Annual show with DIY vibe showcases variety of local contemporary artists.

Share story

The Seattle Art Fair has come and gone. But “Out of Sight” — the annual exhibition that shines a spotlight on Pacific Northwest art — is open for our viewing pleasure through Aug. 27. It’s a must-see event.

Founded three years ago as a response to the internationally minded Seattle Art Fair, “Out of Sight” is rooted in a rebellious DIY attitude. With artist and exhibition producer Greg Lundgren at the helm and a rotating cast of excellent curators, the show brings energy and edge to rambling old spaces (the first two years took over the top floor of King Street Station; this year it occupies the old Schoenfeld Furniture building in Pioneer Square).

Curated by Lundgren, Benedict Heywood, S. Surface and Justen Siyuan Waterhouse, this year’s exhibition is big, rambling and inspiring. You’ll find work by more than 100 artists across three floors, staged in wide-open spaces and tucked away in nooks and crannies. There’s art in stairways, in lofts and in bathrooms. The brick-lined basement is a treasure trove. Allow yourself plenty of time.

Exhibition review

‘Out of Sight’

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 27, 115 S. Jackson St., Seattle (

The smart, engaging groupings hint at themes and visual connections, but there are no explanatory wall texts. You’re left on your own to experience the work and to glean larger ideas about what’s going on with contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest.

It won’t surprise anyone that many Pacific Northwest artists are socially engaged, a practice that is apparent as soon as you walk through the front door. A bold, welcoming mural by Tlingit artist Nahaan is pointedly traditional, with its symbolic formline design, but it also points to a contemporary context with an acidic color palette and politically suggestive title, “Love Water, Not Oil.”

Also woven throughout the show is an abundance of intimate, quirky humor, often laced with identity politics or self-exploration. An example is a pillow-filled loft by Amanda Manitach, working under the name DAGNY. The pillows are printed with touchingly crude and candid writing, mostly by Manitach, with some by the tragic, romanticized 19th-century Norwegian writer Dagny Juel.

For a regional show in Seattle, you might expect a lot of high-tech, and it’s there, but in wonderfully subtle ways, embedded in explorations of concepts and media. James Coupe’s mesmerizing videos endlessly show people eating, exercising and praying and are based on surveillance technologies, including facial-recognition software and computer algorithms that draw from social media.

There is quite a lot of art that plays with artificiality, fantasy and the messiness of reality (sometimes called “messthetics”). Abby Dougherty’s dreamy installation, “Neon Saltwater,” is a physical manifestation of virtual spaces previously created by the artist. It’s an immersive, soothing, yet slightly rundown spa-hotel room, complete with pumped-in scent.

The Pacific Northwest has skilled practitioners in specific media, too. Video is strongly represented — head downstairs to take in work by Tracy Rector and Inye Wokoma and visit the main-floor bathroom to view Dan Paz’s “Bathhouse.”

The region’s exceptional painters are in full force, with powerful work by Barry Johnson, Sue Danielson and one to watch, young painter Markie Mickelson, among many others. (Disclosure: I taught Mickelson art history at Cornish College of the Arts, where she received her BFA in 2017.)

Of course, there’s a lot of great art that isn’t easily categorized. Some showstoppers include a huge, pagoda-wearing wolf by the creative collective Electric Coffin, Casey Curran’s exquisitely odd kinetic sculptures, and Dylan Neuwirth’s neon installations that are perfectly placed to activate their spaces.

Bruce Bickford — best known for his collaborations with Frank Zappa — is highlighted as an underground star, in more ways than one. In the exhibition’s lowest level, you’ll find Bickford’s drawings, clay miniatures and dioramas — including one of the Twin Peaks cafe. Occasionally, you’ll find the artist himself, working away.

And therein lies the beauty — and necessity — of the exhibition. It showcases living, working artists in the Pacific Northwest during a time of peak visitation. The curators did a brilliant job selecting works and arranging them to talk to each other, the old building and the art world. Ramble through and see what speaks to you.