All posts in “Seattle”

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

A Tick of the Clock: Dan Webb Carves Through the Summer

This summer, Seattle artist Dan Webb will set up shop at the Olympic Sculpture Park. In a small wooden shed, he will gradually turn a tree into a procession of carved sculptures. He will continue to carve until nothing is left but sawdust.

The ephemeral project pays tribute to the natural life cycle of the tree, which will come from the sculpture park—our chief gardener has selected one that needs to be thinned for the health of the grove. The tree’s seeds will be preserved and planted in the park.

We talked to Webb about his project—and what making art means to him.

Note: Selections from this interview appeared in the SAM magazine for June–September 2015. This is the full interview.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: This summer, you’ll be spending two months carving sculptures out of a tree but I hear that none of the works you make will be kept. What motivates you to do this? What’s your thinking behind this?

Dan Webb: I think it really talks about a certain ephemerality to most things that everything lives for a while. I mean, even if you look at the acropolis or something like that, it’s melting because of the rain and such. There are these things that we’re able to make but we’re not able to make anything that’s permanent. So maybe the conceit of sculpture is that you can hold on to a moment for a bit but a lot of my work really references the idea of time and the idea of a cycle, that you’re born and you live and you die and that just starts another beginning.

And I think wood is a great material to do that with. You know, it’s a material that was alive and is no longer. There’s a way that you can really talk about those kinds of systems, the falling apart and then coming out of the ashes and falling apart, that just seems really natural in wood. You don’t have to reach very far and it doesn’t seem mockish or melodramatic.

The work to me is on the one hand is quite light-hearted and fun and on the other hand is very much about entropy and death and stuff. I feel like that material spans that emotional distance really well. I do want all of that stuff kicking around in there somewhere.

SAM: Something that occurred to me while looking at this project and some of your other work is that you start with block of wood and you start carving. And with this project, you’re going to keep carving until—

Dan Webb: Exactly.

SAM: —you can’t keep carving anymore.

Dan Webb: Right.

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SAM: This is unique to carving. That if you keep going, your medium will disappear. If a painter just kept layering on paint and paint and paint and engaging in the process, his material would get thicker. His canvas would eventually get thicker but yours will eventually disappear.

Dan Webb: Exactly. Yeah, it’s very much a reductive process—it’s something you think about. It’s something you notice as you carve, you know, that every time I take a little bit off, there’s very much a reference. It’s not a metaphor. It’s very much like a tick of the clock. There’s a little bit gone, you know, and that just percolates through the work.

It’s hard to keep it away so that’s really the beginning of it. I hope that doesn’t sound like a big fat bummer but it’s in there. But along that path of that life and all the stuff that I’m going to make, there’s all sorts of stuff that’s great.

You know, I’m really already planning on making a salad set for the table that I’m supposed to make in the park or making some kind of implements for people when they sit around their table and we have dinner in the park that will come from that tree [Dan is a featured artist for Party in the Park]. I want those things to really live a life and to be touched, to be in the hands of people and to go somewhere. That’s just one idea. There’s a few others too related to that.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: That’s one of the things I want to ask. How will you decide what to carve?

Dan Webb: There’s a lot of improvisation in what happens with a particular piece of wood and some of it is just—to me—sort of silly inside jokes.

I always think of the phrase “ripped limb from limb” because I make so many limbs out of the limbs of trees through what amounts to a whole lot of violence, really. That just seems so dumb and obvious, to carve a limb from a limb, but I can’t help myself.

It’s still great. Not really worrying about the starting point is more of my process. The idea that [Marcel] Duchamp had of chance—the standard stoppages and all that kind of stuff of making, building into his process the way that he does—he isn’t really sure what it’s going to be. I’m sympathetic to that way of working.

I think illustrating my deep thoughts on things as they are would be a whole lot less interesting than discovering things along the way and being sensitive to the serendipity of certain shapes, certain ways that the wood seems to be doing certain things. Just listening to that makes it more than I think I could plan for it to be.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: Is there a point in the carving where you either discover something and your path forward is set or because you get to a point where you’ve made enough decisions that you’re now limited—?

Dan Webb: There is a point at which it’s set. I’m starting to make things where I take a single block and I start cutting chunks out of the block and carving different things from them with a simple joint at the top, a dove-tail joint, and then sliding all those things together that I pull out of the block.

And I’ve found that it doesn’t take very long before there’s something going on with that initial piece that leads to the next piece and then I’m trying to really find that in the block. I’m trying to make sure that I can find that in there. So while there’s improv, there’s also me trying to exert my will on it. There’s a tension between the two.

SAM: We tend to think about the artist as a solitary, isolated figure. I read somewhere that you work in a studio in Georgetown with other artists so you aren’t necessarily that on a daily basis anyway. But now you’re bringing your studio to the park, which is this very public space.

What are your expectations? Why are you interested? Are there things here you’re excited about or worried about?

Dan Webb: Yeah, I know. Well, I think that really has to be part of the work. I am really interested in Robert Smithson’s work, Partially Buried Woodshed, that he made in the 70s. I got a chance to see it actually. It was a woodshed where a bunch of woodworkers were and he poured a whole bunch of dirt on it and left it and it rotted. His work was really about entropy and everything like that. But I was really interested in what happens to those woodworkers inside of that. I know he pulled them out before he poured dirt on it—but the whole idea of what happens to the people, and how do people fit into that work, and his thinking in some ways informs this piece.

I’m very much the woodworker there in the shack. The activity of it, the pretty slow quotidian boringness of it will be on display, as well as the conversations I’ll have and all the rest of it. I hope that’s very much a part of the work.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: What are five things you’ll bring with you? What do you need to work when you’re carrying your studio with you?

Dan Webb: Well, I’m going to have a rolling cart that I’ll have to roll into the shack from the pavilion and roll back at the end of the night because there’s—I’ll probably have fifty or sixty chisels with me and saws—a lot of stuff will be required to do this. So I’d be pretty stumped if I had to think of just five. A cup of coffee, my toolbox. What else? What else do I get? Is that two? Technically I’ve already listed more than a hundred because of the tools so I better stop. I’m cheating already.

SAM: I want to ask you about some of your influences and I have to be honest—I’m hoping you’ll talk a little bit about Robert Morris’s Box With a Sound of Its Own Making.

Dan Webb: Oh, yeah, which I just paid homage to ten minutes ago. I love it. I love talking about other people’s work. Well, it’s just a towering work of genius, first of all.

I think what it does for me as a maker of things—it really says that there’s this life lived by someone who made that thing. That new object was brought to this place by a person who thought things through, had all these problems to solve, and was having a hard day that day, and told a really hilarious joke at lunchtime to his friends.

So there’s that really clear, awesome humanity to it.

The other thing too that becomes maybe even more important than the piece—the physical artifact really takes a backseat (maybe) to the idea, to the circumstance, to the context. There’s a lot of things that go into it and the object becomes the artifact of that.

I think about that when I look at the Michelangelo “Slave” Series as well. It’s not that they’re finished or that’s even important. They’re sort of struggling to get out of this block environment. But you can just see his chisel. More than any other piece that Michelangelo made, you see these tourists just running by these things in Florence. Nobody looks at them. I was the only person.

You can see the chisel marks and you make the connection that there was this funny little shrunken dude who was making that stuff.

It seems to be pretty profound to me that there’s the things that you think and feel and hope for. And then there’s the artifact of that life—which is your work. Not forgetting that, not ever forgetting that, is really important.

SAM: That art is made by humans.

Dan Webb: Art is made by humans who are muddling through, and trying to make sense of it, and the issues are pretty much the same [then that they are now].

I think with a lot of other work, before I saw Box With a Sound of Its Own Making, it was harder for me to access some of that stuff. It seemed like this thing had just arrived—rather than feeling like there was a context for why that thing existed or there were conflicts and difficulties with them, which leads to it looking a certain way. You have to grapple with the thing.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: How do you define mastery?

Dan Webb: You know, that word is a real—whenever I hear that word, I think of Caine in Kung Fu or something like that, an impossible TV black belt in a Shaolin temple. I don’t know.

I know that it’s easy to point to history and say well, Michelangelo was and Bernini was and Sam Maloof was. You could point to these people but I wonder if they would say that. I wonder if any of them—I bet they were champing to get to work so that they could get a little bit better that day, the day that they died.

I think at best what you can maybe access is total effort. I don’t know that a lot of people understand what total effort is. It’s not 99 percent. It’s 100 percent and when you’re absolutely, completely—then there’s nothing left.

And to do that over the course of a long period of time, in order to get to a place where something like mastery becomes part of the question or part of the discussion—I think that’s a pretty awesome, gratifying thing. But I don’t know anybody that’s even come close who would say, “Yeah. Yeah, mastery, that’s me. Look up mastery in a dictionary and my picture’s right there.” I think the goal posts keep moving further.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: I have this—well, it might be sort of a sillier question but I know in this book, Jenni Sorkin provides one of the essays and writes that there’s this “uncommon sensuousness” of wood.

Dan Webb: Oh, right.

SAM: And I think romance novels and romantic comedies often cast their male leads as oh, first architects.

Dan Webb: Oh, wow.

SAM: And then often carpenters.

Dan Webb: Wow, really? Man, I need more of this stuff.

SAM: So I’m wondering if you think there’s anything to this romanticizing of wood.

Dan Webb: Oh. Oh, okay. I was thinking romanticizing carpenters. I sure was a carpenter a lot and they’re a bunch of smelly, gassy dudes that just told terrible jokes so I don’t know that worked with the ladies but…

SAM: Maybe it’s tied to this larger phenomenon where our culture romanticizes working with our hands at this point.

Dan Webb: I think we’re very, very much in that mode of romanticizing working with our hands. Nobody really wants to do it and nobody knows very much about it. But my wife is a farmer, for example. And there’s all these farm blocks where kids from Brooklyn buy a sheep farm in New Hampshire. Then they start a blog about it and the husband is always a guy who was a part-time model for J. Crew and he looks great when he’s holding the sheep and you just wonder if they’re making money or whatever. They’re probably not, you know, and—

SAM: There’s a trust fund behind them.

Dan Webb: Yeah, so I think now, especially with our super-curated lives that we can do on social media, I think it takes on even more of the patina, this luster. We’ve made chefs into celebrities—the beautiful food that comes out and it just seems like magic—but at the end of the day, who really does want to do that stuff? You know, who really wants to castrate sheep and feed a hundred of them and shear a hundred of them? I mean, that’s a small herd.

It’s pretty romanticized, I would say, and I don’t want to be privy to that. To me, it’s a job, which is totally awesome. I’m super lucky and grateful that I get to work every day and do the thing that I get to do, but it’s really hard. It’s a really hard job for the most part. People will see when I’m in the park how romantic it really is.

That said, it’s not totally crazy to talk about the sensuality of wood. I could definitely go on for a long time about that. I agree with it on the one hand. On the other hand, the nuts and bolts of how to make something are pretty hard, one, and, two, it’s not a path for everyone. Let’s just say that.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: I have one question left about art and craft and their contentious recent history. Historically, they were tied closely together. How do you negotiate that?

Dan Webb: I still think we really fall prey to seeing things in a really binary way so if it’s art, it’s not craft; and if it’s craft, it’s not art; or if it’s a conceptual, then it’s not an object; or if it’s an object, it’s not conceptual. I’m a little disappointed at how binary even smart people can be about that stuff.

I think we’re at a point in history where an artist can do anything that they want to do and call it art. In fact, if anything’s art, then everything’s art and if everything’s art, then the word just lost all specificity. There’s no meaning to that word and it’s by design.

I think a lot of modernist artists and the post-modern artists, with a lot of effort and foresight, made that word meaningless, functionally meaningless. If you have knocked all those walls down that surrounded this idea of art, where are you?

I think when art gets subsumed by life and the bigger world rather than the art world—then it’s all just the world. And that’s not scary. And art didn’t go away. The idea of having to digest the experiences that’ll happen to us didn’t go away. It’s just that it starts to be more integrated into something bigger and I think it’s a really exciting time for that. Whatever you want to do, it’s all good.

For example, I think the move towards social practice is really interesting. But then you’re in a realm where essentially telling a story or interacting with people becomes your art. If you do that, then you have to understand that—the nurses at the children’s cancer ward, what’s their story? I mean, you’re elevating your story because it’s “art.” When what you’re actually doing is saying, let’s just realize that all stories are part of this conversation.

I think it’s binary to say that the social practice story must be art but that the other stories that are so prevalent in all of our lives are less so because they haven’t identified themselves as that.

If you really want to understand the repercussions of making the word meaningless, then you’re in a big environment with a lot of really incredible stuff. I talk about that with technology. There’re a lot of kids that are really interested in making art with technology. Technology’s got to be this new cool thing and great art will be made from it—but maybe great art already has been made from it. There’s a rover on Mars right now. The rover’s totally rad. If you’ve seen it—it’s so awesome. It’s a six-wheeled super-cool thing and they [the people that made it] become your colleagues. If you want to go down that path, they become your colleagues.

For me, my colleagues happen to be woodworkers and carvers. I really jettisoned the idea that I’m going to fetishize originality or I’m going to say something that no other person in history has ever thought of. That ship has sailed, luckily. I’d way rather feel like I was stepping into a conversation and I was part of something rather than reinventing the wheel and feeling proud of myself for doing that. I just think that’s a function of where we are.

Modernists made art and their brave, cool selves became their lives, but I think now we live a life and the result is our art. So it’s flipped. A lot of it is flipped and that’s a good place, exciting. It means that I get to have cool conversations about what I do with the lady that comes and reads my gas meter because she’s able to get a little bit of what I do and it’s not for art people. It’s not designed just for the super-smartypants that went to art school.

That’s just a facet of a lot of really incredible stuff that’s happened. Like T.S. Eliot said, you’ve got to read everything. Knowing about contemporary art really puts you in that category. You have to know a lot about visual information and some of that is cats flushing the toilet on YouTube, and there’s an equality to that. You know, there’s Marcel Duchamp on the one hand and cats flushing the toilet on the other and there’s all spectrum in between. I think a lot of us now are interested in putting all that together so—

SAM: All our pieces based on toilets?

Dan Webb: You could do it. I’m sure there’s somebody that is doing it.

SAM: Where we started, to where we are now.

Dan Webb: Yeah.

SAM: Well, thank you, Dan.

Dan Webb: Yeah.

SAM: We really appreciate your taking the time.

You can follow Webb’s progress this summer at the sculpture park. Learn more about the project on our website.
Photos: Matt Sellars

SAM Summer Mondays

Spend more time at Seattle Art Museum this Summer!

Summer is right around the corner and Seattle Art Museum is pleased to announce that beginning May 25, the museum will be open Mondays through Labor Day (please note that the Asian Art Museum will continue to be closed both Mondays and Tuesdays).

The extended hours will accommodate summer visitors in Seattle and provide additional opportunities to see SAM’s summer blockbuster exhibition, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, opening June 18.

In addition to the extended hours, SAM is offering free admission to military personnel and their families between Memorial Day and Labor Day as part of a collaboration with Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts and The Department of Defense. Museums in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa are participating in Blue Star Museums and SAM is proud to join museums of all genres in providing this opportunity.

Up-to-date information can be found on our website or by calling 206.654-3100.

Photo: Robert Wade
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The Masks We Wear / The Ghosts We Share

Artist Sam Vernon’s stunning black-and-white graphics just took over the PACCAR Pavilion of the Olympic Sculpture Park. The installation, How Ghosts Sleep: Seattle, is a prelude to Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which opens June 18 at the Seattle Art Museum.

Her project for the sculpture park’s pavilion began with a visit to see the Seattle Art Museum’s collection of African masks and the Art Deco architecture of the Asian Art Museum. Afterwards, she mixed in designs from textiles and inspiration from formal studies of leaves, trees, flowers, and animals; which she fit into a frame of bold, abstract shapes.

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And all that’s before you get to the ghosts. Her wallpaper covers the interior of the pavilion and fabric canopies hover overhead, filling your eyes with visions of hidden characters who emerge from and then disappear into the walls and ceiling. Vernon has digitally combined photocopied drawings of ghost characters with a hand-drawn/collaged pattern of disembodied figures so that the ghosts are no longer visible—they’re masked. If it sounds layered, it is.

It’s a heady, expressive environment that Vernon hopes will “allow spectators to live in the world of the work rather than next to the work…”

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When I met Sam, she was just coming from the sculpture park with Loide Marwanga, the graphic designer who worked with her on the installation. They had just spent their first day in Seattle overseeing the installation of Vernon’s wallpapers and canopies.

Even though it was the end of the day, Vernon was full of energy and enthusiasm (maybe her super cool black-and-white Nike sneakers helped her keep her pep). She said she couldn’t wait to see it all come together.

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What’s it been like working on this installation, working with SAM, working with SAM curator Pam McClusky and consultant curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi?

From the project’s conception, I wanted to create an installation to highlight the stunning architecture of the space, stimulate the imaginations of all who enjoy the park and explore the proposition of disguise as a drawing technology. It’s been an honor to work with Pam and Erika—they’re innovative, open, and willing to deeply engage in the critical aspects of my work and practice. Bringing this project to fruition is truly a team effort and I can’t thank them enough for their scholarship, insight, and thoughtfulness.

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What speaks to you about the exhibition of Disguise: Masks and Global African Art as a whole? What are you excited about?

I’m drawn to the way in which Pam and Erika have developed a challenging exhibition by including a diverse group of artists working in different parts of the world. We have varied conceptual ideas and unique subjective approaches addressing the past, present and future of disguise as it relates to the museum’s collection and contemporary media.

It’s exciting to be included in an international dialogue about this complex reality—it offers significant links between us and our perceptions of space and time. In this way the exhibition generates important questions about connectivity instead of converging answers for fluent coherence.

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What do you think about the Olympic Sculpture Park? When you first saw the site, what did you think?

The Olympic Sculpture Park is breathtaking! I was immediately drawn to the views of the water and the works of one of my favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois.

sam-vernon-osp-2Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Follow Sam on Facebook and Instagram to see pictures of her time in Seattle & the art that’s drawn her eye while she’s been here.

Words: Maggie Hess
Photos: Natali Wiseman

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#SAMSpeakUp: RACE, SOCIAL JUSTICE & MUSEUMS

When it comes to conversations surrounding race and social justice, museums aren’t readily thought of as spaces that would play much a role. However, I believe that museums can in fact be powerful and unique in facilitating these discussions.

The next time you come to SAM, you may notice that our Think Tank walls have questions that await your response: “How do you define race and social justice?” “How can art mobilize social change?” “How can museums be spaces of social justice?”

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(The Think Tank is located between the Mezzanine Level and the second floor, towards the back of the building! Just walk up the Grand Staircase until you hit the room with the chalkboard walls.)

As our MLK Spotlight Tours last week highlighted, we don’t have to look too far to see that there are works and artists in our collection who are already having these conversations with you—what are ways we can delve deeper?

I see that museums can play a unique role in these conversations for these reasons:

  • Museums serve as portals and connectors—connecting us to cultures and ideas, connecting us to others and our community, and connecting us with ourselves.
  • Museums are engrained within communities—it is the community who interacts with the museum and thus these spaces exist not only to share stories about art but also to serve the community (local and beyond).

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When race and social justice issues arise on a local, national, or even an international level, how can museums leverage their unique positions in order to help? And how can museums strive to become more inclusive spaces and to better reflect the communities they serve?

One recent issue that has been on my mind and on many others’ is the non-indictment rulings in the deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, and countless other similar situations. I feel conversations surrounding race relations—and the injustices and inequities that communities of color face—have reached a new height. These situations have been fostered by historical legacies and systems in the United States. This means historical institutions like museums can be a critical part of this conversation, particularly in bridging gaps in racial and cultural understanding.

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In December, a few museum bloggers and colleagues also saw the need for museums to step in and thus issued a joint statement asking the question, “What should be our roles?” This sparked conversations across the country, and museums shared how they’ve responded—from hosting community conversations to collecting Ferguson-related media artifacts.

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It was partly this traction that inspired our latest iteration of the Think Tank. Rather than specifically tackling #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson, my colleagues and I want the Think Tank to be a space for a larger conversation about race, social justice, and museums. These conversations are best sustained and brought to the forefront when they are incorporated into our regular practice.

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And while I do believe museums can serve as catalysts, I don’t think they have all the answers, which is where our community comes in.

My hope for the Think Tank is that it can function as a free and open community dialogue space for all who interact with SAM. I want it to be a space for you to reflect on current topics and issues in social justice, examine your own experiences, share your stories, express your voice, and connect with others—and my hope is also that you will give us feedback for us to use as an institution to better serve you. I truly believe dialogue can spark change.

It is also my hope that we can continue to have these conversations together as an institution and community, and continue to strive to make the museum a more inclusive and accessible space to honor all stories, perspectives, and voices.

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We invite you to join the conversation.

Marcus Ramirez
Coordinator for Education & Public Programs

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Mr.’s Caterpillar (or: The Importance of Living On)

When we arrive at the Asian Art Museum, the Tateuchi Galleries are filled with cardboard boxes. Each room has a low tower built up in the middle, away from the walls. You can see flashes of a panda sticker on many of them, the logo of a moving company. Some of Mr.’s paintings are already hung, and a few are leaning against the walls. In a couple of places, an 8.5×11 piece of paper with a picture of a painting is taped to the wall with masking tape, giving us a clue of what will be going there.

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The paintings are huge—much larger than we would have guessed—the size of entire gallery walls. We watch as four art preparators carefully lift and place one panel of three, sliding it along a rail toward the other two until you can just barely discern the seam.

Mr. is sitting at a folding table, working on a laptop. He’s surrounded by printouts of his paintings, plans that show how to build the installation in front of him, and photographs he’s taken. He wears a striped hoodie and glasses and jeans, and he seems perfectly happy to take a break and talk about what he’s working on. He doesn’t speak much English, and I speak no Japanese, so we chat with the aid of SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, Xiaojin Wu, and Mr.’s assistant, Kozue, who’s also based here in Seattle. The necessary triplicate of the interview means we move through the galleries slowly, standing amidst the cardboard boxes and the sounds of drills nearby. Everyone is so patient it’s hard to tell how much time is passing.

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The installation he’s stationed in front of is the centerpiece of the exhibition, a tribute to the March 11, 2011 Tōhoku tsunami and ensuing earthquake. Most recently, it was shown at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York. When it’s finished, it’s about the size of a train car, made up of what Mr. calls “stuff.”

Right now, it’s just a skeleton made from pipes and plywood. It looks something like an erector set, and Mr. refers to it affectionately as the “caterpillar.” The art preparators working in this gallery say that it’s like putting together a puzzle. They have sketches to follow, but they’re not exact, and they’re figuring it out with Mr. as they go. It will be a massive structure, made up of hundreds of everyday objects of Japanese life that Mr. spent three months collecting. Some crates were shipped from New York City, where they were stored after the Lehmann Maupin show. Some crates were shipped from Japan. Mr.’s translator points out a box of curry, emphasizing that all of these are real things used every day in Japan. I ask if the installation changes every time he constructs it, and he says it’s hard to keep it the same, so by nature it varies. Mr. is creating new paintings with which to surround the installation. And this is the first time that Mr.’s photographs of the aftermath of the tsunami will be on display.

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During the tsunami, Mr. was living in Saitama, Japan, just outside of Tokyo. One hundred days after the tsunami hit, Mr. went to the site and took hundreds of photographs. He pulls his laptop off the table to show me some of the pictures and brings it with us as we look at the wall where they’ll be plastered in a collage from bottom to top.

“I went,” Mr. says, which sound a bit like a pronouncement because in the midst of all the Japanese, he says it in English. Which—this one is. He went there. He saw it in person. He witnessed.

A hundred days after the tsunami, he explains, means it was almost summer. There was a factory nearby that had been making canned fish, and it smelled terrible. While Mr. looks through his photos to find what he wants to show me, I ask Xiaojin why she thinks it’s important that Seattle see the artwork.

“I think at the beginning we were attracted to Mr.’s work because of the tsunami installation. The tsunami was such a huge event that impacted so many Japanese people’s lives that you can look around and almost all the Japanese contemporary artists, in some way, have responded to it. But Mr.’s response is quite unique. He uses the daily items he collected. But he also went to the place and documented the aftermath, so I think it’s very meaningful for us to show that. And somehow, even though his main body of works is made up of paintings, some of the works he made even earlier tie into that idea of disaster and how we respond to it. We think it will be very interesting for the Seattle audience to see a different perspective of Japanese Pop art. Even though the paintings look like anime/manga, they are not just about this—even they have more to them, a little bit deeper meanings. You can get a bit deeper, see beyond the surface…beyond those big eyes, those smiles.” Xiaojin laughs suddenly as she references the happy-go-lucky anime faces, like there’s something bubbly just in talking about it.

Mr. draws my attention to his laptop and shows me the photos of collapsed buildings, tipped cars, downed power lines. Everything looks askew, and gray, covered in silt and dust. In some photos, Mr. is wearing a mask.

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“When you first went to the tsunami site, did you experience it more as an artist, looking to make artwork, or were you just there to see and experience it as a citizen, as a civilian who’d been part of this disaster?” I ask.

Both Xiaojin as she listens to my question in English, and then Mr. as she translates it into Japanese, nod solemnly. Mr. talks for a long time.

“He was saying the tsunami just impacted everybody in Japan, everyone in the entirety of Japan,” Xiaojin starts. “So he never thought, I’ll go in there as an artist. He just wanted to go and see and experience, but after this experience, his thoughts have just changed so much, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster was also, after…it’s still going on.”

Mr. starts speaking again as Xiaojin slow down. She murmurs in agreement as he talks, a thoughtful sound.

“He says there are two types of people that the tsunami had an impact on. One is directly those people who lived there, lost their home, and really, they probably had the worst damage. But the second kind is just like him, who didn’t really directly experience the tsunami but they lost power, or water, or the supermarket didn’t have enough supplies, so they experienced it indirectly. But just on different levels, everybody was involved.”

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The next week, when I go back to the Asian Art Museum, the installation is nearly complete. Above the screen that blocks gallery access, I can see a mattress, folded into a u shape over the top of the structure. The installation crams so many pieces of life together that it seems impossible it will hold, in the way an over packed suitcase may burst open at any moment. It’s about trauma, but also about the possibilities of what will come next.

The title of the installation? Give Me Your Wings – think different. No wonder Mr. has nicknamed the skeletal structure the caterpillar.

Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop is now on view at the Asian Art Museum.

Words: Maggie Hess, Copywriter
Photos: Natali Wiseman & Stephanie Fink

summer-at-sam

Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out: Five Exciting Things to See & Do at the Olympic Sculpture Park This Summer

After many overcast months, I want nothing more than to spend as much time as possible outdoors and to enjoy the fleeting Seattle sun. Unfortunately, as a broke college student, I have little money to spend on summer activities. My solution? The Olympic Sculpture Park’s free summer programs. So, here are my top five favorite things to see and experience at this summer at the sculpture park.

1. YOU ARE HEAR
Music, and more broadly sound, plays a huge role in my focus and aesthetic appreciation of the world. YOU ARE HEAR, created by respected artist and sound engineer Trimpin, recognizes the complexity of sound. This exhibit is a hands on, interactive approach to the concept of sound and how we as listeners and viewers experience it.

2. Echo
This is a 46-foot-tall sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and inspired by the Greek mountain nymph who was cursed by goddess Hera by restricting Echo’s speech to be only the words of another. I’m fascinated by Greek and Roman mythology, so this statue struck an academic chord in me.

3. Seven Cubes with Color Ink Washes Superimposed
This piece is absolutely beautiful. On display in the PACCAR Pavilion, this contribution by Sol LeWitt brightens up the sculpture park, and is a joy to see from now until March 8, 2015. I haven’t seen it in person yet, so I’m looking forward to seeing it in reality.

4. Food, art, and music
When local music, delicious food, and interesting art are in one place, I’m there. Every Thursday, starting July 10, SAM entices the community with art activities, live music performances, food trucks, and art tours. Because the event runs from 6-9 pm, attendees will get a beautiful view of the waterfront during sunset.

5. Yoga and Zumba
If you’re excited about yoga and Zumba, or have never done either before, I highly encourage you to stop by every Saturday (beginning July 12) for free yoga lessons at 10:30 am, and then for Zumba at 2 pm. This is a great opportunity to get the weekend started on a relaxing note.

I’m so excited for everything the Olympic Sculpture Park has to offer this summer. There’s something for everyone almost every day of the season. Check out a full schedule of what’s happening at visitsam.org/summer.

I hope to see you there!

Erin Dwyer, Seattle Art Museum communication’s intern

Echo

Meet Echo

Echo, Seattle Art Museum’s massive new addition to the Olympic Sculpture Park, is starting to take shape.

A spectacular and iconic addition to the park, the 46-foot-tall sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, will greet visitors as they wander the shoreline.

Echo has been given to the Seattle Art Museum from the collection of Barney A. Ebsworth. It was originally commissioned by the Madison Park Association in New York and installed at Madison Square Park in 2011 to great acclaim. It is made from resin, steel, and marble dust, and altogether weighs 13,118 pounds.

Echo was modeled on the nine-year-old daughter of the owner of restaurant near the artist’s studio in Barcelona. With computer modeling, Plensa elongated and abstracted the girl’s features. The sculpture’s title references the mountain nymph of Greek mythology of the same name.

As told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Echo offended the goddess Hera by keeping her engaged in conversation, and preventing her from spying on one of Zeus’s amours. To punish Echo, Hera deprived the nymph of speech, except for the ability to repeat the last words of another.

Plensa offers us Echo with her eyes closed, seemingly listening or in a state of meditation. Envisioning Echo looking out over Puget Sound in the direction of Mount Olympus (a further reference to Greek mythology that is already embedded in the landscape), Plensa also intends for the sculpture to serve as a gathering point for introspection and contemplation. In our increasingly networked culture where information is endlessly copied and repeated, it is a work that invites viewers to pause.

Drop by the park and check out the progress when you have a moment. It’s easy to spot Echo. Join her near the water and spend a few quiet moments next to her thoughtful presence at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

SAM vs DAM

It’s On! Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and Denver Art Museum (DAM) are betting big on Super Bowl XLVIII

The Super Bowl is a mere six days away (February 2, 3:30 pm PST on FOX). Not only is the 12th man gearing up, but so is the Seattle Art Museum. SAM and the Denver Art Museum (DAM) (everyone likes a rhyming competition, right?) have upped the ante on the outcome of Super Bowl XLVIII by betting temporary loans of major works of art on Sunday’s big game.

The Stakes:
A majestic Native American mask, reminiscent of a mighty “Seahawk” from SAM’s renowned Northwest Coast Native American art collection, is wagered by Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO.

The Broncho Buster, a bronze icon of the West by Frederic Remington from the renowned western American art collection at the DAM, is wagered by Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director.

The winning city will receive a three-month loan of the prized artwork. All shipping and expenses will be paid by the city that loses the big game. Dates of the loan are still being finalized.

Here at SAM we are looking forward to showcasing the Broncho Buster. Our visitors will be in for a special treat when they gaze upon the beautiful bronze horse symbolizing the spirit and tenacity of the Wild West. Popular from the time of its creation, The Broncho Buster stands today as an icon of the region and is thought of as the first action bronze of a western hero.

Just for the record, SAM’s “Seahawk” is a Forehead Mask from the Nuxalk First Nation ca. 1880. This Nuxalk mask shows the elegant elongation of the bird beak, a sensitive and human-like rendering of the eye/socket/brow area, with painted embellishments on the surface in black, red and blue. The open mouth suggests the ferocity of this bird of prey, possibly a supernatural “man-eater”. Shredded red cedar bark symbolizes the mythical arena in which the dance-dramas would be enacted.

…It’s too bad that visitors to DAM won’t be able to experience it there, but they can always come visit SAM.

GO HAWKS!

Image credits: Forehead Mask, Nuxalk, ca. 1880, Alder, red cedar bark, copper, pins, paint, 4 1/8 x 11 3/8 x 5 1/8 inches, Gift of John H. Hauberg 91.1.71. Frederic Remington, The Broncho Buster, Modeled 1895, cast by 1902, Bronze; 23-1/4 in., Denver Art Museum; The Roath Collection.
Rupert enters "The Western Oracle"

A Dog’s Blog: Rupert visits the Olympic Sculpture Park

Meet Rupert: He loves the park and has agreed to guest blog for us. Here’s what he has to say:

 

Dear humans, or, as I like to call you, hairless dogs with thumbs,

Hello! Nice to meet you. My name is Rupert Putdownthatshoe. I’m five and I recently moved into a new home in downtown Seattle, where I live with my roommate, Kristen. She pays the rent, and I let her scratch my stomach.

Every afternoon, when my human comes home from work, I take her for walks around the city. I like to think of these walks as daily mini-vacations from my otherwise full-time occupation of protecting our home from intruders like helicopters and the mailman. My favorite mini-vacay destination these days is the Olympic Sculpture Park.We went there yesterday, and I had so much fun giving my roommate a tour of all my favorite smells.

Yesterday’s tour’s highlight was the Park’s newest smell box – it’s called The Western Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof off the Mother by Heather Hart. Inside the smell box, we looked out a window at the Puget Sound, which made me think of the fish I like to eat. There’s also a chimney looking up to the sky, which made me think of the ducks I like to chase. I like this smell box.

 

Until next time!

Woof, Rupert.

 

-Carter Stratton, intern for Communications

Rupert enters “The Western Oracle”