’s penchant for working in the public market to the difficulty he faced in finding an affordable private studio.

ark Tobey and the Public Market

The Seattle Art Museum hosted an exhibition on Mark Tobey and the Public Market in August, 1963, leading to the publication of a book on the same topic: Mark Tobey: The World of a Market (1964). The back cover features this image of Tobey, at home among the papayas.

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Image: Pike Street, Seattle, 1941-1942, Mark Tobey (American, born Centerville, Wisconsin, 1890; died Basel, Switzerland, 1976), opaque watercolor with pastel on paper mounted on paperboard, 28 1/4 × 21 3/8in. Gift of the Marshall and Helen Hatch Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2009.52.111 © Mark Tobey / Seattle Art Museum
1 Mark Tobey, Mark Tobey: The World of a Market, Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1964, introduction

SAM Art: Back from summer break!

E Pluribus Unum, 1942, Mark Tobey, American, 1890 – 1976, opaque watercolor on paper mounted on paperboard, 19 3/4 x 27 1/4 in., Gift of Mrs. Thomas D. Stimson, 43.33, © Mark Tobey / Seattle Art Museum. Now on view in Modernism in the Pacific Northwest: The Mythic and the Mystical, fourth floor, Seattle Art Museum.

E Pluribus Unum, 1942, Mark Tobey, American, 1890 – 1976, opaque watercolor on paper mounted on paperboard, 19 3/4 x 27 1/4 in., Gift of Mrs. Thomas D. Stimson, 43.33, © Mark Tobey / Seattle Art Museum. Now on view in Modernism in the Pacific Northwest: The Mythic and the Mystical, fourth floor, Seattle Art Museum.

This week, we are embracing the end of summer with the coming of Labor Day, the return of NFL football, and the end of Modernism in the Pacific Northwest: The Mythic and the Mystical.

Our Super Bowl champion Seahawks return to The CLink in their season opener on Thursday. Whether you’re cheering from the stands or from your living room, stop by the Seattle Art Museum before the game to see Modernism before it closes. The stunning collection of Northwest masters is only on view through Sunday, September 7.

SAMart 50+: The World’s Fair + SAM, part II

SAMart continues with the second installment of “50+: The World’s Fair + SAM.”

While the “Masterpieces of Art” exhibition took a wide view of the world’s artistic heritage, World’s Fair art director (and SAM’s Board vice president) Norman Davis insisted that there be a focus on artists of this region as well. A group exhibition of living Northwest artists was included in the Art Pavilion’s offerings, as well as a single exhibition dedicated to one artist: Northwest luminary Mark Tobey.

An artist with international recognition, Tobey’s work provided an immersion into the artistic heritage and influences of the Northwest. His paintings created a visual glossary: The muted browns and greens of the Northwest landscape; the active gestures reminiscent of Asian calligraphy; fugues of hooded figures, populated a city hunched against the fabled Seattle rain.

The show presented in a gallery of the Fine Arts Pavilion was small in scale (comprising only 23 works), but it provided a global platform for this artistic giant of the mid-20th century. Welcoming visitors to the gallery was a wall text, proclaiming Tobey “Seattle’s foremost artist and… one of the most important names in the international art world.” This was late in the artist’s successful career, when he had moved his primary residence to Switzerland. Still, Tobey’s connection to Seattle ran deep, and it was his association with this city that was celebrated at the Fair. The works displayed were, themselves, local: The entire installation was drawn from the Seattle Art Museum’s holdings.

Fifty years later, Tobey’s works remain central within the museum’s collections. The museum’s Tobey holdings span the breadth of his entire, illustrious career. All works are available for browsing and study, on the museum’s website. The next time Tobey paintings or drawings will be on view in SAM’s galleries will be after the Elles exhibitions close, in 2013.

Mark Tobey, installation view, Fine Arts Pavilion, Seattle World’s Fair, 1962. Photo: © Seattle Art Museum.

SAMart: White Writing

The visualization of night and light evolved in the art of Mark Tobey in the early 1940s from what was for him a heightened sensitivity to the impulses of the modern world. His motivation, he declared, was to paint something felt, not something seen: the energies of the modern city at night, for instance, and those indefinable force fields whose radiance is only detected in the dark, sparkling energies that, while potentially explosive, might also suggest human intellectual and spiritual enlightenment. Tobey’s distinctive approach to painting came to be called “white writing”—an obsessive, dense, calligraphic style that seems akin to ancient symbolic expression, like characters scratched into the surfaces of black obsidian or clay tablets. Tobey’s white lines on dark surfaces perfectly convey forces that are familiar to us all—like meteor showers in the night sky, for example—and that we appreciate as some of the most ravishing and mysterious occurrences in nature.

Mark Tobey, White Writing with Patricia Junker

Members Art History Lecture Series: New Perspectives
February 22, 2012
7:00–9:00 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, SAM downtown

SOLD OUT

White Night, 1942, Mark Tobey (American, 1890–1976), tempera on paperboard mounted on composition board, 22 ¼ x 14 in., Gift of Mrs. Berthe Poncy Jacobson, 62.78. Photo: Paul Macapia, © Mark Tobey Estate/Seattle Art Museum. Currently on view in the Modern American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.