"Bookish," a quiet, thoughtful little show at Seattle University's Hedreen Gallery, doesn't shout "last hurrah! " but it does astutely represent...
“Bookish,” a quiet, thoughtful little show at Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery, doesn’t shout “last hurrah!” but it does astutely represent the final curatorial effort by Carrie E.A. Scott before her departure to New York. Scott is leaving several positions here in Seattle — part-time curator of the Hedreen Gallery, director of the James Harris Gallery, freelance curator and arts writer — to become the director of the Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery in New York.
Scott was the first curator of the Hedreen, hired by Seattle University in the fall of 2005 right before the 2006 opening of the Lee Center of the Arts. The layout of the gallery, which doubles as a lobby for SU’s theater, could make showcasing art difficult. But Scott was thrilled with the possibilities, saying that “the space was new and the slate was clean, which is what made it so exciting.”
Scott began planning a diverse exhibition schedule that presented both emerging and established artists. She tended to limit the number of artists and works of art, a practice that increased the bright, airy feel of the space and our ability to focus on individual works of art. But the pared-down nature of the exhibitions occasionally hindered the full articulation of Scott’s impressive curatorial themes.
Nonetheless, Scott made a name for herself as one of several young curators in Seattle who could step into any space and forge engaging exhibitions on a relatively small scale.
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“Bookish” is typical of Scott’s curatorial efforts. It’s ambitious in theme but manageable in scale; the handful of works is intellectually suggestive and visually complex. As the title playfully indicates, the three artists in the exhibition — David Bunn, Carol Es and Leo Morrissey — create works of art that are related to books, but are not exactly, or only, books. They are approximations and tweakings of the combination of image and words, and explorations of how text, knowledge and narratives are organized and presented.
In 1990, Bunn acquired 2 million cards from the Los Angeles Central Library’s catalog when record-keeping there went digital. I am in no way lamenting the switch to computerized systems of catalog searching, but Bunn’s work reminds us of the position of individual people, which can get lost within these coolly impersonal systems of data collection.
In “Bookish,” Bunn displays cards that bear obvious traces of human presence — a looping red line from a pen attests to the slip of the hand of someone riffling through the cards, trying to track down a certain source. According to Scott, Bunn’s photographic enlargements of these human errors “reveal uncanny connections in which the mark and the text on the card resonate,” as with the blood-red line that disturbs the neatly typed information for the book “It All Started With Eve.”
Es, a self-taught Los Angeles artist with a burgeoning career, is represented in this show by two of her handmade artist’s books, which display charming drawings and witty writing. Her appealing approach creates a disjuncture — while also allowing a deeper engagement — with her achingly brutal statements about her difficult childhood.
Morrissey also inserts himself into text, but in a more conceptual, less autobiographical way. Using old books, often dictionaries and encyclopedias, Morrissey carefully carves his silhouette into the covers and pages. The contour lines and layers of his abstracted identity are constructed out of the removal of text and information.
Scott’s smart selections of the works of art for this exhibition encourage different kinds of “reading.” We can respond emotionally, explore the complex visual experience and, yes, we can delight in being bookish ourselves, analyzing the many relationships between representation (in words and images) and meaning.
The positive, generous demeanor and confident professionalism that Scott brought to her deep involvement in Seattle’s art scene are clear when she states, “I’m sure whoever comes on board next will build on what has just begun.”
According to Steve Galatro, administrative specialist at Seattle University, the Department of Fine Arts is looking for a new curator.
While two other exhibitions that Scott has organized will open at the Hedreen later this year (work by Leo Saul Berk and Patrick Caulfield), “Bookish” is the last show to go up during Scott’s tenure here in Seattle; it works well as a reflective, whispered leave-taking.