In the last two weeks I've gone to four different galleries, which is probably more than I've been to in the whole previous year. I'm kind of overwhelmed by the sheer saturation of it right now, and I haven't been keeping up with typing journal entries because I've been too tired and depressed. Also, I suspect I'm embarrassed to write reviews or even just reactions, because they will inevitably turn out to be art-sniveling, and I'm not yet comfortable thinking of myself as a person who's capable of producing that stuff.
But I am that kind of person, no matter how much my damned family and so-called friends will make fun of me for it. And I'm going to need to have something to refer back to, later in the semester when I have to write papers and things. So I'm going to try to at least do brief summaries of the things I've seen so far.
The first gallery was Davidson Contemporary, in Pioneer Square. Four artists were featured: Ellen Garvens, Timea Tihanyi, John Grade, and Steve Currie. Ellen Garvins had photographs of things which appeared to be sculpture made out of plastic (?) body parts (?) or something. It was impossible to tell the scale of any of the objects, which I found frustrating. Timea Tihanyi made wall hangings out of felt, in the shapes of river systems. The gallery guy said they were accurate, made from large maps. Also plaster or ceramic oblongs, with river systems pressed into the surface. It wasn't clear whether these were meant to be vessels, or just wall-hung plaques. John Grade's work was very precise. There were several charcoal drawings, which looked like aerial views of landscapes or water, and there was a sculpture which was a pair of tusk-shaped wire-frame things constructed of wood. Steve Currie's work was also sculpture, and looked kind of like molecular diagrams crudely assembled from pale wooden sticks and yellow lumps of wax or plastic. They were interesting, in a rickety way. I forget which of them had made the cast-rubber plates with the silhouette-ish hospital scenes, but I think it must have been Timea. The silhouettes were cut out of felt, I think, so the material would suggest her, anyway.
If there was an overall theme for this group, it was that all the things seemed to have some scientific references, which I quite liked. It's nice to see that there are people in the world who are combining science with art, and getting their work into galleries.
The second gallery was at Seattle Community College, and was an exhibit of mostly photographs of the Katrina aftermath. I have to say, it wasn't all that interesting, and was unpleasantly littoo bright. All Katrina photographs look the same, eventually.
The third was with my sculpture class on Thursday; we went into Belltown where there's a building which used to be a garage, with beautiful old wooden floors, and huge timber trusses holding up the roof. An architect has offices there, and there's also a large room used as a gallery space. This space contained an inflatable house, made of transparent plastic. Or rather, two inflatable houses, a big one inside (!) a smaller one. Three times a day, air is pumped into the whole business, causing peculiar distortions as the inner structure tries to expand beyond the boundaries of the containing walls. There end up being all sorts of squashed and rumpled bits that don't inflate completely. The thing slowly deflates over a period of several hours, gently sagging and drooping and turning back into a shiny puddle of plastic on the floor.
The fourth was today, when we went to the Frye museum, a place full of bad memories for me. It's also a fairly substantial distance from school, and uphill all the way, so by the time I got there I was out of breath and extremely grouchy, completely prepared to hate whatever art I encountered there.
The current exhibit there is the work of Erwin Wurm, an Austrian dude who seems to be best known for his One-Minute Sculpturesphotographs of people in odd positions or situations. I guess the idea is that the person is the sculpture, for a brief time, and the photograph is merely a record of this ephemeral work. This is irritatingly pretentious and post-modern, but he gets away with it because a lot of the pictures are hilarious.
Also entertaining was the video in which he takes pictures of things like water pouring out of a glass, but with the camera tilted so it looks like the water is going sideways or upside-down. He has carefully removed any visual cues that might help orient you, and in some shots provides misleading backgrounds (it looked like he rigged up a wall to resemble floorboards, for instance), so you watch these things trying to figure out what's going to fall where, and then when it does, it's like the punchline of a joke. Some of his titles are like elaborate jokes, too; there was a series of photographs offering "Instructions for Idleness." Sleep for Two Months. Change Shirts Rarely. Look Silly.
I think my favorite of the work I saw today, though, was the series of drawings about Thinking About Philosophy. Each one was a large sheet of paper with a smallish simple line drawing of a person on it. The people looked quite ordinary: there were slouchy ones wearing hoodies and stuffier ones in suits, there were men and women of all ages and personalities. Some of them seemed a bit bored, others appeared vaguely thoughtful or maybe slightly startled. Under each was a handwritten caption like "Thinking about Nietzsche." One was thinking about Buddha, another about Thomas Aquinas. Some of the captions were in English and some were in German. There were probably at least forty of them, and the effect was cumulative; after I'd looked at a dozen of them I was starting to laugh at the unexpected combinations of philosophers and facial expressions. It was kind of like reading books of Kliban cartoons. Halley's Breakfast.
His photographs are a lot like Kliban, too, now that I think about it. Looking for a Bomb 1.
I ended up liking the Wurm exhibit enough that it cheered me up even though I was tired and grouchy and starving. Maybe in the next week I'll get my routine settled enough that I can be less tired, and therefore less grouchy. We shall see.