Get a history lesson at Woodside/Braseth with works by Morris Graves and Jacob Lawrence, and view the new with Jacob Foran at Abmeyer + Wood and Michael Knutson at Greg Kucera.
February brings something old and something new in Pacific Northwest art to Seattle galleries.
‘Important Paintings & Drawings by Northwest Master Morris Graves’ and ‘Images of Hope: Selected Prints by Jacob Lawrence’
Two stellar shows by artists with deep local ties, Morris Graves (1910-2001) and Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), include magnificent touchstone works by the artists, while also revealing unexpected sides of them, at Woodside/Braseth Gallery this month.
The Graves pieces, spanning 50 years, vary in medium from charcoal, ink and watercolor drawings to large tempera or mixed-media paintings on paper. The giant among them is “Vessel in a Drift of Diamond Light in the Sky of the Mind” from 1944, when Graves was pushing closest to abstraction. The “vessel” of the title is a bright, soft-edged aura afloat in a vaguely diamond-shaped cage of ghostly lines bending and dissolving against a gauzy, pale violet backdrop. This is the “Northwest Mystic” at his most transcendent, with an uncanny ability to lift you right out of the workaday world. “Rainbow Trout Yogi” (1979) is in a similar meditative vein, with the fish of the title oddly “coinciding” with the head of a heron. The whole business is executed in lighthearted candy-stripe camouflage.
A few pieces take a more sinister turn (“Wounded Gull,” a serigraph from 1947), but most of them are playful. “Animal” (sumi ink on paper from 1954) conjures a creature as much from an absence of lines as any actual brush strokes. “Bird in Motion,” a drawing from the same year, sets avian wings and beaked head into blurry twitching motion.
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Floral studies and still lifes, some more enchanting than others, round out the show.
The Lawrence prints coincide with his years in Seattle (1971-2000) and make a fine complement to his “Migrant Series” on show at Seattle Art Museum. Surprises include “Morning Still Life,” with its oddly Matisse-like flair, and “Builders,” in atypical black-and-white.
Others steer closer to Lawrence’s hallmark colors and compositional verve. In “Schomburg Library,” the books are so bright they look downright edible. Two prints, “Carpenters” and “The Swearing In,” show Lawrence’s classic design ingenuity at work.
In “Carpenters,” the foreground figure’s sturdy arms jump out at you — despite the fact that there’s no distinction between their outer contours and the brown floor behind them.
“The Swearing In,” inspired by Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, is still more intricate. Its figures, standing under bare tree branches as they observe the ceremony, are in mix-and-match relationships with their backdrop of tree trunks and sky. Some are cloud- or sky-colored. Others are bark-brown. The distinction between individuals and setting grows ever more elusive, the closer you look.
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through Feb. 25. Woodside/Braseth Gallery, 1201 Western Ave., Seattle (206-622-7243 or woodsidebrasethgallery.com).
‘Jacob Foran: In Between Dreams’
Seattle ceramic artist Jacob Foran’s dandy exhibit at Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art explores color in ceramics in two sharply contrasting ways. About half the pieces are heads of smiling youngsters with closed eyes who serve as pale clay “canvases” for fancifully dripping pastel-hued glazes.
In the other half, black shiny glazes are so reflective that they half-obscure the detail. In “Head of Boy with Rockets,” for instance, the glossy uniformity of the dark glaze makes the child’s mind and the rocket-pad perched on his head merge into a single dreaming entity.
Something similar happens in three ornate pieces titled “In Space Together Forever.” Whether the focus is on two newlyweds or a pair of spacemen, the formula is the same. The figures, with rockets and/or flowery bowers rising behind them, stand on planetlike orbs cradled in dishes tarnished mirror-black. We’re talking space-travel fantasies as formal-dining centerpieces.
Skulls, scuba divers and roses turn up in Foran’s other work. The next stage in his artistic evolution is hinted at in “Head 2,” with its four increasingly small heads sprouting from one another.
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays through Feb. 28. Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art, 1210 Second Ave., Seattle (206-628-9501 or abmeyerwood.com).
‘Michael Knutson: Symmetrical Fields’
In the 1960s, we had wars and protests and, when you needed it, psychedelia to take your mind off things. In the 2010s, we again have wars and protests — and the art of Everett-born artist Michael Knutson. Almost all the oil paintings and watercolors in his new show at Greg Kucera Gallery share the same name: “Symmetrical Four-Layered Ovoids & Lattices.”
But that title wildly understates the eye-popping pleasure his pieces give.
Although Knutson uses a computer to work out his designs, each brush-stroke in them is hand-executed. From a distance, there’s something glidingly kaleidoscopic in what you see. Up close, the brushwork is so matter-of-fact it’s almost pedestrian. The transition point between painstaking grunt-work and transcendent effect is mind-bendingly enigmatic.
10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through Feb. 18, Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave. S., Seattle (206-624-0770 or gregkucera.com).