“Isaac Layman—Paradise” at the Frye Museum

Although Layman’s work is included in many museum collections, this is his first one-man museum exhibition and includes more than 20 photographic constructions created especially for this show. Curated by Frye Director Jo-Anne Birnie Dansker, it addresses questions about the meaning of life.

Sometimes with contemporary art, the theory or philosophy behind the work is so complex or convoluted that it stands in the way of appreciating the work. Layman is as much philosopher as artist. When you go to the exhibition, read the introductory text, tuck it away, and then go into the galleries and just enjoy the art.

Each of the photographic constructions is composed of multitudes of individual images that he has made of a single object and then digitally manipulated into one enlarged picture. The result is a sort of minimalist feast. You’ll have a hard time figuring out exactly what thing he photographed so intensely, but why bother trying? The illusion of depth that he creates is astounding. On some of them (most of which are untitled) you have the sense that you could jump in and just delve deeper and deeper within.

See if you can figure out which one is an air duct grate. If you do, you’ll see it in greater depth than ever you saw one on your wall or floor. There’s one soaring piece that reminded me of ethereal clouds. It’s so lovely. Well guess what, it’s a bunch of Kleenex in a pan of water. And that’s what this exhibit is all about really. We find our paradise, our beauty, our wonder where we will. Just look for it.

Through January 22, 2012 at the Frye Museum (always free as is its parking lot) 704 Terry Ave., Seattle. (206 622-9250 or info@fryemuseum.org)

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