Suspended furniture, ghostly photographs and a decade’s worth of cheesy Sears “family” portraits — three new shows at Greg Kucera Gallery range from eerie to playful.
The bag is decidedly mixed — but its array of goodies, enigmas and non-starters includes enough fine work to make the three new shows at Greg Kucera Gallery well worth a visit.
Pride of place goes to “The Potato Eaters,” a group show curated by Seattle artists Dawn Cerny and Dan Webb. The title comes from a Van Gogh painting of Dutch peasants eating the humblest of meals. In their curatorial statement, Cerny and Webb explain that they’re examining “the unarticulated rigors of ordinary encounters.”
Those rigors hit unsettling heights with Sean Johnson’s “There’s a Story Here,” consisting of a well-worn couch upholstered in sickly green-gold, suspended from a wall with twine that looks too fragile to hold it.
‘The Potato Eaters,’ ‘Hello Again: Select Offerings,’ ‘Puzzle Parts & Sears Portraits’
10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through Feb. 20, Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave. S., Seattle (206-624-0770 or gregkucera.com).
Fine-art skills are on display in the work of Michael Van Horn and Gretchen Bennett. Van Horn’s archival inkjet prints are like faux-pragmatic architectural renderings. His fanciful overhead “plan views” of a firepit garden, tree garden, fountain garden and labyrinth garden are sharp, intricate, bewitching places for the mind to inhabit.
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Bennett’s two archival inkjet photographs hardly resemble photographs at all. Instead, they’re more like faded memories, especially “Honeymoon view with windscreen and small tear,” which reads like a snapshot of a concrete road-trip experience translated into the gauziest terms imaginable.
C. Davida Ingram’s six-minute video and archival inkjet print, both titled “Bodies of Knowledge: Not a Butch Specimen,” focus on gender ambiguity and the pain of having an existence that you take for granted seen as something anomalous or exotic. On the sculptural front, Nancy Shaver makes mischief by cramming found materials — fabric, paper, wooden blocks — into a metal-skinned slice of “Sausage” and other packages.
Webb’s own contribution to the show — a set of oversized, wood-carved salad tongs — is disappointing, especially for anyone who saw his terrific 2014 retrospective at Bellevue Arts Museum. Other works in “Potato Eaters” are either visually dull or downright cryptic.
More fun is “Puzzle Parts & Sears Portraits,” a show by Seattle art trio SuttonBeresCuller. “Sears Portraits” consists of two crowded mantelpieces of photos the trio have had shot by “much amused or annoyed technicians” at the Sears photo department over a 13-year span. SBC would arrive for these sessions dressed as bridesmaids, soldiers, college graduates, zombies and other characters, while sticking closely to their chosen template: the cheesy family portrait. Some shots are jokey, some unnerving and a few are poignant.
“Puzzle — A Painting in 150 Parts” is a work in progress, consisting of pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. Their seeming abstraction gives no clue to what the puzzle portrays. Only in 2021 will it all be assembled and its subject revealed. Until then, viewers will have to keep guessing.
Another group show, “Hello Again,” has no specified theme. It’s a miscellany of art collectors’ holdings brought into the gallery for resale. But it boasts some terrific pieces, including a Warhol “Cow” and “Marilyn,” a comically blustery “Windstorm” by Gaylen Hansen, some beguiling beach and backyard scenes in aquatint by Eric Fischl and four typically caustic acrylic-on-canvas reflections on Japanese-American internment-camp experiences by Roger Shimomura.
The most striking piece: Francesco Clemente’s “Conversion to Her” (1986) in which permutations of a male nude, portrayed at varying angles, capture the essence of protean sexual identity. It’s unusual to see any Clemente in Seattle. Grab the chance while you can.