“The beauty of the museum is that it allows for interesting juxtapositions of artworks against architecture from the 1930s, and the ability to move works already on view into different configurations to satisfy new goals.”
Crosscut’s Brangien Davis also featured the “compact but compelling” new exhibition, which is just one show on view now in Seattle about people’s relationship to nature. (Margo Vansynghel also blurbed the show for their August things to do list.)
“Sit for a spell as the black-and-white images emerge slowly from the mist. Squint and you’ll start to see jagged mountains appear—but look even closer, and you’ll notice that these monoliths are made from so many skyscrapers. A rushing waterfall proves to be a highway packed with cars. Those trees? Construction cranes. The artist created these astonishing works by combining thousands of photographs and videos from megacities, thereby painting a natural landscape from man-made ambition.”
You don’t want to miss the triumphant return of SAM Remix, the 21+ after-hours art experience, held at the Olympic Sculpture Park on Friday, August 26. Curiocity fills you in on the details.
“I like to go head back up the incline and into the SAM park that zig-zags over the train tracks and street to that big orange structure with the orange chairs – another great place to rest in the shade, adjust your playlist or take out a sketch pad for a while before heading back into Belltown and home again.”
“Bruce Lee could blast a man backwards with one punch, but his identity as an intellectual and voracious reader was far less known. ‘You think of Bruce Lee as a martial artist and as an actor, but you don’t necessarily think of him as a philosopher,’ says Jessica Rubenacker, exhibit director of Wing Luke Museum.”
“Guston makes the imagery more visually striking by sticking strictly to variations on red and blue; the bluntness and obtuseness of its iconography is compellingly mysterious, as disembodied fingers, pointing hands, and crude painter’s canvas float monumentally but awkwardly around each other in space. Its painterly surface is tinged with naiveté. What a rare pleasure to see his painting up close.”
Happy Mother’s Day! Don’t wait until the last minute to buy all of the moms and moms-to-be in your life a gift. Surprise them with a something meaningful and locally made from SAM Shop! At SAM Shop, you’ll find uncommon objects, contemporary design for your home, jewelry by local artists, and more. Read below for five gift ideas that you can buy in store or online today. Plus, stop by the shop at our downtown location or at the Seattle Asian Art Museum this Mother’s Day weekend to get a free copy of Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variationswith any purchase. Can’t make it to the shop in person? Browse our digital catalogue for even more locally made and crafted gifts and select priority shipping or curbside pickup to make sure your items are delivered in time for Mother’s Day. Questions? Call the shop during business hours at 206.654.3120. As always, SAM members receive 10% on all online and in store purchases.
Ocean Sole Animal Sculptures $18–$124 Available In Store Only
Rhinos, giraffes, lions, turtles, and more—your mom will love one of these friendly animals made from washed up flip flops retrieved from the beaches of waterways in Kenya. With their animal-inspired creations, Ocean Sole recycles over one ton of styrofoam per month and saves over five hundred trees per year. Plus, 10–15% of all profits go to organizing beach cleanups, providing vocational and educational programming, and stepping up conservation efforts in Kenya. Discover the full collection of animal friends and learn more about how your Ocean Sole purchase gives back to low-income communities in Kenya in store at SAM Shop.
Artistic Creations by Marita Dingus $60–$400 Available In Store Only
“I consider myself an African-American Feminist and environmental artist. My approach to producing art is environmentally and politically infused: neither waste humanity nor the gifts of nature.” – Marita Dingus
An in-store exclusive, Seattle-born artist Marita Dingus is a mixed-media sculptor who works primarily with discarded materials to create beautiful and one-of-a-kind artistic creations. Drawing inspiration from the African Diaspora, the discarded materials she uses represent how people of African descent were used and discarded as slaves but still managed to repurpose themselves and thrive in our hostile world. Choose from a diverse selection of handmade earrings and necklaces, or take a trip to SAM Gallery and inquire about purchasing one of her artworks for sale.
Portland artisan Beth Grimsrud loves to sew and reconfigure cast-off materials into new forms. In 2003, she began using upcycled sweaters to make mittens, decorated with original appliqué designs. A one-woman operation, she puts her heart into each and every stitch. Each plush pocket sprite is carefully considered and individually designed, making each one-of-a-kind. Buy them online for $65 to get a set of three small sprites with a matching purse or visit in store at our downtown location to buy individual small and large sprites.
“I was raised in a way of life based on hunting, fishing, feasting, singing, dancing and visual arts. Art has always been communicated as an expression of spirit to the connections to people and the ways of life.” – Paul Windsor
After your visit to Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water at SAM, surprise your mom with a locally printed orca 100% cotton tote bag by Haisla, Heiltsuk artist Paul Windsor. Playing off the themes explored in Our Blue Planet, help your loved ones cut down on their plastic use while supporting the work of a local Indigenous artist.
Via Eater Seattle: Shubert Ho’s restaurants—including MARKET Seattle at SAM—are donating 10% of sales on select days to World Central Kitchen, an organization “that’s helping provide hot meals to Ukrainians suffering from the Russian invasion of their country.”
And here’s Artnet’s Eileen Kinsella on the many complexities of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms; Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, was among the art world voices sharing their experiences showing these works–including before the blockbuster editions.
“Like some great works of art, the Infinity Rooms were not immediately and universally appreciated. Manchanda recalled visiting one at the Whitney Museum (which also owns one) as part of a biennial more than two decades ago, while she was a student in New York. ‘The biennials were always crowded, but I was the only person in line wanting to see it. There was no interest whatsoever.’”
“Those who have been through the Hilltop program have seen its ability to teach students invaluable teamwork and leadership skills, with one person taking the lead as a gaffer (who will lift the molten glass) and one or two assistants helping to shape that glass into whatever the gaffer is working on. Keith equated it to a sort of dance, where everyone needs to learn their part and anticipate the moves and needs of others.”
“But it’s only when you stand in front of them, or in some way stand with them (from the side or directly behind can be just as effective) and focus in on them that they give up their devastating secret (which is also your secret and mine): that we’re alone, that no one else knows what’s in our heads and that we will cease to exist.”
“‘The thing that’s interesting is because this uncertainty is still in place, we still don’t know what those changes are going to be,’ Cruz said. ‘We have learned that we have to be nimble, and we’re learning to be nimble.’”
“It’s exceedingly common for artists’ output in popular, ephemeral contexts—cartooning, illustrating, advertising, and the like—to be taken less seriously than their endeavors in more traditional artistic media. In this case, that needs to change, and Bearden’s images should be kept in mind as the conversation about Guston continues to play out.”
“It is perhaps this quality of reflective quiet that epitomizes Cunningham’s art across time. In all of her photos we sense not only her concentration, but the vibrancy of being in subjects animate and inanimate.”
“It’s not all a bird’s-eye view of hockey either…PacSci’s exhibit emphasizes the importance of broadening the reach of the sport, beyond the predominantly white and male scope. The Kraken have been outspoken in this regard, and some members of its historically diverse staff, as well as its investments in youth programs, are highlighted here.”
“Because of climate change and pandemics and robotization, we will have more refugees in the future, more poverty,” [architect Alexander Hagner] said. Young architects realized that “we have learned a profession in which we can perhaps not save the world.” But, he added, they could “contribute to making it a better place.”
Night Watch (1960) by Abstract Expressionist artist Lee Krasner is part of a body of work often referred to as her “Night Journeys.” Grieving the loss of her husband, Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), and her mother, Anna Weiss Krassner (d. 1959), Krasner found herself in a challenging and painful emotional space. Suffering from intense insomnia, she painted almost exclusively at night during this period. In her words, “I painted a great many [paintings] because I couldn’t sleep nights. I got tired of fighting insomnia and tried to paint instead. And I realized that if I was going to work at night I would have to knock out color altogether, because I couldn’t deal with color except in daylight.”1
Though previously known for her dramatic use of color, Night Watch, along with other works made in the early 1960s, uses a reduced palette of black, ochre, and creamy white, with gray accents. The title alludes to one of Rembrandt’s celebrated 17th-century paintings of a militia company and, with punctuating eyes as a recurring motif, alludes simultaneously to the militia’s duty of keeping watch as well as a self-referential proclamation. Painting, for Krasner, was always autobiographical, and she maintained that “Painting is not separate from life. It is one.”2
Despite their reduced palette and somber origins, Krasner’s Night Journeys were an exciting artistic development. In a 1981 review of the exhibition The Abstract Expressionists and their Precursors at the Nassau County Museum in Roslyn, New York Times critic John Russell writes that Night Watch proves “Lee Krasner was able to go on turning the screw of her art at a moment in time when most of her colleagues were . . . beginning to lose momentum.”3 Indeed, Night Watch—with its swirling brushwork and rhythmic composition—mines a deeply personal moment in the name of self-expression.
– Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collections & Provenance Associate
1 Richard Howard, “A conversation with Lee Krasner,” in Lee Krasner Paintings 1959–1962 (New York: Pace Gallery 1979), p. 3.
“In a 1952 portrait, the sculptor Ruth Asawa holds one of her celebrated wire sculptures in front of her head, forming a rough square. The Seattle show will include a video of a Graham performance and a number of Asawa sculptures. Cunningham formed a close friendship with Asawa that lasted decades, and Carrie Dedon, who curated the exhibition for Seattle’s presentation, notes her ability to connect with fellow artists.”
“It’s no exaggeration to say the Langs assembled a world-class collection with a keen eye, particularly for artists who have only recently been getting their due, including Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell and Philip Guston.”
“Artists move where it’s affordable. So finding places that are affordable so you can live in Seattle eventually again, whether it’s through programs where it’s a multigenerational household or friendships that can acquire property and hopefully build equity, it might be the way…. I really want to see the artists and musicians and creatives find places here. That’s it. I hope we can have places to be.”
“To root the exhibition in the reality of specific historical erasure, the curators created a space that embraces the memory of Seneca Village, a thriving 19th-century New York City community of predominantly Black property owners and tenants. It was situated not too far from the Met, on what is now the western perimeter of Central Park, or what remains the unseated lands of indigenous Lenape peoples, potentially representing multiple displacements and migrations.”
Every painting, drawing, and sculpture at Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, and Olympic Sculpture Park is thoroughly inspected and cleaned by our conservation department before being put on view. These supremely talented individuals are dedicated to maintaining the aesthetic and structural health of SAM’s vast and, in some cases priceless, collections.
Watch this video from Seattle Channel’s Art Zone to get to know the leader behind this department, Jane Lang Davis Chief Conservator, Nicholas Dorman. Nick discusses his upbringing, explains how he ended up at SAM, and walks viewers through how he and his team care for every work of art at all three locations. All the works featured in this video can be seen on view in Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection at SAM through November 27, 2022.
In honor of National Ask a Conservator Day on November 4, we reached out to our Instagram community to see what questions they had for SAM’s conservation team. Nick, along with Senior Objects Conservator Liz Brown and Associate Conservator Geneva Griswold, took the time to answer them and give a bit more insight on their favorite memories at SAM—read their responses below!
What are some of the most time-intensive projects for SAM conservators to tackle?
Liz Brown (LB): Conservation treatments are time-intensive by nature! Small artworks treated in the studio take hundreds of hours to clean, treat, and document. Large, outdoor works such as those at the Olympic Sculpture Park get cleaned once a week, and then receive in-depth treatments, like a refreshed coating, each summer.
What background, formal education, and training is required to become an art conservator?
Geneva Griswold (GG): Paths into the conservation field can be circuitous, but many of us studied art history, chemistry, or are artists ourselves—conservation combines all of these interests! Formal entry into the field often includes the completion of a three-year graduate degree in art conservation with a specialty in objects, paintings, paper, textiles, books, or works on paper. Additional experience is gained through internships and fellowships.
What is your most cherished memory of working on SAM’s conservation team?
GG: One of my favorite memories is installing Yves St. Laurent: The Perfection of Style because it required teamwork from everyone in the department, plus local conservators who work in private practice, and conservators from France who travelled with exhibition. These collaborations are always the most fun because I learn a lot from my colleagues!
What has been your favorite artwork to restore/preserve while working at SAM?
LB: My favorite object is frequently what I am working on in the moment as each new work presents an opportunity to explore. Right now, I’m investigating cold cathode lights with artist Claude Zervas to prepare his artwork Nooksack for an upcoming exhibition.
How do you ensure you don’t change an artist’s intent when doing conservation?
Nick Dorman (ND): This important point is the subject of much concern and discussion. Treatments may be discussed with living artists directly, and conservators may collaborate with an artist’s foundation, community members, and others who are close to the work. We carefully research and document all work, and design every treatment to be reversible.
What aspect of conservation is misunderstood or overlooked?
LB: The title “conservation” can cause confusion it is often seen as rooted in a tradition of attempting to keep an object from changing. Sometimes this is a goal, but when considering treatment, we always consider the intangible aspects of the artwork. Thus, in conversations with stakeholders, we are looking to manage, change, and look to how that artwork lives best in a museum.
What is your favorite conservation tool?
LB: This is always changing, but one I come back to all the time is the very simple, yet versatile bamboo skewer. It’s wonderful in that it can be easily shaped to suit a variety of purposes. The wood box my father made for my small tools is also a favorite.
What’s the most interesting attempt you’ve seen a previous owner make to conserve an object? What did you have to do to correct/modify their attempt?
GG: I am currently working on a black lacquer wood sculpture. In areas where the black lacquer is missing, someone has colored the bare wood with a Sharpie marker to hide the unsightly loss. While well intentioned, this will be challenging to remove, if at all possible. Someone also used carpenter’s wood glue to reattach elements of the sculpture, however this type of adhesive has damaged the fragile lacquer. My treatment seeks to remove this adhesive and replace it with a more appropriate choice.
Any strange conservation stories to share?
ND: When I went to Italy in 2006 to research the original location of SAM’s Tiepolo ceiling fresco with former Chief Curator Chiyo Ishikawa, we found what seemed to be a very similar painting on the ceiling of the painting’s original home in Vicenza. The current custodian of the home said, “We have the Tiepolo, I don’t know what you have.” Turns out, we both have the Tiepolo! The surface of the original painting had been removed from the underlying fresco layers and attached to a new canvas support, eventually traveling across the world to grace SAM’s Porcelain Room ceiling. The remaining under-paint was left in place and was eventually retouched by a prominent Italian restorer.
What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in art conservation?
GG: Review the American Institute For Conservation and the Emerging Conservator Professional Network for resources. Informational interviews with conservators and conservation students can give a window into what the job entails on a day to day basis. Our roles vary immensely from museum to museum, and from institutional settings to private practice. Find a mentor who can provide sustained guidance—SAM conservators are happy to connect with you, get in touch with us!
Behind one of the most significant private collections of Abstract Expressionist and post-war art is a love story for the ages.
It started with a chance meeting between Jane Davis and Richard E. Lang at the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra. Within a year, the two were married and moved to Seattle. With a shared passion for the arts, Jane and Richard collected abstract works from artists across the United States which they showcased in their modest waterfront home.
Watch this video by the Friday Foundation to see how Jane and Richard’s extensive collection came together and how their legacy lives on in Seattle and its cultural community. Then, see 21 works from their personal collection in Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection at SAM, on view through November 27, 2022. These exceptional artworks now live at SAM thanks to a gift from the Friday Foundation in honor of these local collectors. The recent Lang Collection gift is comprised of 19 outstanding artworks that transform SAM’s holdings of postwar art, making it the most significant collection of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.
“I’ve always felt, whether he was praising me or offering advice or criticism, that he believed in my art and that part of what drove him was the desire to advance it, and to protect it from obstacles,” said photographer Chris Engman, who makes confounding, disorienting illusions. “This is what a collaboration between an artist and a gallerist should look like.”
“I visit Victory in midtown Manhattan often. I eavesdrop as people take selfies below her sandaled feet. Almost no one reads the nearby plaque, explaining the symbolism of Union triumph and identifying Anderson. How fierce she looks, with anti-pigeon spikes atop her head, wings, and fingertips. How few other models of her time maintained their privacy and independence, and how fewer still had the sand to protect their own image by copyright.”
Organized by artists in an empty storefront on East 9th Street, the now-iconic 1951 Ninth Street Show was “a boisterous call for attention by a new generation,” and marked a formal announcement of Abstract Expressionism.1 Despite initial discussion about whether the inclusion of women would negatively impact the exhibition’s reception, Helen Frankenthaler was one of eleven women (and sixty-one men) who participated in the watershed presentation. At 22 years old, she was also the youngest.
Considered the progenitor of Color Field painting, Frankenthaler’s process involved “diluting her paints to the fine consistency of watercolors, she applied the liquid to unprimed canvas, laid on the floor, so that it soaked through in broadly spreading stains, creating opalescent veils of color, bright yet soft, not quite like anything seen before.”2
This technique was acknowledged by many of her fellow artists and art critics as a revelation.
Painted in 1967, close to twenty years after the Ninth Street Show, Dawn Shapes is a large-scale exemplar of her pioneering soak stain technique. Currently on view in Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection, the painting is also given scholarly treatment by Elizabeth A. T. Smith in the accompanying catalogue:
Of foremost significance in Dawn Shapes is how Frankenthaler configured and manipulated the predominant area of ochre at the painting’s center. Here, she achieved a nuance range of yellow and more earthen hues—from dark mustard to dusky orange to peach—applied through a combination of pouring and brushwork to enhance the subtlety of the variations in density and tone. The resulting form, while emphatic, lacks clear definition, evoking various possible associations, from the mutable conditions of visibility at dawn to the gathering of storm clouds and the emergence of sunbeams peeking around and through them. This suggested condition of indistinctness gave rise to the title she ultimately chose for the work.3
As penned in a Museum of Modern Art press release for a 1989 retrospective of her paintings, “All of Frankenthaler’s works suggest a kind of place. Some call on the experiences of her travels within this country and in Europe; others of her living and working in New York City, Connecticut, and Cape Cod. Her titles evoke places of personal and artistic interest as well: natural, religious, mythological, and imaginary. For the artist, the physical painting in itself becomes a place, an environment into which we look.”4 Indeed, painted during a highly productive time in her career, Dawn Shapes exemplifies Frankenthaler’s achievement of spatial tension between pools of contrasting color and their relationship with areas of unprimed canvas. The result is an atmospheric painting whose complex shapes and subtle colors pull us in and ask us to stay a while.
– Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collections and Provenance Associate
“As music by Dionne Warwick, Prince and Anita Baker plays overhead, a rotating lantern in the heart of the gallery casts cut-paper images across the room’s bare, white walls. The technique recalls the earlier magic-lantern work of artists Auguste Edouart and Kara Walker. But here, there are no silhouetted people, only abstracted monochrome shapes of cut fabric patterns (Adams) and stained-glass-like cutouts of an Afro pick and a cinderella shoe surrounded by roses (Thomas).”
“Slowly we were able to see the edges of ‘Virginia Summer,’” Mr. Masson said. “After numerous discussions with the owners, we started to go further and we realized that there was oil paint covering the whole canvas. It’s the first time we realized it’s not a sketch, it’s more.”
“It has a universal nonspecific vocabulary, and if you give it the time and sit with it quietly, it is as nourishing to heart and soul as any meditation, because it speaks this universal language of emotion. This is what art is supposed to do and this is what cultural collections do for us.”
“‘In a cultural and spiritual sense, having the Indigenous histories of the land — and the current Indigenous presence on the land — recognized in physical formats is hugely meaningful,’ says local artist and curator Asia Tail.”
“Delaney’s multiphased achievement fits in all over the map of 20th-century American art: the Harlem Renaissance, the Stieglitz circle, American Scene painting and Abstract Expressionism, but it is still waiting to be written into these histories.”
“I heard ‘Psalm’ first,” he says, “and I was blown away, because I knew it was rare, that he never played it in public, except in France. But then when I turned the tape over and realized here’s Joe Brazil doing his matinee set, then it ends, then the next thing is the opening fanfare [of “Acknowledgment”], and — Oh my God, I realized the whole suite is here!”
“They remain relevant, and become increasingly more so as time passes,” [Rebecca] Romney said. “One of the cards depicts a scientist interacting with microbes; another shows something very akin to a Zoom session…Looking at these cards is a bit like catching up with a friend you haven’t seen since high school—that contraction of time in which it feels as if you experience two time periods at once, thinking of all that was different in the past, and how much has changed now.”
Mark Rothko is one of the preeminent American artists of the 20th century and a central figure of the New York School. This later painting, completed in 1963, is a wonderful example of his signature style—a large-scale canvas comprised of bands of color that vibrate with quiet depth and intensity.
As described by one art historian, Stephen Polcari, “Rothko’s mature paintings consist of parallel rectangles, often similar in value but different in hue and width, extended to the edges of the canvas. The shapes lack distinctive textural effect, seeming to be veils of thin color applied with sponges, rags, and cloths, as well as brushes. Line has been eliminated altogether.”1 In Untitled, a muted palette of dark, purplish browns—verging on black—are characteristic of his later work, while his earlier color field abstractions are defined by their bright and exuberant surfaces of glowing red, yellows, and oranges. (#10, also in SAM’s collection, is a strong example.)
While Polcari’s formal assessment is accurate, what cannot be captured is, importantly, the feeling of a Rothko painting. In a 1958 lecture given by the artist at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, he addressed the size of his work and the importance of scale: “large pictures are like dramas in which one participates in a direct way.”2 Rather than depict the human form, which had previously preoccupied many artists of his generation, Rothko opted instead to pursue something much larger—more ineffable and metaphysical: “the scale of human feelings, the human drama, as much of it as I can express.”3 Scale, coupled with the structure of the paintings, anchored by his signature layering of saturated colors, work to directly and immediately envelop the viewer, expressing “basic human emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.”4 Rothko desired intimacy between his canvases and viewers, and attempted to connect his viewers with feelings of the sublime: “people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.”5
“The 10 different publishers ‘sometimes have different mindsets, different politics, and they live in different parts of the country’…said [Nick] Charles. ‘But their affection and love for communities are what binds them. Collaboration is going on because people realize that to survive and to meet our mission as journalists, we have to band together.’”
“These paintings have their amusing aspects as images; their enthralling, startling qualities as fields of manipulated paint; and their painful auras as ridiculous yet heart-rending pictures of the hell that is being an artist, or maybe just the hell that was being Philip Guston.”
“It’s thrilling to share with the public these formidable examples of Abstract Expressionism and postwar European art,” said Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s curator of contemporary art, in the news release. “The emotional current of these works, reflective of their specific time and context, runs from exuberant to contemplative, fierce to soaring.”
“You’d have to be living under a rock not to understand how devastating the pandemic has been for Seattle’s art and cultural community…While Seattle’s Cultural Space Agency charter has emerged to stymie cultural displacement in the city, a lot of work is yet to be done to make sure that Seattle can be a hospitable place for artists to work and live. So what’s Seattle’s next mayor going to do about it?”
“Immigrants is the title caption, but on the back Lawrence wrote, ‘The Emigrants,’ suggesting a desire for permanence in their new home. The middle figure clutches a potted rose—the national flower of the United States. Lawrence’s vision is that the arrival of all people, young and old, contributes to the expansion of America through their struggles and courage.”