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Muse/News: Magical Connections, Jazz Sculptures, and History’s Presence

SAM News

The Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens this week to members and will reopen to the public May 28. Margo Vansynghel of Crosscut visited the museum, which had its grand reopening in February 2020 before closing again on March 13, 2020, to see its reimagined galleries and learn what the closure meant for the curators and conservation team.

“To demonstrate the magic these new connections can create, Wu walks us to another dimly lit gallery, this one filled with delicate paper scrolls and book folios dedicated to the holy word. In one display case, two pieces of priceless paper seem to have been drenched in the night sky… On the surface, the two are linked by the shimmer of gold and tempestuous blue, but together they also suggest a power beyond words.”

KNKX also recommends a visit to the museum on their list of activities and events honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May. Curiocity recommends it, too, and it’s on the Stranger’s list of events for May.

The Seattle Times’ Megan Burbank launches a new visual arts column, On View; in her first edition, she includes Dawn Cerny: Les Choses, an installation of sculptures now on view at SAM.

Local News

Spend some time with the Stranger’s Ann Guo and The Station co-owner Leona Moore-Rodriguez, as they talk about coffee, community, and ̕90s R&B.

Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne has you covered on upcoming festivals in the region: what’s happening and what’s not.

In her weekly ArtSEA letter, Crosscut Brangien Davis highlights some public art now on view at the new Jackson Apartments complex, including an installation honoring Northwest jazz legends by Paul Rucker (the tonearm is a bench!).

“He hopes this piece is both enlightening and fun. ‘I’d love for it to be a place to do rubbings,’ he said, noting the inscribed names. ‘Or a place people take selfies. I want it to be like the Troll, that’s my dream.’”

Inter/National News

Billionaire art collector, philanthropist, and entrepreneur Eli Broad—a towering figure in the cultural scene of the United States, and most of all, in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles—has died at 87,” reports Artnet. 

Art in America’s “New Talent” issue was guest-edited by Antwaun Sargent and sees him “realize a decade-old fantasy” by bringing together a team of Black writers and critics. Read his editor’s letter and explore the new issue.

Tausif Noor for the New York Times on An American Project at the Whitney Museum of American Art, a retrospective survey of the work of photographer Dawoud Bey.

“Under Bey’s careful eye, history emerges as an active presence, authored in real time by individuals and societies who transform and are transformed by the continual unfolding of the past.”

And Finally

RIP, Olympia Dukakis.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Jueqian Fang

Muse / News: Bergman’s gravitas, an elegy for the viaduct, and the walls of a Seattle collector

SAM News

There was lots of love last week for The Magic Lantern of Ingmar Bergman, a film series full of “grim existential gravitas” playing every Thursday through March 14. It was recommended in Seattle Met’s “What to Do After Work” and in The Stranger’s “Complete Guide to January 2019 Events.”

“Oh, hey, and they’re showing one of the most traumatizing movies about relationships ever made, Cries and Whispers, on Valentine’s Day. Happy coincidence?”

Strike a pose, Seattle Asian Art Museum! The renovated and expanded museum set to reopen this fall is included this Vogue wrap-up on “The Best New Places to Eat, Stay, and Play in Seattle.”

Local News

Seattle artist and professor Robert C. Jones recently passed away at the age of 88; his work soon goes on view alongside the work of his wife Fay Jones in dual shows at G. Gibson Gallery and James Harris Gallery.

“An elegy to the viaduct on the eve of its passing.” For Crosscut, it’s the brilliant Lola E. Peters with a poem for the viaduct (1953-2019).

Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne asks the important question, “What’s Inside the Weird White Boxes at Third and Virginia?”

“What’s interesting about Light as a Common Thread is that the narrative imposes a new gloom around Hogan’s pieces while they’re still in a gallery. Instead of being championed, they’re doomed.”

Inter/National News

Here’s Artsy’s Julia Wolkoff with an editorial on “Three Ways Art History Needs to Change in 2019.”

Art & Object takes a look at Night Coming Tenderly, Black, a new series by photographer Dawoud Bey of twilight landscapes taken at stops along the Underground Railroad.

Shaun Kardinal, artist and lead web developer at Civilization, was featured in Show Us Your Wall, the New York Times’ recurring series exploring art collections.

“I don’t think of them as investments. I only get things that I love. I do know that that piece, Royalties Wanted, by Anthony White, would probably go for three or four times what I got it for.”

And Finally

Know her name! TIFF schooled me—a self-proclaimed Film Nerd—with this amazing thread on queer feminist film pioneer Dorothy Arzner.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Object of the Week: Money Tree

In honor of Black History Month, Object of the Week will—throughout the month of February—highlight works by celebrated black artists in the SAM Collection.

Walk through Harlem any given day and you will see David Hammons’ work. The work he does for people who cannot go to SoHo and gallery-hop. The people that he knows. The people he comes from. Bottles stuck on top of bare branches protruding from the ground. From vacant lots and cracks and crevices in the sidewalk. Hammons transforms them. Creates visual music and something to smile about in an environment that doesn’t offer a lot in the way of jokes.  

— Dawoud Bey, “David Hammons: Purely and Artist,” 1982

David Hammons is often described as an elusive figure, an artist who has openly rebuked and skirted the art world, despite his successes within it.[1] A master of materials and the meanings they carry, Hammons deftly reworks objects—often found or discarded—in novel ways, representing Black experience through symbol and metaphor, “physically composed from the material elements of his experience.”[2] As Hammons once put it: “outrageously magical things happen when you mess around with a symbol.”[3] Well, when he messes around with a symbol.

Working outside traditional arts institutions, Hammons imbues his sculptures, installations, photography, and performance with potent signifiers mined from materials grounded in Black urban life. Take, for example, the tree pictured here: pierced with a circular band, the trunk becomes a sculptural object whose form and tongue-in-cheek title, Money Tree, obliquely reference a basketball hoop. Despite the endless wealth to which the title alludes, the rather barren scene warrants a more nuanced interpretation.

For Hammons, basketball—a sport dominated by Black athletes—is not a guarantee of economic success, but rather acts as both a “foil and object of devotion” in Black communities.[4] Though speaking specifically to a 1983 piece titled Higher Goals (pictured below), a sculptural work that also mobilizes basketball as metaphor, Hammons’ own words can provide some insight:

It’s an anti-basketball sculpture. Basketball has become a problem in the black community because kids aren’t getting an education. They’re pawns in someone else’s game…. It means you should have higher goals in life than basketball.[5]

Treated with equal parts empathy and irony, Money Tree acknowledges the reality that, for many Black communities, basketball is regarded as an opportunity to excel within a society whose systems unfairly work against people of color. In a country that deeply reveres professional sports and its athletes, basketball is thus seen as an avenue to success. Yet, Money Tree also undercuts this very notion, simultaneously functioning as a cautionary tale and pointed commentary on race and class in America.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

[1] In the essay “Wreaking Havoc on the Signified: David Hammons,” Coco Fusco articulates: “No account of Hammons’ art is entirely devoid of references to his streetwise, resolutely anti-elitist persona. He has become infamous for his acerbic appraisals of high art, and his willed cultivation of a split between a black interpretative community to which he directs his messages, and a now admiring (once indifferent) white art world he loves to snub, tease and confuse.” Coco Fusco, “Wreaking Havoc on the Signified: David Hammons,” Frieze, May 7, 1995, https://frieze.com/article/wreaking-havoc-signified.
[2] Kellie Jones, “The Structure of Myth and the Potency of Magic,” in David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), 16.
[3] Holland Cotter, “David Hammons Is Still Messing With What Art Means,” The New York Times, March 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/arts/design/david-hammons-is-still-messing-with-what-art-means.html.
[4] Franklin Sirmans, “Searching for Mr. Hammons,” in David Hammons: Selected Works (New York: Zwirner & Wirth, 2006), np.
[5] David Hammons quoted by Douglas C. McGill, “Hammons’ Visual Music,” in The New York Times, July 18, 1986, section 3, p. 15. Image: Higher Goals, 1983, fifty-five foot tall basketball poles, 121st Street and Frederick Douglas Boulevard, Harlem.
Image: Money Tree, 1992, David Hammons, gelatin silver photograph, 16 1/2 x 11 in., Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom, 97.77, © David Hammons. Higher Goals, 1983, David Hammons, 55′ tall basketball poles, 121st Street and Frederick Douglas Boulevard, Harlem. Photo: Dawoud Bey. © David Hammons