SAM Art: The Wave Paintings of Tsuji Kako

Tsuji Kako (1870-1921) was an artist ahead of his time. Working when artists in Japan were systematically divided into Japanese or Western lineages, Kako was unusual for his claim that individuality is the most important characteristic of an artist, and his refusal to conform to the boundaries of genre.

As part of Japan’s effort to Westernize, an annual exhibition of the Japan Art Academy, called the Bunten, was instituted in 1907. The Bunten enforced strict delineation between Yōga (Western-style painting) and Nihonga (Japanese-style painting), requesting that artists limit themselves to one style in order to participate. Within the context of this system, juries had no context in which to evaluate Kako’s work, which blended the two styles. Lacking support for his work from the Bunten, he abandoned the academy altogether in 1921, and held his first one-man show, an unprecedented event.

Green Waves and Waves and Plovers (both ca. 1910) come from Kako’s decade long fascination with capturing waves in paint. Although painted in the form of traditional Japanese folding screens, using Japanese materials, both express an atmospheric depth and motion absent from the Nihonga style. Green Waves features bright mineral pigments on a gold ground, a style dating back to the sixteenth century. The pigment, however, is layered on with thick, visible brush strokes, that convey the motion of light and shadow across swelling waves; a clear reference to Impressionist painters. Waves and Plovers, employing linear ink brush work on paper screens, draws on a traditional means of depicting the ocean through undulating parallel lines. Here, however, Kako renders his waves with each peak as its own small, individual line. By breaking up the lines, he is able to minutely adjust the tone of the ink and the distances between the waves to subtly create the sense of swelling motion and atmospheric recession.

Waves and Plovers (detail), ca. 1910, Tsuji Kako, Japanese, 1870-1931, ink and light color on paper, 48 1/4 x 103 in., Gift of Griffith and Patricia Way, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2010.41.33.1. Currently on view in LUMINOUS: The Art of Asia, special exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

Ultimately, Kako gave up on painting waves, saying that he “did not feel the emotional momentum” anymore, a highly modern sentiment that art ought to express the artist’s emotions. Largely forgotten after his death, Tsuji Kako’s work has received a revival of popularity in the last decade, as popular taste finally matched his expressive style.

Top photo: Green Waves, ca. 1910, Tsuji Kako, Japanese, 1870-1931, ink and gold on silk, 67 7/8 x 109 1/2 in., Gift of Griffith and Patricia Way, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2010.41.32. Currently on view in LUMINOUS: The Art of Asia, special exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Sango dancewand, lecture on Wednesday

Sharp drumming, sounding like a lightning strike, signals the arrival of Sango’s devotees to a festival in his honor. Dancing to the piercing, cracking sounds and staccato rhythms, the devotee will wave wands such as this to illustrate Sango’s hot temper and punishing justice.

Sango, the Yoruba thunder deity, may be wild and belligerent but he can be assuaged by the attentions of female devotees. Showing her alliance with Sango’s moral fire, this woman’s head is adorned with the double axe, the god’s visual sign. She kneels before his authority to present an offering. Such generosity is considered a noble gesture of morality and ensures that Sango will consider blessing her with children and wealth.

Women Who Tame Thunder: Yoruba Sango Staffs
Pam McClusky, Curator, Art of Africa and Oceania
Members Art History Lecture Series: New Perspectives

December 7, 2011
7–9 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, SAM downtown

Open to SAM members and their guests. For tickets, click here.

Members: $5.00
Guests of members: $9.00

Dancewand for Sango, Yoruba, Nigerian, wood, 19 7/8 x 7 9/16 x 4 5/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 67.91. Currently on view in the African art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: A stucco masterpiece

Two sparring horsemen, galloping toward one another, are all that remain from what was once an extended frieze. Perhaps formerly on the exterior of a building, this stucco sculpture was hardy enough to brave the elements—the only loss is the once-bright polychrome that would have covered the surface. In his 1945 book Masterpieces of Persian Art, author Arthur Upham Pope introduced readers to the selected 155 works that he considered the greatest achievements of more than 5,000 years of artistic production in today’s Iran. Of just three stucco works he included, this was the only sculpture Pope called “a genuine masterpiece of ornamentation.”

Relief with two fighting horsemen, inscription, and star medallion, 12th–13th century, Persian (modern Iran), stucco, 43 1/8 x 19 3/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 54.29. On view starting next Wednesday, 7 December, Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art gallery, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Golden Screens of the Kanō School

Hattie Branch, Blakemore Intern, returns to SAMart with an entry on the golden screens of the Kanō School.

During the Momoyama Period (1573-1603), drastic change came to Japanese art from an unusual source: Western firearms. As warlords vied for control of the country, Portuguese traders introduced Western guns and cannons to Japan.

For centuries, Japanese palaces had been built as sprawling, single-story complexes, with wooden floors and roofs, and paper walls. Sliding doors allowed rooms to open easily to the surrounding gardens, and even when shut, light permeated the thin paper. With the advent of firearms, by necessity, the Japanese rapidly designed towering fortress palaces. Walls thick enough to withstand cannon fire suddenly plunged the world of the elites into darkness.

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SAM Art: Light and Dark

In seventeenth-century Europe, many artists drained their paintings of bright colors, creating drama instead through strong contrasts of light and dark. This is striking in the ceremonial gravity of Saint Irene Tending the Wounded Saint Sebastian, attributed to the French artist Georges de La Tour and his studio. The holy woman gently removes an arrow from the young soldier, who has been persecuted for his Christian faith.

De La Tour is often mentioned as one of the many followers of Caravaggio (ca. 1571-1610), the Italian artist who pioneered the use of contrast to heighten drama and religious feeling in his paintings. This nocturnal scene of deliverance was such a popular image that no fewer than a dozen other versions exist. The original painting is probably lost; this example is one of the best of the other versions.

Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene, ca. 1638-39, Georges de La Tour and Studio, French, 1593-1653, oil on canvas, 42 x 55 7/8 in., Gift of Richard and Elizabeth Hedreen in honor of Mimi Gardner Gates, 2008.67. Currently on view in the European art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Oribe Ware

Writing SAMart this week is Hattie Branch, Blakemore Intern for Japanese Art. This is her second entry in a series focusing on LUMINOUS: The Art of Asia.

Employing vivid colors and energetic, abstract designs, Oribe ware is the most dynamic type of Japanese tea ware. The style takes its name from Furuta Oribe, 1591-1615, the great tea master of his age. Designed for use in the meal accompanying the tea ceremony, a square dish like this would be used to serve fish, slowly revealing the image beneath as the meal was eaten. Oribe ware, as this tray excellently represents, broke with a tradition of elegant restraint to embrace an unprecedented level of vivacity.

This tray is meant to depict water, earth, and sky. We read it from bottom to top:

  • Starting in the lower left corner, the tray was dipped into a green glaze which visibly pooled during the firing process, evoking water.
  • Moving upward, a pink-tan band provides a bed for two semi-circles with radiating patterns. This common decorative motif represents ox cart wheels soaking in water—wooden  cart wheels needed to be soaked regularly to prevent warping. Between the two wheels, the pattern of squares and dots could represent a piece of dyed fabric. These are colors, images and activities associated with the earth.
  • The upper-most, tan portion encompasses a single large star, surrounded by three circles with trailing tails, likely comets. In the upper right corner, three arcing stripes abstractly render the long trailing clouds popular in Japanese painting. This band depicts the sky.

The ebullience that makes Oribe ware stand out amid tea ceramics reflects both the power and dynamism of the Momoyama Era (1573-1615), and, amidst political and social upheaval, a move to rebel against previous aesthetic rules, and the power structures they represented.

Square serving dish, early 17th century, Japanese, Momoyama (1573–1615)–Edo (1615–1868) period, Mino ware, Oribe style; glazed stoneware, 1 7/8 x 7 3/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 56.130. Currently on view in LUMINOUS: The Art of Asia, special exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Rescued Treasure

Sometime in the 16th century, a ship was carefully loaded with tens of thousands of Vietnamese ceramics and set sail across the South China Sea. It never reached its destination—off Cham Island, near the port of Hoi An, the ship and its cargo sank. This plate was salvaged from the wreck in the course of an open-water excavation in 1997-99. The excavation yielded wares as varied as celadons, polychrome enamels, and blue and white. All of the artifacts from the shipwreck date to the late 15th and early 16th centuries, when Vietnamese ceramic production and export had reached its peak in terms of numbers and aesthetic appeal. The formal beauty and sophisticated ornamentation of the so-called “Hoi An hoard” reveals the high level of artistic achievement reached by Vietnamese potters at that time.

Plate with floral spray, late 15th-early 16th century, Vietnamese, blue and white ceramic, 9 in. diameter, Gift of Mary and Cheney Cowles, 2000.133. Currently on view in LUMINOUS: The Art of Asia, special exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

This is one of the five Hoi An works included in the museum’s current special exhibition, LUMINOUS: The Art of Asia.

SAM Art: Representatives of a Forgotten Past

This fall, Hattie Branch, Blakemore Intern for Japanese Art, will share additional information about a series of masterpieces in Luminous: The Art of Asia, the current special exhibition. This is her first entry.

Works of prehistoric art stand before us, modern viewers, as ambassadors of a forgotten past that still resonates with us today. Luminous includes two such prehistoric works from Japan: a small figure with distinctively bulging eyes called a Dogū, and a large, stout, terracotta soldier called a Haniwa. Separated by approximately thirteen centuries, together they represent artistic highlights of prehistoric Japan, and embody ideas of surrogate personhood that endure to the present.

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SAM Art: Tokita, Nomura, and Seattle

Kamekichi Tokita and Kenjiro Nomura were first-generation Japanese Americans, or Issei, who made their home inSeattle. While many artists turned their sights to the Northwest’s natural grandeur, Tokita and Nomura looked to the places they knew well—the neighborhood in and around Japantown or Nihonmachi (today part of the International District), the working waterfront, and the farmlands cultivated by Japanese American families.

Labeled American Scene painters (a popular movement in American art of the 1930s) by their contemporaries, both artists’ work reveals the details of place that derive from daily familiarity, often the intimate views one sees while walking. In their choice of subject, the particularities of place and time, and the reference to cultural heritage, they describe the perspective of American immigrants who have made a new home.

Bridge, 1931, Kamekichi Tokita, American, 1897-1948, oil on canvas, 23 1/4 x 19 1/16 in., Gift of the artist, 33.230, © Kamekichi Tokita. On view in Painting Seattle: Kamekichi Tokita and Kenjiro Nomura starting on Saturday, 22 October, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park.

SAM Art: A Luminous Dragon King

The stern eyes and open mouth of this fearsome mask are attributes of the Dragon King, one of the Eight Buddhist Guardians. It is thought that this mask somehow came to be separated from a valuable set of eight masks, the seven remaining of which are still housed at Toji temple in Kyoto. The mask is splendidly carved and colored, and its interior is finished with a coating of expensive black lacquer, signaling this object’s high importance.

Assembled in the twenty-first century, in a museum gallery in Seattle, this mask and the 160 other objects in LUMINOUS: The Art of Asia are radically displaced from their original sites of production. Their significance has shifted from sacred to secular as they have moved from temple hall to treasure house. Here, it is their aesthetic beauty that is being celebrated, not their ritual use. The museum viewer encounters these objects with very different expectations than a thirteenth-century worshipper might have held. We expect to be educated, or even awed, but we do not—in most cases—anticipate spiritual salvation.

LUMINOUS opens to the public on Thursday, 13 October, and remains on view through 8 January 2012.

Gyodo mask of Dragon King, early 13th century, Japanese, Kamakura period, wood with lacquer, polychrome and gilt, 15 9/16 x 8 1/8 x 5 15/16 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 68.110. On view in the special exhibition LUMINOUS: The Art of Asia, fourth floor, SAM downtown, starting Thursday, 13 October.

SAM Art: Summer’s last stand

Summer may be over, but you still have one final weekend to enjoy On-Site, the summer installations at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Since June, On-Site has brought together new sculptures by Gretchen Bennett, Nicholas Nyland and Carolina Silva. These three artists created objects, often experimental in concept and execution, that respond to the context of the park environment. Their temporary interventions have provided unexpected encounters with sculpture, encouraging fresh perspectives on sculpture and its making. Working in response to the park environment, their diverse works cast a new lens on our experience with sculpture and with the landscape at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Although Gretchen Bennett’s installations at the Sculpture Park are fleeting, the artist’s  landscape-inspired drawing and video work can be seen in SAM’s permanent collection.

“Walking Stick from Nadonna Beach,” 2011, Gretchen Bennett, American, born 1960, driftwood, carved oak sapling wood from the OSP, latex paint, Courtesy of the artist, © Gretchen Bennett, Photo: Robert Wade. “On-Site” temporary installations on view through Sunday, 2 October, at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

SAM Art: A new acquisition, all about place

Location, Location, Location

My tea and coffee sets relate to the place they are going.
—John Marshall

Destined for an art museum, a home in the San Juan Islands, and a 1950s Seattle residence, a trio of recently installed tea and coffee services glory in their sculptural delight, technical virtuosity, and the promise of a festive gathering around warm stimulating beverages. Each piece, while an exquisite work of art, was designed to be used and pours properly without a drip—the artist’s impeccable touch.

Tea and coffee pots rank as seminal works in the annals of silver production— in fact, teapots are considered a benchmark for the silversmith. Representing three decades of master silversmith John Marshall’s career, these services blend traditional vocabulary—such as towering, vertical coffeepots and shorter, more horizontal teapots—with his evolution of individual expression. The service shown here was produced as a commission for the Seattle Art Museum.

In this video, Marshall talks about his work and demonstrates metalworking techniques.

“Tea and Coffee Service,” 2008-09, John Marshall, American, born 1936, sterling silver, rosewood, Argentium sterling silver (an amalgam of fine silver and germanium), and acrylic, overall: 15 ¾ x 25 x 26 in., The Guendolen Carkeek Plestcheeff Endowment for the Decorative Arts, 2009.27.1-5, Photo: jerrydavisphoto.com. Currently on view in “Here and Now,” the new acquisitions exhibition space, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Sydney Laurence and the end of Beauty and Bounty

Our painters revealed to us the matchless splendor of a scenery which shall arouse increasing astonishment and reverential awe and rapture in the hearts of generations yet to be.

—Art critic S.G.W. Benjamin, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1879

 

Sydney Laurence’s career was tied to the popular interest in the Alaska Territory that followed the Gold Rush. From the time he began prospecting in the area around 1904, Laurence painted there. His paintings helped to inspire tourism, and tourism in turn led to Laurence’s commercial success.

This is an early and impressively scaled view of Laurence’s favorite and most famous subject, Mt. McKinley.  It stands as one of his greatest statements on this, America’s highest mountain peak.  He painted this impressive canvas, possibly an exhibition piece, as the U. S. government’s Interior Department was working to establish a national park with McKinley at its center, projecting: “…the creation of this national park would, no doubt, result in… additional visitors to Alaska, and would give an impetus to the settling of the country.”

Beauty and Bounty is on view through Sunday, 11 September.

“Mount McKinley,” 1914, Sydney Laurence, American, 1865-1940, oil on canvas, 38 1/4 x 28 1/4in., Promised gift of Hugh S. Ferguson, T2006.57, Photo: Paul Macapia. On view until Sunday, 11 September, in “Beauty and Bounty: American Art in an Age of Exploration,” Simonyi Special Exhibition Galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

All Roads Lead to SAM: New and Improved Visitor Information

At the suggestion of one of our customers, SAM’s online visitor information just got tricked out. In an effort to encourage people to use different forms of transportation and to make it easier to find us no matter where you are, we’ve added several links to maps that show people how to bike, bus and even walk to SAM Downtown, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park. Some of the exciting new features include:

  • Bike rack information (did you know that there are bike racks at all three locations?) as well as maps that have bike and bus directions.
  • Links to three different public transportation sites with a SAM location already entered as the destination, as well as a link to Metro that lists all the buses that go nearby.

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SAM Art: Model Totem Pole

According to legend, Dan-kea was a grizzly bear hunter who was captured by the bears but escaped and returned home. Trying to quell a fever by sitting in the water, a rival chief got a sea-dog to seize him.  Dan-kea put out his tongue to feel what had touched him and his tongue stuck to the sea-dog, then was drawn out to a great length. This model totem pole has three bears with their eyes, hands and feet inlaid with abalone; the bear at the top is Dan-kea, holding his long tongue in his hands.

The small-scale totem pole is an indigenous genre that pre-dates contact: Captain James Cook personally collected one at Nootka Sound in 1778. Some model poles are diminutive, specific versions of the forty- to sixty-foot versions erected to honor the lineages of deceased chiefs and nobles. By the mid-19th century, these easily portable and compelling sculptures were in steady demand by outside buyers (including museums and World’s Fairs).

“Gyaa.angaa” (Model totem pole), ca. 1890, Haida, yellow cedar, abalone shell, height: 23 ½ in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.44. On view in the Native American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown, starting Wednesday, 24 August.

SAM Art: Some Thoughts from Our Interns, Part II

For this week’s SAMart, I would like to share with you the reflections of two summer interns I have been lucky enough to work with for the past several weeks. Katie Tieu and Jasmine Graviett have been friendly, thoughtful, conscientious, and eager colleagues this summer, and will be missed when they go back to their “real” lives—as a sophomore and a senior in high school, respectively.
-Sarah Berman, Collections Coordinator and Research Associate

My experience at the Seattle Art Museum    

Jasmine Graviett

You don’t find many 17-year-old girls working/interning at an art museum, but I am one of them.

Hi, my name is Jasmine Graviett and I am a YWCA GirlsFirst intern, which is an all girls program that helps young ladies get through their high school years and this program is how I got my awesome internship at SAM. Working at SAM has helped me see art in a different way and understand more about the art work. At first I wasn’t really all that into art, I only liked art that made sense to me or that I could relate to. Things that looked like a whole bunch of paint splashed on a board or something that looked like a 2-year-old drew it never really appealed to me because I thought that I could make something like that. I mean, what could be so special about that?  This summer I found out there’s a story behind every single painting and that it isn’t always as it seems.

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SAM Art: Some Thoughts from Our Interns, Part I

For this week’s SAMart, I would like to share with you the reflections of two summer interns I have been lucky enough to work with for the past several weeks. Katie Tieu and Jasmine Graviett have been friendly, thoughtful, conscientious, and eager colleagues this summer, and will be missed when they go back to their “real” lives—as a sophomore and a senior in high school, respectively.
-Sarah Berman, Collections Coordinator and Research Associate

My Experience Here At SAM

By: Katie Tieu

My name is Katie, and I am a YWCA GirlsFirst intern. GirlsFirst is an all girls program that teaches us life lessons, how to stay on track in high school, and how to succeed in life. GirlsFirst also helps us get internships by teaching us skills that we need to use to get a job. They taught us many things, like how to type a resume, cover letter, and how to talk properly in an interview. They had a list of jobs for girls to apply for, and I was hired by the Seattle Art Museum to be a Human Resources intern. I am working here for 8 weeks during my summer break, but it’ll be ending soon.

Being here at SAM is very fun and such a great experience. While I was here, I saw and learned how the museum actually operates. I also got to see the exhibitions and the permanent collection here, and what can I say? IT WAS AMAZING. Just by looking at each detail an artist includes is very mind blowing. Like this painting. It was created by Jackson Pollock and is called Sea Change, painted in 1947. Does it look like any ordinary painting that anyone can do? That’s what I thought. But, look closely, every detail you see on the canvas was planned and thought about before it was there.

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SAM Art: Millennium Light

Early modern art in America is strongly linked to myth and symbol, to what was an enduring quest to find spiritual meaning in the physical world. That quest, begun by nineteenth-century landscape painters and poets who felt divine inspiration in nature, for example, led artists time and again back to long familiar classical and Biblical texts for imagery and to newly discovered myths and symbols in Native American and Asian religions, philosophy, and art.

In his early 20s when he painted Millennium Light, Morris Graves’ interest in myth and mysticism was already apparent. It was created at the dawn of his long career, within months of his first important public recognition as the winner of the Northwest Annual’s Katherine B. Baker Purchase Prize for Moor Swan (also currently on view).

Millennium Light, 1933-34, Morris Graves, American, born Fox Valley, Oregon, 1910; died Loleta, California, 2001, oil on canvas, 39 x 39 1/2in., Gift of the Marshall and Helen Hatch Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2009.52.98, © Estate of Morris Graves. Currently on view in the modern art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Bagley Wright, in memoriam

Symbolizing longevity, the traditional motifs of cranes in flight and pine trees are interpreted in an innovative manner on this child’s kimono. Set against a turquoise background, pine trees appear above and below the waves as silhouettes created by the playful use of color and negative space. Against the pine tree border, brightly-colored cranes soar above the swelling wave pattern. Delicate, calligraphic lines of ink emphasize the graceful bodies of the flying cranes.

On Monday, July 18, Bagley Wright passed away. Among his many acts of generosity for the Seattle arts community, Mr. Wright and his wife Virginia have donated hundreds of works of art to the museum’s permanent collection over the past six decades, including this kimono. We mourn the passing of this great friend.

Child’s ceremonial kimono, late 19th century, Japanese, Meiji period, bast fiber (asa) cloth with freehand paste-resist decoration (tsutsugaki) and handpainted pigments and ink decoration, 45 x 40 in., Gift of Virginia and Bagley Wright, 89.103. On view starting next week, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park.

SAM Art: Alden Mason

In the 1970s, Alden Mason gained national attention for his “Burpee Garden” series. Inside Out Landscape is a significant example from this body of work: large-scale canvases originating from several watercolors the artist had completed earlier. Named for seed packets sold by the Pennsylvania seed company, Burpee, Mason created images that are colorful abstractions which suggest amorphous and visually intoxicating landscapes. It is in these works that we see Mason’s dialogue with a generation of artists who preceded him, such as the American color field painters Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler, who were working in New York in the 1950s and 1960s.

This is the final week to see the retrospective installation of Alden Mason’s work in the Modern and Contemporary galleries at SAM downtown.

Inside Out Landscape, 1972, Alden Mason, American, born 1919, oil on canvas, 70 x 80 in., Gift of Herschel and Caryl Roman in honor of the museum’s 50th year, 83.167, photo: Susan Cole, © Alden Mason. On view through this Sunday, 17 July, Modern and Contemporary galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

A Call to Color

If you haven’t been to the Olympic Sculpture Park lately, you should go. Not only is it summer in the park but Trenton Doyle Hancock’s, A Better Promise—an art installation in the PACCAR Pavilion—is especially mesmerizing and animated when the bright sunshine manages to peek out of the clouds and shine into the pavilion. Ironically, this is partly because of its numerous colorful raindrops but partly it’s because of the giant vitrines full of plastic lids that sit below the installation.

As part of the work, Hancock issues a “call to color” by encouraging visitors to bring their own morsels of color—in the form of plastic bottle caps—to the park and drop them into the work of art. Nine large-scale “earthbound” vitrines have been placed on the floor in front of the hand sculpture. On the face of each of these nine containers, there is a teardrop cut-out where plastic bottle caps can be deposited by color. Visitors are encouraged to bring plastic bottle caps ranging in all shapes and sizes from detergent bottles, to clear water bottles to the black and white caps from drink bottles.

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SAM Art: GET OUT! Summer at SAM

GET OUT! It’s officially the second Summer at SAM!

From June to September, SAM Olympic Sculpture Park is full of activities for kids and adults alike, as well as brand new art experiences. Take a tour of the old and new works in the park, listen to live music, eat and drink tasty treats, participate in kids’ programming, and even take yoga, Zumba© and dance lessons. Check the Get Out! Summer at SAM website often for updated listings of great events.

Other great summer programs include:

“Mount Rainier, Bay of Tacoma – Puget Sound,” 1875, Sanford Robinson Gifford, born Greenfield, N.Y. 1823; died New York City 1880, oil on canvas, 21 x 40 1/2 in., Partial and promised gift of Ann and Tom Barwick and gift, by exchange, of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Brechemin; Max R. Schweitzer; Hickman Price, Jr., in memory of Hickman Price; Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection; Mr. and Mrs. Norman Hirschl; and the Estate of Louise Raymond Owens, 90.29, Photo: Paul Macapia. Currently on view in “Beauty & Bounty,” special exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Beauty Bounty & Bierstadt

A Portrait of a Place

Although Albert Bierstadt had not traveled inland into the Washington Territory in 1863, he had amassed the materials he needed to paint a portrait of a place that he could identify as Puget Sound. He had made oil studies of the land forms and Natives he saw along the Columbia River. He had acquired Northwest Coast Native objects, including the examples exhibited here, all of which can be found in Bierstadt’s painting. He also had an extensive library on the early history of America to use for reference—in this case, he appears to have drawn from an illustration in James Gilchrist Swan’s early authoritative study of the region’s topography and people, The Northwest Coast, published in 1857.

 The fine points of the little-known Puget Sound landscape itself were less important to Americans in 1870 than was the fantasized idea of Puget Sound—a storied inland sea that was a gateway to exotic-seeming points of the globe and lands of unknown peoples. In the still primeval wilderness that Bierstadt depicted, the mysterious realm of an ancient class of seafarers and fishermen, Americans might imagine the modern seaport that would soon arise there—and taking pride in their vision and ingenuity, accord Bierstadt a place in history as the artist who made a valuable and pioneering record of the noble past that was a new maritime civilization’s prologue.

Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870, Albert Bierstadt, born Solingen, Prussia, 1830; died New York City, 1902, oil on canvas, 52 1/2 x 82 in., Gift of the Friends of American Art at the Seattle Art Museum, with additional funds from the General Acquisition Fund, 2000.70. Photo: Howard Giske. On view starting today (June 30) in Beauty and Bounty: American Art in an Age of Exploration, Special Exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Bovine

Seattle-based artist Whiting Tennis explores transformation in Bovine, a large hollow structure made of found plywood. Recalling a covered wagon, he has outfitted it with tools that would be necessary for survival in uncharted territories. However, masquerading as part animal and part domesticated site, Bovine is directionless, lost in the wilderness with its windows boarded and four stationary legs that were once wagon wheels. As if to conjure an image of isolation and the frontier experience, Tennis includes a soundtrack, Alone & Forsaken,

by the legendary Hank Williams, whose forlorn music is heard emanating from inside the structure. Fittingly, Tennis often refers to this sculpture as “The Oregon Trail Reversed”—decay and renewal were part of his concept when creating this work.

“Bovine,” 2006, Whiting Tennis, American, born 1959, lumber, found plywood and found objects and CD, 102 x 168 x 90 in., Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom, friends of Whiting Tennis, and the Mark Tobey Estate Fund, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2006.134, image courtesy Greg Kucera Gallery, © Whiting Tennis. On view starting 30 June, in “Reclaimed: Nature and Place through Contemporary Eyes,” Special Exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Sea Change

Abstract Expressionism was a dynamic fusion of Surrealism and Abstraction, seeking to awaken in the viewer—and in the artist as well—a deeper, often physical, response to the work. Large scale, edge-to-edge compositions and rich colors fill the eyes with often unified fields that are connected by movement and the traces of the brush.

 Sea Change is from a breakthrough group of early “transitional” works that Jackson Pollock made in 1947, which led away from figuration toward a fully abstract application of his drip technique. Its title comes from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest and lends extra narrative content to the composition, suggesting an impending meteorological event.

Installation view, Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown, 2011.

SAM Art: Dance Wand for Sango

Shango is a Yoruba deity who harnesses bolts of lightning and thunder and uses them to reward worshippers and punish deceit. Oral praise poems say he is the one “who destroys the wicked with his truth, leaves in confusion the contentious man, and dances in the courtyard of the impertinent.”

Double axes adorn this woman’s head to show her alliance with Sango’s moral fire. She kneels before his authority to present an offering. Such generosity is considered a noble gesture of morality and ensures that Sango will consider blessing her with children and wealth.

“Dance wand for Sango,” date unknown, Yoruba, Nigerian, wood, 19 7/8 x 7 9/16 x 4 5/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 67.91, Photo: Susan A. Cole. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Tiger Lily

Shaping humble clay into transcendent forms fit for the divine is a tradition as old as ceramics themselves. Drawing inspiration from the ancient vernacular of forms and techniques, contemporary artists work with clay to create sculpture that, to our eyes, is simultaneously deeply familiar and startlingly fresh.

Central to all of the cultures represented in the Ancient Mediterranean art gallery, altars and shrines find their contemporary reflection in Tiger Lily. At the height of the Feminist Movement in the 1970s, artist Patti Warashina created altars such as this, offerings of feminine archetypes and stereotypes for consideration.

Tiger Lily is part of a new installation of contemporary ceramics in the Ancient Mediterranean art gallery starting on Wednesday, June 1.

 Tiger Lily, 1976, Patti Warashina, American, born 1940, low-fire ceramic with acrylic, 24 x 15 7/8 x 13 1/4 in., Gift of the artist, 89.78, © Patti Warashina. On view in the Ancient Mediterranean art gallery, fourth floor, SAM downtown, starting Wednesday, June 1.

 

SAM Art: Chinese Landscape

After traveling to China in 1913, Hirai Baisen began to incorporate traditional Chinese subject matter into his modern Japanese painting practice. The white-walled buildings and the boats of the left-hand screen identify this as a Chinese landscape setting. Baisen, more widely known for his rich use of color, explored the expressive possibilities of ink on paper in this dramatic pair of six-panel screens.

This painting was recently installed in the Asian Art gallery at SAM downtown.

Chinese Landscape (detail), ca. 1925, Hirai Baisen, Japanese, 1889-1969, ink on paper, 67 1/4 x 148 1/2 in., Gift of Griffith and Patricia Way, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2010.41.52.1-2, Photo: Eduardo Calderon. Currently on view in the Asian Art gallery, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: The Last Days of Prince Khurram

Before he was the most powerful ruler in the world, Prince Khurram was a young man molding his image and his priorities. Son of the Emperor Jahangir, he was both protégé and upstart, a source of pride and later serious rivalry for his father. For years it was believed that this portrait depicted Jahangir himself, but recent research identifies him as Jahangir’s son and successor, an early image of the supreme Mughal leader, the man who would become Shah Jahan.

This Mughal portrait is on view through Sunday, May 30.

Portrait of Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan), first quarter 17th century, Indian, Mughal period (1526-1858), opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 17 1/2 x 12 1/8 in., Thomas D. Stimson Memorial Collection, gift of Mrs. Charles Mosely Clark, 44.650. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Adrian Paci’s “Home to Go”

Adrian Paci was forced to flee his homeland of Albania in 1997 because of the political and social unrest, emigrating to Italy with his wife and children to secure their safety and personal freedoms. This unsettled history informs his larger body of work to date, including paintings, films, installations, and sculptures such as Home to Go. Here, the figure is a cast of the artist’s own body, hunched over by the weight of a tiled roof segment he carries on his back. The viewer is drawn in to the emotional, physical, and psychological burden of his exodus from his country, and the memory of it that Paci has never left behind.

Members Art History Lecture Series: Curator’s Choice
Marisa C. Sánchez: Adrian Paci’s “Home to Go”
May 18, 2011
7–8:30 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium

Home to Go, 2001, Adrian Paci, Albanian, born 1969, plaster, marble dust, wood, tiles and rope, 65 x 35 3/8 x 47 1/4 in., Gift of the Contemporary Collectors Forum, 2008.12, Image courtesy Peter Blum Gallery, New York, © Adrian Paci. Currently on view in the Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

 

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