“Bodies + Beings,” a group show at Abmeyer + Wood, explores “the human and animal figure along with fantastical beings.” It includes work by glass artist William Morris, ceramic sculptor Patti Warashina and mosaic wizard Richard Notkin.
Stroll into Abmeyer + Wood this summer and you’ll find yourself surrounded by creatures not quite of this world.
“Bodies + Beings,” a group show curated by gallery owner Jonathan Wood, explores “the human and animal figure along with fantastical beings that bridge the gap between the real and surreal.” Featuring work by glass artist William Morris, ceramic sculptor Patti Warashina and mosaic wizard Richard Notkin, it boasts a dozen or more masterpieces, each pursuing its own maverick flight of fancy.
Adrian Arleo’s ceramic sculptures greet you as you enter. “Awareness Owl II” seems a near-naturalistic rendering of a branch-perched owl staring straight at you … until you notice the dozen or more eyes gazing from between the feathers of its torso. “Apiary Twins” is just as striking: a honeycomb-textured bust of two women conjoined back-to-back at their shoulders and at the tips of their ponytails.
‘Bodies + Beings’
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays through Aug. 21, Abmeyer + Wood, 1210 Second Ave., Seattle (206-628-9501 or abmeyerwood.com).
Calvin Ma’s two stoneware-glaze-and-stain concoctions are whimsical automatons, both of which have little cottages (complete with chimneys and windows) for heads. One of them sits on a rather disgruntled bulldog (“Hard to Breathe”) while the other proudly rides in a little car (“For Show”).
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Striking a mythological note, Jacob Foran’s “King” and “Guardian” are small ceramic busts of regal figures that are a sharp contrast in personality. “King” is meditative, melancholy and guarded in expression, while “Guardian” has a bright-eyed shaman-like energy.
Newcomer Christopher David White, who just got his MFA this year, makes a strong impression with “Going Hand in Hand,” a depiction of two oversized hands turned away from each other, yet linked by a tiny crumbling bridge. The piece is in ceramic and acrylic, yet everything about it — the dilapidated bridge, the splintery skin of the hands — suggests roughly hewed wood.
Renowned sculptor Morris, of course, is another artist whose work’s appearance belies its materials. His blown and hot-sculpted glass has a distinctively ceramic look to it, especially in “Idolo,” a turquoise-robed tribal figure, and “Kaesong Man,” a distorted mask with lips that curl in the manner of a butoh performer.
Morris’ glass materials are more evident in “Mazorca Installation,” an 8-foot-high tower of masks, skulls, animal heads, gourds and corncobs, hung on thick ropes like some animistic fertility offering.
Warashina is in fine form with “Fat Cat,” a feline figure whose attitude hovers somewhere between good cheer and bared-teeth aggression. The comic dramas of “Not You Again” (chattering bird, listening woman) and “Magic Fly Zone” (three birds in a beeline, with two reclining-cavorting females below them) are equally delightful.
Notkin — whose atom-bomb-in-ceramic-tiles mosaic, “The Gift,” is one of the sinister glories of the Portland Art Museum — supplies the show’s most powerful piece. “The Endless Irony of It All” is Art as Doomsday Clock. The tiles in its turquoise hourglass are embossed with skulls, bombs, an Abu Ghraib image, an allusion to Picasso’s “Guernica” and coins stamped “In God We Trust.”
The red-tile backdrop is a mélange of human body parts — mostly ears that may not be listening as closely to the hourglass’s warning as they should. It’s an extraordinary work.
The rest of the show ranges from the eerie to the lightweight. But for Notkin’s “Irony” alone, you don’t want to miss this.