David Macaulay at the Tacoma Art Museum

Even though I’ve been in Seattle for nearly three years, I’ve never visited the city with which it shares an airport: Tacoma. I’ve driven though Tacoma on the way to California, but that hardly counts. I’ve always thought of Tacoma as relating to Seattle in the same way that Providence, RI relates to Boston: either could have become the prime location in the region, but the loser was doomed to play second fiddle. Both Tacoma and Providence are interesting, but neither really compares to its northern neighbour.
The idea to visit Tacoma was spurred by coming across an ad for an exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum on the work of David Macaulay. I’ve been a huge fan of his, ever since his first book “Cathedral“. The exhibit is absolutely first-class, and includes many working drawings, outlines, paper models, and drafts for reworked projects. A large number of the pieces were simply thumb-tacked to the wall, just as if they were in the artist’s studio. The exhibit also included the video of Macaulay’s talk at TED about his Rome project, which helped to put many of the working drawings into perspective. Hmm – “perspective”. Bad choice of word. If you watch the TED talk, you’ll understand why.
The Tacoma Art Museum is small, but the exhibits were first class. I loved the series of Salvador Dali etchings in an exhibition on the evolution of surrealism; some seemed close to early Picasso, which surprised me. A collection called Speaking Parts included a quite outstanding piece by Dennis Evans called “Writing Lessons”. If there’s a downside, it’s the over-exposure of Dale Chihuly glass, which is frankly not to my taste. (There’s a dedicated museum of glass just down the road; why couldn’t all of his overwrought neon whorls and orgasmic sea anemones be kept down there?)
We didn’t stay long; after a quick lunch, we had to head back up to Seattle. But I suspect that we’ll be returning soon.

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Harvard art at the Sackler

More photos.

Monet: The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a train (1877)

Monet: "The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a train" (1877)

Harvard University has embarked on a major renovation of its art museums, particularly the Fogg Museum on Quincy Street. During the reconstruction, they’ve consolidated some of their pieces in the smaller Sackler Museum on Broadway. On a beautiful (but chilly) morning, we decided to take the #66 bus over to Harvard Yard and see what the resulting exhibitions were like. Photography is (mostly) allowed, and the results can be found here. Yes, the first picture is of the Memorial Hall, not of the Sackler, but MemHall is always photogenic.
The high points: the extraordinary multimedia installation by Leonardo Drew; the Monet shown at the right, and a carved stone panel that matches a series of rubbings that Merry has had for years.
(I have to say that I’m really enjoying this Panasonic DMC-TZ4. 8.1MP is ample, and I rarely have to venture out of “iA” automation mode to get the picture I want. It’s a delight to use; the only design flaw is that the microphone is on the top surface, on the left, so sometimes I’ll block it when I’m shooting video.)

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Absolutely fantastic!

Two thumbs up (both mine, but whatever…) for the new fantasy and sci-fi art exhibition at Roq La Rue. I got there soon after 6, which was good, because an hour later the place was packed. A sign said that it was the first exhibition of its kind anywhere in the US – is that true? Anyway, it was nicely representative of the genre.
As is my habit when visiting any gallery, I set out to answer the question, “If you were to buy just one item from this show, which would it be, and why?” I find that it’s a really useful way of imposing some structure on what can otherwise become a random walk. In this case, it was actually quite easy. Donato Giancola: Psychohistorical Crisis III found myself returning to Donato Gioancola’s “PSYCHOHISTORICAL CRISIS II” over and over again, enjoying the juxtaposition of huge, implacable machinery with small, uncertain people. Not only did this draw me in to it (and invite me down the steel passageway to an uncertain future); it also felt like something I would enjoy living with. Unfortunately my assessment was shared by the artist and gallery: at $15,000, it was one of the most expensive pieces in the show.
Of course there were also four wonderful little pieces by Bob Eggleton: pictures of starships against a rocky planetscape with a star-filled sky. Bob is best known for his contemporary cover art for science fiction books, and in these works he was paying homage to the cover artwork that one finds on pulp sci-fi paperbacks from the 1950s and 1960s. At only $300 each, I would have happily bought one right there and then; sadly, others had had the same idea, and all four were red-dotted before the show opened. Oh, well.

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Roq La Rue

This Friday evening I’m planning to hit the Roq La Rue Gallery in Belltown for the opening of their new show. From BoingBoing:

This Friday, a mind-blowing fantasy and science fiction art show opens at Seattle’s Roq La Rue Gallery. Curated by Kirsten Anderson and Travis Louie, the “Amazing Visions” exhibition includes an incredible line-up of artists. Fortunately, all of the works are viewable on the gallery’s Web site.
Artists: Matt Wilson, Wayne Barlowe, James Gurney, H.R. Giger, Charles Vess, John Brophy, Terese Neilsen, Kinuko Y Craft, Vincent Di Fate, Vince Natale, Don Maitz, Gregory Manchess, Jeremy Bennett, Brian Despain, Ezra Tucker, Brom, Mark Garro, Stephen Hickman, Chet Zar, James Warhola, Kirk Reinert, Basil Gogos, Donato Giancola, Miles Teves, Bob Eggleton, Omar Rayyan, Joe DeVito, Tristan Elwell, Gabe Marquez, John Jude Palencar, Constantine

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Americans in Paris, 1860-1900

This evening we went to the members’ preview for the new exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts: Americans in Paris, 1860-1900. It’s a delightful collection, showing how a diverse group of American artists journeyed to Paris, absorbed (or occasionally rejected) the artistic revolutions that marked the second half of the 19th century, and returned home to create a distinctively American style. For a dramatic example of the process, check out the way that John Singer Sargent’s seascapes were transformed between 1861 and 1865 from obsessive Realism to near-abstract and then proto-impressionism.
All of the usual suspects are here, including Mary Cassat and Winslow Homer. They’ve even managed to persuade the Musée d’Orsay to let them have Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother.
My personal favourite item in the exhibition is by an artist with whom I was unfamiliar: Cecilia Beaux. Her Ernesta (Child with Nurse) is wonderful: the energy and curiosity of the child is almost palpable.
Cecilia Beaux: Ernesta (Child with Nurse)
The show opens the day after tomorrow (June 25). Highly recommended.

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