All posts in “Tacoma Art Museum”

Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

SAM News

Artnet interviewed Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, for this piece on the different paths to success as a curator of contemporary art.

KOMO’s Seattle Refined also interviewed Catharina for this story about the Jean-Michel Basquiat painting now on view at SAM.

AFAR Magazine highlighted Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas on their list of “10 Art Exhibitions in the U.S. Worth Traveling for This Spring.”

Blaxploitation films, Carrie Mae Weems, and the female gaze: Dazed profiles Figuring History artist Mickalene Thomas.

Local News

“I’ve seen orcas. Twice!” City Arts’ Margo Vansynghel reports that the next arts hub might be just across the water—in Bremerton.

Brangien Davis of Crosscut talks with Victoria Haven about Banner Year, an installation in the windows of her South Lake Union studio that beams out messages to passing motorists like “MONEY BALL” and “CULT CLASSIC.”

Lisa Edge of Real Change on the Tacoma Art Museum’s current exhibition, Native Portraiture: Power and Perception, which addresses issues of identity by juxtaposing older and contemporary works alongside each other.

“’We can say, let’s look at this artwork and appreciate the work that the artist has done to create this, but let’s use a contemporary lens to unpack where these artists were coming from and why they painted the work in this manner,’ said curator Faith Brower. ‘Thankfully our views have now changed over time so we can see this work and critique it in a way that they weren’t capable of critiquing it in the time it was made.’”

Inter/National News

Still “seat of the Muses”? Mitchell Kuga of Hyperallergic explores the trend of adopting the name “museum” to describe commercial enterprises.

Sara Cascone of Artnet interviews author Joy McCullough about her novel on the incredible life of Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi; notably, McCullough used the 400-year-old court records of the trial of the artist’s rapist.

Jason Farago of the New York Times on Beyond the Fall, the current show at New York’s Neue Galerie that explores connections between art and German political history.

“Such was the reality of German and Austrian art, and German and Austrian society, in the initial years of Nazi rule: the awkward coexistence of fascists, democrats and Communists, who heard the rhetoric, who witnessed the hatred, but who still could not see how much horror lay ahead.”

And Finally

“How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose?”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Stephanie Fink.
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Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

SAM News

Last week, we announced the hiring of SAM’s first-ever Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Manish Engineer, who will oversee technology and digital efforts across the institution. Artdaily and Geekwire shared the news.

Figuring History artist Kerry James Marshall is this month’s cover story in Juxtapoz. Don’t miss their wide-ranging interview with him—plus their online story on SAM’s exhibition.

Local News

The Stranger’s Charles Mudede reviews Everyday Black at the Northwest African American Museum, which features a portrait that he calls “the masterpiece of the show” of SAM’s Public Programs Coordinator David Rue.

Capitol Hill Times reports on the efforts of The Friends of the Benson Trolleys, who hope to retrofit the abandoned vintage trolleys to run on Seattle’s streetcar line.

City Arts’ Margo Vansynghel sits down with Zhi Lin, whose incredible solo show about the 1885 forced expulsion of Chinese inhabitants from Tacoma is on view until February 18 at the Tacoma Art Museum.

“Originally, I wanted to create an old history painting with old buildings, tailors, saloons and so on. I decided not to. Instead, I re-staged the scene in a contemporary setting, with the light rail track, skyscrapers, traffic signage nearby. To say, we are repeating history. Literally.”

Inter/National News

I know we’re all ready for spring, but let’s just enjoy Hyperallergic’s collection of dreamy Instagrams taken during the recent snowstorm in Paris. Scroll and le sigh.

Artnet’s Javier Pes reports on the happenings at art fairs Salon Acme and Material in Mexico City; Everyday Poetics artist Fritzia Irízar is named one of seven memorable artists from Material.

Artnet’s Ben Davis focuses in on the merits of Basquiat’s Untitled, which is now on view at the Brooklyn Museum.

“Untitled (1982) is built to be what it has become, a high-energy icon that can spread easily as a media image. But at the same time it also whispers that it doesn’t want to be reduced to just that; it doesn’t just want to be looked at, it wants to be seen.”

And Finally

Meet Banda Didá, the all-female Brazilian drum group.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Souvenir I, 1997, Kerry James Marshall, acrylic, collage, and glitter on unstretched canvas, 108 x 157 in., Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund, 1997.73, © MCA Chicago, photo: Joe Ziolkowski.
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Object of the Week: War God

Perched in a gallery of Northwest modern art, Philip McCracken’s War God sculpture, a carved figure in cedar wood with a leather strap and saw blades as accessories, has a dark, significant presence. Here at the Seattle Art Museum, he’s surrounded by the work of Mark Tobey, Guy Anderson, and Morris Graves, and it seems the perfect place for us to consider McCracken’s art.

McCracken’s work finds its form and substance in the beauty and power of nature. For many years he has chosen to live close to nature, working from a Guemes Island studio near to the animals that inspire much of his sculpture. McCracken has frequently returned to the bird, and other animal forms, as a visualization of the artist’s inner psychology. Much more than wildlife art, McCracken’s work aims to chart new emotional and spiritual depths, recording what is for the artist a process of open-ended exploration. McCracken has spoken about his work as a mode of discovery; rather than dictating what he knows, his sculptures offer reflections of his meanderings into the mysterious and the unknown.

McCracken’s primary subject—the bird—and his mystical understanding of art-making have encouraged comparisons to Morris Graves, one of a handful of figures often cited as standard-bearers for modernism here in the Pacific Northwest. How suitable is the comparison between Graves and McCracken, and how well McCracken does in contributing to the symbolism Graves established, depends on one’s perspective. Writing in 1980 and reviewing a catalogue produced in conjunction with a McCracken retrospective at the Tacoma Art Museum, longtime Seattle art critic Matthew Kangas gave us this resounding barb: “McCracken’s solidifying of Morris Graves’ wispy spirit birds into chunky, polished wood carvings goes down as one of the great jokes in American art.”1 Kangas went on to write that War God was, for him, representative of a troubling current in McCracken’s art that seemed to exalt violence rather than undermine it, and he culminated his criticism by suggesting that McCracken’s sculptures were best suited to Northwest patios—not art museums. You can’t win ‘em all, as they say.

Without a doubt, War God is a harsh piece, one that deals head-on with forces McCracken has called “anti-life.” Many have seen the redemptive value in this piece and in McCracken’s body of work.

War God notably represented the artist at the Fine Arts Exhibition of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, a watershed moment for the arts in this area. In the 55 years since, McCracken has received countless shows and accolades—but I’ll share just one gem from the SAM annals. In March of 1976 McCracken served as the guest of honor at an event hosted by SAM’s Pacific Northwest Arts Council, a classy affair that paired his visual art with lyrical accompaniment by poet Eve Triem. Moon: Philip McCracken is one of the poems Triem read there:

Is a tree
budded
with many names.

My fingers trace the wood
nonlunar color
To a birdshaken twig.

Remembering the poet Li Po
who sang the sliding into cloud
and the emerging
of blossoms into light
attended by
owl          wolf        mountain             cat

and the child’s first sentence:
What do you know—the moon.

The carved verticals
quivering the circle
illuminate
the birth-death cycle
as plumage for freedom.

I don’t think McCracken’s goal has been to win critical acclaim or to inspire poetry. He seems most interested in learning by exploring with his materials, come what may. In the same year he produced War God, McCracken reminded us that “Everyone wants you to fit his conceptions. But to do so is dangerous if it comes before being true to yourself and to your personal vision.”2

– Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

1 Matthew Kangas, “Birdman of Guemes Island,” ARTWEEK Nov. 15, 1980.
2 Philip McCracken, quoted in Gene Johnston, “Guemes Sculptor Phil McCracken Has One-man N.Y. Show,” Anacortes American LXX, Mar. 24, 1960.
Image: War God, 1960, Philip McCracken (American, b. 1928), cedar, leather, brass, steel, 41 ¾ x 14 5/8 x 12 ¾ in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Seattle Art Museum Guild, 63.89, photo: Natali Wiseman, © Philip McCracken.
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