Arts Reviews

Seattle Museum Resources

Would you believe that just as Seattle moves into the best weather season of the year, I move out of Seattle and resettle in Sedona, Arizona? Well it’s true, and giving up Seattle museums and all of its cultural resources is one of the most difficult aspects of the move. I have been so fortunate to have been able to see remarkable traveling exhibits at the city’s larger museums and to experience creative locally developed art and science experiences at our region’s museums galleries, and exhibition spaces large and small.

I have been introduced to new-to-me local artists. I’ve revisited some of the works of my favorite world-renowned artists. I’ve been given new insights into the paintings of so many of these artists.

I’ve learned new historical facts, been made aware of hitherto unrealized connections. I’ve been introduced to science facts and connections that I never knew about. And I’ve never forgotten how lucky I have been to live in a city with these assets.

It’s not easy to give this up, and, of course, I can’t do it totally. So I will be returning to Seattle a few times a year, and will hope to catch some exhibitions when I do. Of course, I’ll post reviews of them as quickly as I can.

Thanks to all of you in the museum community for providing me and all the other Seattleites and their guests with these eight years of wonderful experiences and opportunities to learn and see. And thanks to you readers who have found value in this blog. Keep ArtsStage-SeattleRage alive on your computer, and sooner or later there might be something posted that will resonate with you.

Towards Impressionism: Landscape Painting from Corot to Monet Now at the Frye Museum through August 5

If the Impressionists are among your favorite artists, and if you love dreamy 19th C French landscape paintings, the Frye Museum has an exhibition for you. Fifty-one glorious landscape paintings by artists including such greats as Corot, Rousseau, Boudin, Courbet, Renoir, Sisley . . . need I go on? This is an extraordinary exhibition in which most of the works are on loan from the Mussée des Beaux Arts in Reims, France. The Frye curators have wisely added to them selections from the museum’s own collection, providing the viewer with insight about the interests of Mr. and Mrs. Frye.

The Reims Museum is widely recognized as having one of the world’s foremost collections of French landscape paintings. And remember, the 19th Century was really the birth of landscape painting. During these years, artists began moving away from their studios and out into the countryside. They began experimenting with paintings of the natural world. Before this time, the vogue was for classical depictions of imagined environments. The new plein air paintings were groundbreaking, and were important in the development of Impressionism. One of the interesting aspects of this exhibition is the way it reveals that shift.

Many of these artists travelled to the Normandy coast. I was particularly captivated by two of Boudin’s seaside paintings. One shows rough waters with numerous boats fighting the wind. The other is a beach scene of well-covered ladies and gentlement gazing out at saiboats. When you go, compare these early Boudin works with Monet’s painting of the rocks at Belle-Ile. Boudin was a generation older than Monet. The contrast of their works provide a good example of how the Impressionists moved on from the landscape painters who preceded them.

Of all the artists represented in this exhibition, Corot is primary. Again, a comparison of his many works, with those of Piassarro, Renoir, and Caillebotte, reveals the evolution to Impressionism. Gradually the classical principles of the esteemed French Academy gave way, and Modernism was born.

This is a remarkable retrospective. Enjoy noting the changing style, and pay attention to the details. You’ll see tiny people engaged in daily activities, animals grazing or working, villages, and more, all embedded in lush landscapes. I doubt that you’ll ever have an opportunity to compare so many landscape painters of the 19th C. unless you visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Reims.

Through August 5, at the Frye Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle, fryemuseum.org. (Don’t forget that the parkiing lot is closed because of constuction).

Arts West Holiday Cast Party

Following up on a grand theatrical tradition, Arts West is offering intimate Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon “Holiday Cast Parties.” Artistic Director Mathew Wright invites some of the well-liked performers of recent shows to sit down with him and chat about theatre, play a silly game of two (to the audiences delight), and sing to the wonderful accompaniment of Music Director Chris DiStefano on piano and Zachary Stowell on drums. It’s casual, eye-opening, funny, and charmingly intimate.

The program I saw featured Jimmie Herrod and Nick Watson, an amiable pair who offered insights into their careers as well as the Seattle theatre world. Still to come are 16 other Seattle theatre people.

Through Dec. 23 at Arts West, 4711 California Ave., SW, Seattle, http://artswest.org/theatre/buy-tickets.

Last Chance to See “Edible City: A Delicious Journey” at MOHAI

MOHAI’s ten-month long exploration of food and its place in Seattle’s economy and culture closes Sept. 10. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and stop by. Then again, you who have already enjoyed it may want to get another look at the history of Seattle’s tastes and innovations in food production and distribution.

Seattle food culture is rich, unique, and distinguished. From the oyster middens and spear fishing of its Native American peoples to the farmers markets and award winning restaurants of today, people in Seattle have sought great eats and have learned to capitalize on the riches that abound here.

This exhibit touches on many of the foods Seattleites of all ethnicities cherish. We learn of their history and the myriad ways we use this plethora of good things to eat. There are sections of the exhibit that explain how we’ve collected or harvested the wild foods as well as the farmed. Sure there are sections on salmon, morel mushrooms, huckleberries, oysters, cherries and so many more raw ingredients, but you’ll also learn about the industries that have grown up around our foods both wild and farmed.

Fascinating, too, is the story of the innovative food culture that developed right here in Seattle. Starbucks anyone? Canned salmon anyone? Five star restaurants anyone?

I would say this exhibit is a tasty treat, but I dare not lest you groan and throw tomatoes (locally grown of course) at me.

Through Sept. 10 at the Museum of History & Industry, 800 Terry Ave. N., Seattle, 206 324-1126 or mohai.org

Two Exhibitions at the Frye Museum

Some art is an experience that speaks to one’s aesthetic sense. Other art calls more to one’s intellect. It speaks more to the mind than the eye. The Frye offers both types currently. “AMIE SIEGEL Interiors” is for the mind, a cerebral excursion (Through Sept. 3). “Between the Frames” offers far more aesthetic appeal (Through July 23). Together, the shows offer an interesting juxtaposition, but also an appropriate commentary on the Museum’s development since its founding in 1952.

Siegel’s work investigates what the curator calls “ideas about objects and their perceived cultural value, and the power systems that evolve from connoisseurship, collecting, and image making.” Using film, slides and video she explores our relationship to things. Through examination of the things in London’s Freud Museum she points out parallels between the scrupulous care given to Freud’s collection of archeological objects and his conscientious process of analysis—removing the dross to reveal the essence.

Another work consists of two black and white 16mm films simultaneously projecting a sequence of shots of Le Corbusier’s white Villa Savoye outside of Paris and a black copy of the building in Canberra, Australia. Each film is printed in a manner that reverses dark and light. Here too the artist is mapping out “the interior mechanisms of the mind as well as the museum . . . that define aesthetic and social worth.” It’s food for the intellect more than delight for the eye.

The other current exhibition, “Between the Frames,” consists of art that speaks directly to one’s aesthetic sense. It features works acquired under each of the directors of the Museum since its founding in 1952.

The Frye’s had a vision. They wanted to create a free, public art museum for the people of Seattle. We are still enjoying the benefits of their generosity. This exhibit offers a retrospective of the growth and change in the collection since the Museum was established. It highlights the development of the Museum’s collection from the original 200 representational works donated by Charles and Emma Frye to today’s much expanded collection that includes cutting-edge contemporary works.

Wheat Gatherer by Winslow Homer, acquired in 1958.

“Between the Frames” showcases examples of the acquisitions made by each of the six directors. Through their oversight and vision, the museum has, decade by decade, reframed the past, informed the present, and speculated on the future.

The first Director, Walser Sly Greathouse, maintained the focus on representational art,  as did his wife Ida Kay who succeeded him after his death.  Interest in local artists and those from the Pacific Northwest, including women artists were hallmarks of her tenure.

Girl in Striped Robe by Philip Pearlstein

The next director, Richard V. West oversaw the major remodel in 1997 that resulted in the building we have today. Under his direction the collection continued to grow with representational works like Philip Pearlstein’s “Girl in Striped Robe.”

In 2003, Elsa “Midge” Bowman assumed leadership and soon brought in Robin Held as head curator. Together they reinvented the exhibition program. Video and performance art were presented. The whole question of how to define representational art was examined and the museum’s mission statement was revised to more adequately reflect both the intentions of the Fryes and the vision of its board.

When Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker was appointed director in 2009 new collaborations and further expansion of the exhibitions program were initiated with a continued focus on contemporary art. Her tenure set the stage for current director Joseph Rosa who will build the collection, just as the Fryes built their collection—on the contemporary art of the time. “Between the Frames” offers a splendid summary of how the Frye has broadened its collections since its inception.

Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle, fryemuseum.org, 206 622-9250, free admission and parking.