All posts in “Seattle Art Museum”

SAM PSA: Hands Off the Art

First things first, no rollerblading and don’t sell vape juice in the galleries.

Seriously though, we want you to have a great visit to SAM and with Remix (SAM’s late-night, creative night out that is definitely not a party) coming up on Friday, November 15 (tickets are still available, FYI), Weird Dog Productions is here to help outline how to behave at our museum.

Don’t touch the art, leave your selfie sticks at coat check, stay hydrated at the water fountains, and you’ll be an art influencer in no time. And remember, the Seattle Art Museum appreciates you!

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OBJECT OF THE WEEK: Study for Aleko’s Horse

Marc Chagall was a prolific artist, producing numerous pieces in a variety of media. Renowned for his richly colored, idiosyncratic style of painting that weds abstraction and Cubism, some of his lesser-known masterpieces revolved around the theater. Chagall’s relationship with the stage began in 1911, when he worked on set designs for the Ballets Russes. He continued to contribute to Russian-based stage designs throughout the ‘20s, before moving to Paris in 1923.[1] While this was an artistically productive period for Chagall, the Nazi occupation of France made living in Paris unsafe for the artist, who was Jewish. With the assistance of organizations working to extricate artists and intellectuals from Europe, Chagall and his wife immigrated to New York for the duration of World War II, arriving in the United States in 1941.  

In 1942, Chagall was hired by the Ballet Theater of New York to design the ballet costumes and sets for a new play. Based on the poem “The Gypsies,” by Alexander Pushkin, the ballet Aleko featured music by Tchaikovsky.[2] The ballet follows the story of Aleko, the protagonist who falls in love with a Romani girl named Zemfira. Their love is not everlasting, however, and by the fourth act Aleko kills Zemfira and her new lover in a fit of jealous rage. While Chagall had worked on set designs before, this was the first time he applied his skills to a ballet. He ultimately designed four backdrops—one for each act—and over 70 costumes. While the ballet’s production was to be completed in New York, union rules forbade Chagall from painting his own sets. As a result, production moved to Mexico City, an environment which greatly influenced Chagall’s designs. Heavily inspired by both Russian folklore and Mexican art and architecture, Chagall produced beautifully whimsical hand-painted ballet costumes and backdrops, including numerous design studies.

Chagall’s Study for Aleko’s Horse is one such study, merging images from both the second and fourth acts of the play. The study’s rich, vibrant colors and whimsical subject matter capture the dynamic and psychological aspects of the story. In the second act, which revolves around a lively carnival, Aleko and Zemfira are still in love. By the fourth act, Aleko dreams of strange and nightmarish fantasies, with images that twist and swirl before his eyes. Aleko’s nightmares take him to the brink of insanity—and, jealous and enraged, he kills Zemfira, in love with another man.[3] The juxtaposition of these two scenes represents the dramatic turn of events, synthesized in Chagall’s study as a densely layered, colorful dreamscape.

Hayley Makinster, SAM Curatorial Intern

[1] Stephanie Barron, “Marc Chagall and Twentieth-Century Designs for the Stage,” LACMA Unframed, 1 August 2017. https://unframed.lacma.org/2017/08/01/marc-chagall-and-twentieth-century-designs-stage
[2] Liesl Bradner, “Marc Chagall Reveals his Theatrical Side in LACMA’s ‘Fantasies for the Stage,’” LA Times, 23 July 2017. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-chagall-lacma-20170714-story.html
[3] Leland Windreich, “Massine’s ‘Aleko,’” Dance Chronicle 8, no. ¾ (1985): 156-160, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1567580
Image: Study for Aleko’s Horse, 1953-56, Marc Chagall, Oil on canvas, 18 × 24 in. (45.7 × 61 cm), Gift of Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, 2014.26.9 Estate of Marc Chagall/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
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MAPPING THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Check out the October SAM Gallery show, Mapping the Grid before it closes October 31! Nina Tichava is one of four artists featured, all of whose work responds to maps, grids, and geometry. Tichava uses painting and printmaking techniques, to interweave drawing and collage with a variety of media, including paint, charcoal, ink, tape, ballpoint pen, canvas, and metal. She is a process painter, who creates paintings without a set plan or narrative.

In the works from her Mapping Series at SAM Gallery, Nina says “I was able to source nautical maps of the Pacific Northwest sound, and I had two large, vintage maps of Washington State in my studio. I’m a constant and compulsive collector of vintage maps, papers, postcards, wallpaper, photographs, posters . . . it goes on and on. I’m always searching thrift stores, garage sales and vintage shops, especially when traveling. I also hunt for materials on eBay, mainly when I’m looking for something specific.” Many of the maps in her work at SAM Gallery feature Pacific Northwest locations, such as downtown Seattle, Gray’s Harbor, and the Hood River. As an environmentalist and conservationist, Tichava is also working to help protect the locations shown in her maps. Tichava sells works on her website to support environmental charities, such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. She was raised by hippy parents in rural New Mexico and Northern California and spent most of her adult life on the West Coast, where awareness of things like water conservation, clean air, and environmental impact are part of the culture and prioritized. She believes that “as climate change intensifies, and everyone is thinking about how to handle the complexities, I feel like it’s a small but tangible way I can participate and contribute to a solution.” 

On top of the maps, Tichava applies numerous overlapping layers of stripes, painstakingly painted with a brush and individually applied strips of tape. “Reproduction and repetition being central themes, my paintings are responses to things mass-produced and processed to an ideal. My paintings are, by nature, imprecise and hand-made objects. Perfection is unattainable therefore each piece is unique—it is this inherent quality that continues to engage me in painting.” The Mapping Series was developed in collaboration with SAM Gallery and for many years was exclusive to the gallery. The idea came from a design project Tichava began in South Lake Union, and grew from there, encouraged by Jody Bento and the many collectors who have supported this series for years. See it for yourself!

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

Image credit: Edward Tichava

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Muse/News: Layerless freedom, #JayDoodles, and Art Boys

SAM News

In honor of Pacific Northwest Black Pride, Crystal Paul, Erika Schultz, and Corinne Chin of The Seattle Times presents a multimedia story exploring identity and freedom with 10 Black, queer Seattleites.

In a related story, they recreated an intimate conversation that Black, queer artists recently had with Zanele Muholi, talking through their reactions to the SAM show, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness.

Here’s Gregory Scruggs for the Stranger, interviewing Brazilian artist Regina Silveira about her Olympic Sculpture Park site-specific installation Octopus Wrap, the goal of art, and the relative concrete jungles of Seattle and São Paulo.

Seattle Met’s September issue has hit newsstands. Their fall arts preview leads with a story on the new directors at SAM, the Symphony, and the Opera—and their visions for the future. SAM’s new director Amada Cruz starts in mid-September!

“The tradition of art museums is that they’re closed off repositories of precious works of art,” [Cruz] says. “How do we open ourselves up so that museums can become part of everybody’s daily life?”

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Alan Berner captured some terrific shots (as usual) of an installation happening at the Burke Museum: a huge mural by artist RYAN! Feddersen.

Watch this Crosscut video featuring cool footage of the viaduct “unmaking” and a conversation with architect David Miller about the future of the waterfront.

#JayDoodles: It’s a thing. SAM’s own Chiyo Ishikawa is among the art-world heavies offering their takes on Governor Jay Inslee’s lighthearted artistic practice in this Seattle Times story.

“The figure in the boat could represent his campaign: Rowing against the stream!”

Inter/National News

The MCA Denver has named Nora Burnett Abrams its new director, reports the New York Times. She’s been a curator at the museum for the last 10 years.

Alex Needham, an arts editor at the Guardian, tweeted this week that curators shouldn’t be named in show reviews. Artnet’s Naomi Rea reports on the ensuing Twitter storm.

Artnet’s Caroline Goldstein reports on the ABC casting notice that may bring so-called Art Boys to network television.

“The dashing Art Boy, on the other hand, is more of a rosé and tapas type. Who doesn’t want to watch a show about him?”

And Finally

Happy birthday, Dorothy Parker.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view “Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness,” Seattle Art Museum, 2019.



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Muse/News: Muholi recommended, radical love, and a new look at Basquiat

SAM News

Aesthetica makes five recommendations from around the world to see, including Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness at SAM.

Seattle Magazine is out with their list of the “21 Best Things To Do in Seattle in August 2019.” Remix at the Olympic Sculpture Park makes the cut.

Local News

The Seattle jazz scene has two sad losses to report: the closure of legendary club Tula’s at the end of September, and the retirement of Clarence Acox, Garfield High School’s jazz band director.

In addition to their booth-to-booth coverage of this past weekend’s Seattle Art Fair, Crosscut has pieces by Emily Pothast and Margo Vansynghel examining the various outcomes of the Fair on the local art scene.

The Big Art Weekend wouldn’t be complete without the incredible satellite events; here’s Gayle Clemans for the Seattle Times on the free festival:festival, which also took place over the weekend (SAM’s David Rue is one of the curators!).

“The festival will highlight ‘artist-driven portraits of identity,’ which will take many forms including visual art and performance, according to co-curator and dance artist David Rue. ‘We’re using this approach so that artists can provide a counterpoint to the dominant narrative told about people that look like them while celebrating the power of culturally responsive rigor.’”

Inter/National News

Baltimore is great city full of great people. And now this! Artnet reports that the Baltimore Museum of Art will dedicate “a year’s worth of exhibitions dedicated to female-identifying artists throughout 2020.”

“What Does Radical Love Look Like?” Hyperallergic’s Seph Rodney explores that question at the Ford Foundation Gallery’s latest show, featuring work by Athi-Patra Ruga, Lina Puerta, and Ebony G. Patterson.

The New York Times has a fascinating look Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story at the Guggenheim; curated by Chaédria LaBouvier, the show centers on a painting that depicts the tragic death of a young Black artist.

‘”This is someone becoming — finding themselves, finding their voice, finding their practice,’ Ms. LaBouvier said. ‘I didn’t want to make him into a myth, or make him into a sort of trauma-porn story either. And I thought the best way to do that was to take a step back and let him speak for himself.’”

And Finally

Evergreen story.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman.

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Muse/News: Beauty at SAM, Juneteenth lessons, and a huge statue from Kehinde Wiley

SAM News

The Victorians Radicals are here! Here are reviews from Gary Faigin for the Seattle Times and Stefan Milne of Seattle Met on the exhibition’s beautiful objects and historical richness.

Fayemi Shakur profiles Zanele Muholi and their work photographing Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex South Africans. Muholi’s stunning self-portraits arrive at SAM on July 10.  

“I want the next generation of young queers and non-queers to know that we are here, that we were here. We owe it to ourselves to make sense of our lives and living.”

Local News

“Almost free is unfree”: LaNesha DeBardelaben, Executive Director of the Northwest African American Museum, shares the story—and lessons—of Juneteenth. (And Real Change’s Lisa Edge wrote up their current exhibition!)

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig on the “disco balls, closed-circuit cameras, and colored lighting” in Give It or Leave It, Cauleen Smith’s solo show at the Frye Art Museum.

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley talks with Greg Lundgren about empty spaces, collective billionaires, and the forthcoming Museum of Museums (MoM).

“I’ll keep saying the same thing I’ve said for years: Any time you have a concentration of talent, wealth, innovation and quality of life, you’ve got all the ingredients for a renaissance, of a revolution, of a movement. But somehow, we just haven’t been mixing them right.”

Inter/National News

NPR reports that poet, writer, and musician Joy Harjo will be the next poet laureate of the United States. Learn more about her with this great conversation from BOMB Magazine between Harjo and fellow poet Sherwin Bitsui.

Artforum reports: “The Association of Art Museum Directors’ board of trustees has passed a resolution that calls on the more than two hundred museums it represents to end unpaid internship programs.”

A new republic, set in stone: The Virginia Museum of Arts announced the acquisition of Kehinde Wiley’s largest sculpture to date, a 30-foot-tall bronze of a Black man on a horse, modeled after Richmond’s Confederate statues.

“Art and violence have for an eternity held a strong narrative grip with each other … To have the Rumors of War sculpture presented in such a context lays bare the scope and scale of the project in its conceit to expose the beautiful and terrible potentiality of art to sculpt the language of domination.”

And Finally

A dilemma of inheritance, a question of citizenship.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Beata Beatrix, begun 1877 (left unfinished in 1882 and completed by Ford Madox Brown), Dante Gabriel Rossetti, British, 1828–1882, oil on canvas, 34 1/8 × 26 7/8 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Purchased, 1891P25, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts



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Muse/News: Wrapping up, bobbling macarons, and going to camp

SAM News

That’s a wrap on Jeffrey: Gibson: Like a Hammer. As a farewell, here’s Emily Zimmerman interviewing the artist for BOMB Magazine.

“I needed to let go of whether I was an artist or not, and I needed to pursue the things that I want to see existing in the world that don’t exist. What are the things that would leverage this world that didn’t meet my expectations?”

Celebrated Brazilian artist Regina Silveira has debuted a new site-specific installation at the Olympic Sculpture Park’s PACCAR Pavilion called Octopus Wrap. A glimpse of the installation process was captured by the Seattle Times’ Alan Berner. Seattle Met and Crosscut also previewed the installation, which features a series of tire tracks wrapping around the walls, windows, and floor of the building, looking like the arms of an octopus.

“The startling change to the familiar park building embodies elements of play, but also reminds us of the luxury of presuming our surroundings will always stay the same.”

And Smithsonian Magazine featured the sculpture park on their round-up of the “world’s most spectacular sculpture parks.”

Local News

Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture announced that Christopher Paul Jordan has been selected to create the centerpiece artwork for the planned AIDS Memorial Pathway project on Capitol Hill.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores and South Seattle Emerald’s Jessie McKenna both wrote up Alexis Taylor’s Black Among Other Things, an installation at AURA in the Central District about her experiences as a Black woman.

The art of food: Chef Brady Williams won Best Chef in the Northwest at James Beard Awards; the Seattle Times’ Bethany Jean Clement recently picked up a shift at Canlis to learn about their legendary service.

“By the top of the stairs, the macaron begins to bobble; on the penultimate step, it leaps to its death, in its final act somehow managing to shatter on the soft carpeting. A man seated at one of Canlis’ well-spaced, snowy-white-linened tables regards me with a mixture of pity and horror.”

Inter/National News

But is it CAMP? The Met’s latest exhibition—and attendant over-the-top Gala—has everyone reaching for their undergrad copy of Sontag. Here are some thoughts.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) announced this week that Mia Locks will be their new senior curator and head of initiatives; interestingly, they don’t have plans to hire a chief curator to replace Helen Molesworth.

Nadja Sayej for the Guardian on Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, now on view in New York, which traces her work as a “trailblazer of African American arts.”

“She said her legacy is in the work of her students,” notes Ikemoto. “Even when they didn’t have money to buy their own art supplies, she let them use hers. She often said, ‘I know much I was put down and denied, so if I can teach these kids anything, I’m going to teach it to them.’”

And Finally

Can we please do something now?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of “Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap”, 2019, Seattle Art Museum site-specific installation, photo: Mark Woods.



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Artists on Art: Carla Rossi

“Approach the art, do not cross the line, look, turn to your friend and say, ‘my kid could do that,’ and then walk away!” – Carla Rossi

Follow Carla Rossi, an immortal trickster and your unofficial tour guide through Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Gibson’s contemporary art combines powwow, pop culture, and punching bags to explore what modernity means within Indigenous cultures. Carla Rossi combines drag, clowning, and entitlement to address complacency, and the confusion of “mixed” identities. See through Carla’s eyes when you visit Like a Hammer.

This video is one of a series presenting Northwest Native American artists responding to Gibson’s work. The character of Carla was created by Anthony Hudson, a multidisciplinary artist, writer, performer, and filmmaker. Hudson, a member of the Grand Ronde tribe, started performing as Carla as an art project in 2010 and has since turned Carla into a full-fledged persona, body of work, and occupation. Hudson prefers the term “drag clown” over “drag queen” because he’s not trying to emulate women. Carla is a tool for critique. When he performs as Carla, Hudson wear whiteface in direct allusion to whiteness, clowning, and as a critical inversion of blackface.

Jeffrey Gibson believes, “everyone is at the intersection of multiple cultures times, histories. . . . that there’s a lot more to be gained at the space in between mapped points then there is at the mapped points. . . . I’m always looking for these in-between spaces of things.” Similarly, Anthony Hudson (Grand Ronde), is interested in “in the edge – that line between satire and sincerity, between critique and reification—as a site where transgression and transformation occur.”

Jeffrey Gibson is of Cherokee heritage and a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. He grew up in urban settings in Germany, South Korea, the United States, and England, and his work draws on his experiences in different cultural environments. In his artwork, materials used in Indigenous powwow regalia, such as glass beads, drums, trade blankets, and metal jingles, are twined together with aspects of queer club culture as well as the legacies of abstract painting. Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer is a major museum exhibition presenting a significant selection of this contemporary artist’s exuberant artwork created since 2011. The presentation in Seattle closes on May 12.


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Object of the Week: Mola

Ancient Andean cultures used complex recording devices known as quipu, fashioned from tally cords, which allowed for the communication and recording of information essential to daily life. The quipu were essential tools for many Andean communities: they were a medium that enabled reading, writing, and, importantly, remembering. Such Indigenous practices nearly disappeared due to colonial suppression. Not unlike the quipu, the Cuna mola—or blouse—produced in the San Blas Islands represents the resilience of a community in the face of colonization.

The Cuna Indians are an Indigenous people who live along the Atlantic coast of Panama and Colombia. In the 16th century they were driven by the Spanish from their original home in Colombia, and moved west toward the coast. Mola, as we know them today, evolved from elaborate body painting. In the mid-18th century, when European settlers introduced cloth to the region, women began to wear simple blouses, painting them with natural dyes in the same manner they had previously decorated their bodies.

To make these elaborate blouses, an artist—importantly a woman—begins with multiple pieces of different colored cloth, and bastes one on top of the other. After cutting multiple designs, the maker then hems the edges with fine stitches. From there additional elements are added, such as embroidery, positive appliqué, or incisions that reveal the layers of cloth below. This reverse appliqué technique is an intricate and time-intensive process that has been mastered and handed down from generation to generation.

The history of the mola is inextricable from the history of colonialism in Latin America. It evolved in spite of European contact and continues to be shaped by contact with non-Native people today. For example, traditional Cuna designs—on both the body, originally, and the blouses—include abstracted linear patterns, stylized flora and fauna, and figures from Cuna mythology. When interactions with outsiders increased due to the construction of the Panama Canal, motifs such as trademarks, slogans, and American products appeared. Further, in the first decades of the 20th century, the Panamanian government tried to ban many Cuna customs, including their language and traditional dress. A resistance was mounted, and in 1925 the Dule Revolution resulted in the autonomy of the Cuna people, granting them the right to govern their own territory and culture autonomously. The mola can thus be seen as a vibrant textile tradition that represents the strength and resilience of the Cuna people.

Elisabeth Smith, Collection & Provenance Associate


Images: Mola, 1950s-60s, Cuna, Panamanian, cotton cloth and cotton thread, 21 × 25 in., Gift of an anonymous donor, 2018.26.10 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. Mola, 1950s-60s, Cuna, Panamanian, cotton cloth and cotton thread, 22 1/2 × 25 in., Gift of an anonymous donor, 2018.26.6 © Artist or Artist’s Estate.

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