There’s plenty to see at Traver, Winston Wachter and Davidson galleries, plus a closing-soon reminder about “30 Americans” at Tacoma Art Museum.
Cast-glass masks that rock to life. Swirling paintings that take their cue from mathematics….
There’s some heady stuff in the galleries this month. Here’s a look at it:
Paul Marioni – “Maybe”
The veteran Seattle glass artist strikes playful notes in this exhibit of glass masks and statuettes. Many of the masks are “kinetic,” set into rocking motion on their pedestals with a light touch. Some nod wisely on their pedestals. Others tremble from side to side in jittery agitation.
Marioni is fond of jaguars with the crocodile-long snouts. He’s an animist in glass-artist’s clothing, looking toward tribal art, whether Native American, African or Amazonian, for inspiration.
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“Cow Devil,” “Faunus,” “Goddess” and “Conjoined” all could be figures from myth or folklore. Others don’t fit that mold. One mask, a hilarious gold-pompadoured Elvis Presley homage called “Lickin’ Too,” alludes to Alfred Wertheimer’s famous tongue-tips-touching photograph, “The Kiss.”
Marioni’s enamel-on-glass paintings are less impressive. His mischievous masks are the draw.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays, through Dec. 23, Traver Gallery, 110 Union St., Seattle (206-587-6501 or travergallery.com).
Michael Schultheis – “Bouquets, Luminaries, Menageries: Stories Told in Calculus”
In his acrylics on canvas, Seattle artist Michael Schultheis, a former software writer for Microsoft, scatters orderly mathematical formulae among swirling rings and voids of color. He also cites mathematicians (Pythagorus, Leibniz) and artists (Dürer, Sol LeWitt) in his titles.
But you don’t need an advanced degree in science or art history to appreciate these pieces. They operate on a color-drunk gut level as well. In his artist’s statement, he says he’s drawing on higher math to “tell stories about how people make connections with each other.” But the paintings also work as cosmic carnival rides through distant cloud nebulae.
Almost all give you a sense of careening past pi signs and Venn diagrams into yawning abysses of blue or yellow or green. “Polar Treasures” surrounds a turquoise radiance with messy loops, threads and splashes of paint, about to slide into a single irresistible gravity field. “Discovering Infinitesimal Breaths” and “Gold Limaçons for Pythagorus” do something similar.
Schultheis’s CinemaScope-wide “Bouquets for LeWitt” and “Luminaries in the North, East, South and West” are more like cross-section surveys of cosmic flux. Whether sprawling or vertiginous, these paintings seduce and envelop you.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays through Dec. 23, Winston Wächter Fine Art, 203 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle (206-652-5855 or winstonwachter.com).
Art Hansen – “Retrospective: Prints from 1958-2002”
Woodland scenes, floral studies, group portraits …
Whatever his focus, Vashon Island printmaker Art Hansen brings unexpected accents and emphases to his subjects. A few pieces – sunsets, still lifes, pond reflections – are merely attractive. The ones that really grab you come with some kind of twist.
“The Woodcutter #1,” for instance, shows a downed tree in a forest clearing – with no woodcutter in sight. In “Winter and the Wanderer,” a solitary man on a snowy path is glimpsed beneath an improbably tidy forest canopy that has parted like a pair of stage curtains.
Hansen’s “cropping” of floral images can magnify their impact. In “Poppy #4,” the flower explodes in essence by expanding to frame-filling size. In “Iris Landscape,” the petals are so drastically foregrounded that they assume the weight of geographical features in their forested surroundings.
Hansen is at his best when playing with the human face. In “The Tavern” (1980), his forced-perspective alignment of lips, cigarettes and side-glancing eyes suggests a palisade of smoky, idle leisure. In several images, figures hide behind projections of themselves, creating an unsettling sense of doubleness.
This show, covering nearly six decades of work, is an eye-opener.
10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through Dec. 23, Davidson Galleries, 313 Occidental Ave. S., Seattle (206-624-7684 or davidsongalleries.com).
Closing soon: “30 Americans”
You have one more month to see “30 Americans,” Tacoma Art Museum’s showcase of paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations and videos by African-American artists. It’s worth a trip to Tacoma just to luxuriate again in the epic-scale glory of Kehinde Wiley’s “Sleep” (last seen at Seattle Art Museum’s Wiley retrospective, “A New Republic”).
Photography standouts include Hank Willis Thomas and Xaviera Simmons, who subvert racial stereotypes by exaggerating them. Gary Simmons’ installation, “Duck, Duck, Noose” – a hangman’s noose surrounded by Ku Klux Klan hoods placed on wooden chairs – is more nightmarish than ever.
Not all the work is as strong. Rodney McMillan’s “Untitled,” a stained carpet he found in the street and mounted on a wall, feels like conceptual art at its worst. And would Jean-Michel Basquiat have any kind of reputation if it weren’t for his Andy Warhol connection?
Still, there are plenty of masterpieces here, by Kara Walker, Rashid Johnson, Leonardo Drew, Jeff Sonhouse and others.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays through Jan. 15, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, $13-$15 (253-272-4258 or tacomaartmuseum.org).