Artists in G. Gibson Gallery group show toast future with a double-edged slant.
Certain seemingly anodyne phrases in the English language — “Be my guest” comes to mind — can take a turn for the sardonic when given just a little twist.
“Here’s to the Future” is another of them. Its seemingly upbeat drift can, in the right hands, feel double-edged — perhaps as an invitation to hit the dance floor while Rome burns.
Curators Gail Gibson and K.C. Potter de Haan clearly had the gallows-humor potential of the phrase in mind when assembling “Here’s to the Future,” their new group show at G. Gibson Gallery. Its offerings are eye-catching — but they don’t exactly set your mind at ease.
‘Here’s to the Future’
11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays, through Aug. 18, G. Gibson Gallery, 104 W. Roy St., Seattle (206-587-4033 or ggibsongallery.com).
Julie Blackmon’s playfully staged photograph, “Fake Weather,” is a case in point. In it, two warmly dressed and highly skeptical young girls stand in drifts of artificial snow with a wintertime scene behind them. This scene, however, is contained to a photo backdrop entirely surrounded by a snowless autumnal landscape.
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A few frantic, anonymous hands behind the backdrop do their best to create blizzard-like conditions from soap flakes. But the effort is laughable. This cold snap will never be convincing.
Blackmon, a Missouri artist, may be making a comment on climate change (are winters in Missouri less snowy than they used to be?) or she may just be tapping into children’s’ love of make-believe.
Other pieces in the show are less ambiguous. Matt Sellars’ peekaboo video installation alternates slow sylvan scenes with frenetic found footage of man-made catastrophes and showboating demagogues from around the world, while a loop of anxious bass-guitar noodlings serves as an aural backdrop. The piece’s awkwardly lengthy title, “Put your ear to rails and listen for the hum, but for the chaos of man,” discloses Sellars’ misgivings about the last century or so of human achievement.
Samantha Scherer’s small graphite-on-paper drawings, “Tumbled Houses (3)” and “Huddled Cars and Planes,” depict catastrophe on a smaller scale with their squished dwellings and vehicles floating insignificantly in a void.
Mary Iverson’s paired oil-on-canvas paintings, “Mount Rainier: Before” and “Mount Rainier: After,” take a take a different tack. “Before” offers a postcard vista of our local volcano. “After” defaces that vista with all manner of geometric and color-blob superimpositions.
Meanwhile, in Michael Kluckner’s large oil-on-canvas, “Two Solitudes,” two landscapes — one urban, one rural — impossibly transect each other. A traffic-plagued city’s rooftops have been overtaken by an incongruous pastoral scene, complete with a barn, a farmhouse, a creek and several small ponds. No human figures are in sight. A sense of isolation, Kluckner seems to suggest with his title, is integral to both settings.
Some entries in the show are overly reliant on explications to make them work. Susanna Bluhm’s pleasant garden paintings, for instance, give no indication of what prompted them. Accompanying text reveals that they are her attempt to overcome her feelings of “incredulity and animosity” toward the states that voted Trump into office. In the months since the election, she has been visiting those states and asking their residents to point her toward landscapes that are important to them.
The most telling piece may be the subtlest. Linda Davidson’s “Everyday Sky 11 (Conjured by a City Dweller)” portrays an idealized night sky done in oil and wax on linen on panel. When we urban types look up into the dark, she implies, conditions aren’t conducive to us seeing what’s actually there.
And that may not bode well for any of us.