Exhibitions celebrating the human form: John Keatley at Treason; Kathy Jones at Patricia Rovzar; pieces from John Cole’s estate at Harris/Harvey.
Artists will never exhaust the possibilities of the human figure. Whether they’re working in photography, paint or printmaking, there will always be some new wrinkle to investigate, some new angle to be explored. Three shows in Seattle art galleries testify to that.
John Keatley: “Uniform”
Seattle photographer John Keatley’s knockout show, “Uniform,” contains a pun in its title, which alludes to both the garb his models wear and the method he employed in creating these archival prints on Legacy Baryta paper. All the men in these photographs are toy-plastic-soldier green: green skin, green eyeballs, green mustaches, green helmets, green uniforms. Even the props they hold are green.
Their appearance was created through expert makeup work, along with some Photoshop magic (hence their eerie green disclike eyes). Keatley’s method is absolutely consistent from photograph to photograph. Yet the human variety he taps into is vigorous and startling.
In “062 31 5497” (the titles allude to the Social Security numbers that until recently appeared on soldiers’ dog tags), a heavily mustachioed, cigar-chomping bruiser of a fellow grimaces fiercely at the viewer. A few paces away from him, “047 41 1025” is a boyish soldier with a sweet, befuddled expression who looks anything but battle-ready.
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You’ve seen these guys before, either in person or in films like “From Here to Eternity,” “Full Metal Jacket” or “The Thin Red Line.” There’s the skeptic who, toying with his cigarette lighter, is warily alert. There’s the nerdy egghead who looks like he might freak out at the first gun shot. There’s the trained killer who, behind his sunglasses, plays it cool. There’s the dreamer, who appears to be napping.
Keatley, in his artist’s statement, says “Uniform” is “a commentary on our perception of war and the military, though it addresses the much broader issue of how we judge or draw conclusions about others.” His website, keatleyphoto.com, makes clear he’s a stylish and inventive commercial photographer. “Uniform,” his first fine-art photography solo show, is a breakthrough and a revelation.
Noon-6 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, through Jan. 28. Treason Gallery, 319 Third Ave. S., Seattle (206-257-5513 or treasongallery.com).
Kathy Jones: New works in oil on canvas
California artist Kathy Jones is as methodical in her painting approach as Keatley is in his “Uniform” photographs. And like Keatley, she uncovers considerable variation within her chosen range of color and composition.
All the pieces in this show feature one or more semi-abstracted female figures. They loom, they lean, they gather impressively together. Although their facial features are indistinct, their postures and clothing choices hint powerfully at private moods and public stances.
In “Stand Tall,” Jones’ female figure is a steady presence in unsettled surroundings that include, at the left, what could be the remnants of an American flag in disarray. In “Whispering,” Jones’ tilting protagonist is flanked by two ghostly gray outlines of figures. “My Companions” shows three women against a backdrop that is luminous up above and more shadowy below. In “Where the Road Divides,” Jones’ traveler is herself divided, her left side shadowy, her right side colorful, as she debates which route to follow in a smeared and hazy landscape.
Jones brush-strokes are both free and precise, and the dialogues she creates between figure and backdrop (especially in “At the Horizon” where the colors of the woman’s dress are echoed in the fractured horizon of the painting’s title) are inventive. Her work is as philosophical as it is observational.
11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, through Jan. 29. Patricia Rovzar Gallery, 1111 First Ave., Seattle (206-223-0273 or rovzargallery.com).
John Cole: “Collection of the Artist”
Bellingham artist John Cole (1936-2007) was best known for his landscapes, but this exhibit of paintings from his estate reveals his beguiling way with the human figure as well. Whether he was working in pastels, paint or printmaking, he was a master of evocative form and line.
In two pastels, “The Dance (by the Waterfall)” and “By the Waterfall #2,” he juxtaposes pairs of figures against a forest cataract. Their smooth contours are echoed in the fluid plunge of the coursing waters. A sort of moody jubilation emerges from the way he pairs dun colors with animated posture.
“From the Heart,” a monotype of a ruddy-colored, long-haired female figure charging across a void, is downright exuberant. “Woman in the Garden,” a linoblock print on kitakata paper, is more sober. Its withdrawn, distrustful subject looks both beautiful and formidable.
The show includes Cole landscapes, along with works he owned by other artists. The latter offer insight on what made him tick. “Road Cut #1” by Susan Bennerstrom and “Untitled Portrait of a Man” by Robert Finnegan are especially revealing of his taste and aesthetic.
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, through Jan. 21. Harris/Harvey Gallery, 1915 First Ave., Seattle (206-443-3315 or harrisharveygallery.com).