Washington’s art scene is thriving and packed with many impressive exhibitions, from Old Master prints to contemporary photography. With traditional and non-traditional art on show at museums and galleries over the coming month, art lovers have plenty of cultural experiences to choose from. Here we take a look at the best art exhibitions to visit in the state of Washington this summer.
Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair
6 June – 8 September
On display at the Northwest African American Museum, the travelling exhibition Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair is inspired by the book of the same name. Inspired by a couple seen at a party with ‘large, perfectly rounded Afros’, photographer Michael July embarked on a five year journey of photographing people from varied ethnicities and ages with one thing in common: the afro. This captivating exhibition of 36 photographs and corresponding stories celebrates hair in its beautiful natural state while paying respect to those who brought the afro to the forefront of mainstream culture.
Modernism in the Pacific Northwest: The Mythic and the Mystical
19 June – 7 September
In the late 1930s and 1940s, the Northwest School of modern art was created, and the acclaimed artists were deemed ‘mystic painters’ in a 1953 Life magazine article. Modernism in the Pacific Northwest: The Mythic and the Mystical, showing at the Seattle Art Museum, features the works of ‘mystic’ artists Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, and Guy Anderson who created art in response to what was taking place in the world, notably the Great Depression and WWII. Interested in the spiritual world, these artists were profoundly influenced by Native American and Asian cultures and traditions, often incorporating calligraphic design, nature, and spiritual symbolism into their artworks. In addition to the array of paintings by these artists and others, sculptures by Phil McCracken and James Washington are also showcased in this illuminating exhibition.
Seattle Art Museum, 1300 1st Ave., Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 654 3100
Until 21 September
Upon entering the Frye Salon, visitors will immediately notice that the artworks coverthe entire wall from floor-to-ceiling with no identifying exhibit labels. Curators at the Frye Museum have hung this collection as it would have been displayed in the home of Charles and Emma Frye, the art patrons who bequeathed their art collection to the people of Seattle. Known as the Founding Collection, it consists of 232 paintings from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, and while largely composed of German artists, such as Franz Von Stuck and Friedrich August van Kaulbach, other artists are featured as well, including William A. Bouguereau and Pieter van Veen. Eager to show connections between the past and present, Frye Salon also includes a series of short exhibitions and performances by contemporary artists, the last of which ends 15 June.
Frye Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 622 9250
Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945
Until October 19
Art deco is an eclectic visual art movement that was prominent during the interwar period, the 1920s through 1930s, and is recognised by its geometric patterns, vivid colours, and use of modern materials. From Europe to Africa to East Asia, from past art movements to the machine age, art deco found inspiration from many sources thus influencing a wide audience who craved something new and modern, including Japan. Currently showing at the Asian Art Museum, which appropriately enough is located in an art deco building, Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945 is an exhibition highlighting the impact Japanese artists have had on this movement and vice versa by featuring approximately 200 pieces of art, including paintings, posters, and a wide-range of decorative arts.
Photographic Presence and Contemporary Indians: Matika Wilbur’s Project 562
Until 5 October
Showing at the Tacoma Art Museum, Photographic Presence and Contemporary Indians is the debut exhibition for internationally acclaimed photographer Matika Wilbur’s Project 562 in which her objective is to photograph every Native American tribe that is recognised by the United States Government. Currently there are 566 Native American tribes and Wilbur has photographed approximately 150 thus far. This exhibition includes approximately 45 portraits representing many different tribes plus select audio interviews, giving a glimpse into the lives of these fascinating individuals. Being Native American herself (Swinomish and Tulalip), Wilbur wishes to ‘build cultural bridges, abandon stereotypes, and renew and inspire our national legacy’ with her project and exhibition. An ongoing journey, Wilbur is well on her way to fulfilling her dream.
Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, WA, USA, +1 253 272 4258
Look! See? The Colors and Letters of Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert
Until 18 January 2015
The ubiquitous ‘Please Do Not Touch’ sign is all too familiar with museum visitors. Local artists Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert seek to challenge this notion with their art exhibition Look! See? The Colors and Letters of Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. Composed of glass sculptures and found objects, in this case refurbished neon letters, Elek and Bert create an interactive art exhibition in which visitors are able to actively experience the artworks on display. Numerous vibrant letters are easily moved from one place to another so that participants can redesign the exhibition by spelling words or even by wearing them around their necks if they prefer. It is a bold art show that both adults and children will take pleasure in exploring.
Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma, WA, USA, +1 866 468 7386
Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami
Until 21 September
One of the oldest forms of art, origami has not had an exhibition devoted to it until now. Currently on display at the Bellevue Arts Museum, Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami explores the art of folding paper that began in Japan centuries ago and how it has evolved over time. What was often thought of as a craft, origami has advanced to fine art and is oftentimes related to other sectors, such as science and mathematics. With 45 artists from all over the world represented, including Japan, Russia, and the United States and over 140 artworks that incorporate representational, abstract, and geometrical forms, this travelling exhibition highlights the diverse world of origami.
Bellevue Arts Museum, 510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA, USA, +1 425 519 0770
Radical Repetition: Albers to Warhol
Until 17 August
Currently on view at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Radical Repetition: Albers to Warhol is an invigorating art exhibition exploring the effects of repeating motifs in art, both representational and abstract. Focusing on artworks since the 1960s, this exhibition is drawn from the collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation. A total of 34 artists are represented, including Josef Albers, Sol Lewitt, Tara Donovan, Chuck Close, Jenny Holzer, and Andy Warhol to name but a few. The majority of the exhibition focuses on prints; however, other media are displayed as well, such as paintings, glass, and sculptures.
Views of Rome: Eighteenth-Century Prints by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and His Contemporaries
Until 9 August
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78) is best known for his painstakingly detailed etchings of carceri, or ‘prisons’, and vedute, or ‘views’, of Rome, depicting both ancient and modern architecture. Jundt Art Museum, located on the Gonzaga University campus in Spokane, has curated an exhibition from its permanent collection showcasing prints by Piranesi and his contemporaries exploring the Eternal City. During the 18th century a number of people were becoming more interested in classical antiquity and Rome, including its history, and many artists moved there to study and practice their art. Views of Rome highlights 25 incredible prints by Piranesi and other printmakers, such as Jean-Laurent Legeay and Jerome Charles Bellicard, who found inspiration in the architecture of Rome.
Jundt Art Museum, 200 E. Desmet Ave., Spokane, WA, +1 509 313 6611
Curator’s Choice: Behind the Scenes
Until 3 July
Curator’s Choice: Behind the Scenes is not a traditional art exhibition but rather one that showcases the tasks that museum staff performs on a daily basis. Located in the Museum of Art on the Washington State University campus in Pullman, visitors have the chance to see what transpires behind the walls. The exhibition gallery features items from the museum’s permanent collection plus select staff and student assistants. Whether they’re preparing for an exhibition, conserving artworks or numerous other curatorial duties, viewers will be given the opportunity to see the whole process and ask questions. Do not miss out on this unique opportunity.
By Marcelina Morfin