|“untitled (Blue)” by Michael Johnson, courtesy University of Puget Sound|
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Published in the Weekly Volcano, March 15, 2018
A line is defined as the path of a moving point. If the point is three dimensional and a foot or two in size in every direction, and if it doubles back on itself and crosses its own path like an Escher drawing or like a meandering line drawn without lifting the pen from the paper —and if it does all that while remaining a single cohesive form, what you have is a sculpture by Michael Johnson.
Michael Johnson: Sculpture in the front room and Rewriting Tradition: Modern Chinese Landscape and Calligraphy in the back room are the two shows now occupying Kittredge Gallery at University of Puget Sound. The obvious first-glance observation might be that no two shows could contrast so thoroughly. But after studying both shows, an interesting thought struck me, and it is this: if you isolate a letter or a word from the Chinese calligraphy and enlarge it into a large, three-dimensional form, the result would be the same thing as the meandering line mentioned above, a Michael Johnson sculpture.
Johnson’s sculptures are large and bold in the tradition of such artists as David Smith and Noguchi. They are painted in flat colors and are made from plywood sheets that are pieced together in such a way that most of them appear solid, with no joints, the only exception being one called “Confluence,” which is unpainted, and all the glued-together joints stand out like a sore thumb. I would love to ask the artist what his intention was with this one. Was it left this way as an example of his method? He does teach sculpture at UPS, after all. So maybe he included it as a lesson and will sand and paint it later.
One of the most intriguing is “untitled (blue),” which looks like a giant tuning fork. It rests at an angle on the curved fan-shaped part and looks as if it would teeter non-stop if touched. (I was so tempted to give it a little shove.)
The sides double back upon themselves like pathways in an architectural maze. This is the one that made me think of Escher drawings.
It is fascinating to walk around Johnson’s sculptures to see how they look from different angles —surprises from every point of view.
There are five sculptures in the show, which is the perfect amount given the size of the works and the gallery.
The other show features a variety of landscape paintings and calligraphy by modern Chinese artists. Local art lovers who are familiar with Japanese Sumi art, will recognize the style. These Chinese drawings and paintings are similar to the Sumi we’re used to, but there are subtle differences. Overall, the paintings have a softer look, and even though they are modern works —many from the 1950s to 1990s, but one from 1899, they look old.
Among my favorite pieces are “Picture of Blue Mountain” by Zhuo Hejun and a group of landscape paintings on rocks by Cynthia Wu. The blue of the mountain is subtle and seems to soak into the paper, and the composition enhances the height of the tall scroll, giving the viewer the feeling of looking up at a formidable mountain.
Michael Johnson sculpture and modern Chinese art, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., through April 14, Kittredge Gallery, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701
Saturday, March 3, 2018
Harlequin Productions’ The Art of Racing in the Rain is a triumph of humor and humanity, guaranteed to make you laugh and maybe even cry. Adapted for the stage by Myra Platt from the bestselling novel by Garth Stein and directed by Linda Whitney, Racing is laugh-out-loud funny throughout most of the performance, but with moments of tragedy and grief and a disturbing personal event which I shall not divulge in this review.
Read the complete review on OLY ARTS.
Monday, February 26, 2018
by Alec Clayton
|installation view of the student show, courtesy University of Puget Sound|
The 2018 Annual Student Art Show at University of Puget Sound presents the best work from the last two academic years of UPS art classes as chosen by the juror, Tacoma artist Anida Yoeu Ali. The show includes pieces by everyone from first-year students to seniors. The quality of the work varies tremendously. With a few exceptions, the sculpture is much more inventive and of higher quality than the drawings and paintings, which tend toward the more amateurish and less original. Notable exceptions being a figure drawing by Megan Breiter, which is of much higher quality than the bulk of the two-dimensional works in the show; and a couple of Pop Art sculptures — one of a fork lying on the floor. and one of a Pooh Bear: these two were not of the quality exhibited by the bulk of the sculptures.
I don’t know who teaches sculpture at UPS, but he, she or they must be terrific teachers.
One of the more impressive pieces is a sculpture by Will Books called “Socket Bloom.” Standing on the floor like a large steampunk umbrella that has been cast aside or some kind of time-travel kite. There is a gritty and foreboding character to this piece in steel, canvas and acrylic. Only from certain angles can you see the “handle” of the “umbrella.” Without that clue, it is a purely abstract sculpture with no references beyond itself.
A wall sculpture by Sam Crookston called “Peeling” has a painterly quality because it is basically flat and rectangular and its surface texture (wood grain) has the look of paint strokes with a variety of directions, all in the same dark charcoal color. As sculpture it is an expressive version of a Donald Judd box. It is constructed of a dozen boxes jammed together side-to-side and top-to-bottom. It is the subtle variations within an almost solid and unvarying shape that makes it so interesting to contemplate.
Jarett Prince’s “Untitled B” is comprised of six wooden blocks attached on metal rods that project about six inches out from a hexagonal metal frame against the wall. It has the feel of a futuristic clock with too few hours and although it creates the impression of slow and regular movement — tic tok, tic tok — there are no moving parts.
Breiter’s graphite drawing alluded to in the opening paragraph is like a time-lapse photo of a female kick boxer in repetitive motion. The line work is sure and strong, and the shading is soft and atmospheric, with parts of the body in motion, fading smoke-like. Its only problem is that the woman’s head is disproportionately large.
The only functional piece in the show is a bench by Patrick Johnson in wood and epoxy resin with beautiful wood grain shining through a thick layer of epoxy on the top, which rests on a dark gray arched base that looks like metal even though the wall label says it is wood.
One of the better graphic works is “Ink” by Mary Ontiveros, a print of a woman seen from behind with arms raised and fingers in her long hair. Her arms and shoulders are tattooed with light blue hieroglyphic images that appear flat, as if printed over the body; yet the straps of her bra go over the tattoos in an intriguing kind of visual trickery.
There is a lot of good work in this show, making it well worth a trip to the UPS campus.
2018 Student Art Show, Kittredge Gallery, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., through Feb. 24, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Bryan Willis’s one-act, Sophie, will be performed one show only this Sunday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. at Olympia Family Theater.
Willis is the founder of Northwest Playwright’s Alliance and is the author of more than 30 plays including The Incredible Undersea Trial of Joseph P. Lawnboy and the intense psychological drama 7 Ways to Get There.
Sophie is described as in a press release as “an uplifting play based on Sophie Large’s extraordinary writings, many of which are published widely in the acclaimed book Sophie’s Log. From her earliest childhood, Sophie used to write about things and events and people that interested her, and as she became older she often wrote as well about her own thoughts and feelings. This one-act show takes place at an outdoor railway station, where a young Sophie (age 13) talks with her older self (age 19).
“At age 19, the talented Sophie was due to direct and produce a play at the Edinburgh Fringe (Scotland) but died before this ambition could be realized. In the ensuing weeks her family decided to found a charity in Sophie’s name to give financial support to needy students of acting and of singing – ‘Sophie’s Silver Lining Fund’. The charity published a book of Sophie’s own writings entitled ‘Sophie’s Log – thoughts and feelings in poetry and prose’. A few years later the trustees commissioned a playwright to write a short play based on Sophie’s Log.”
Sophie is directed by Charlotte Tiencken & Stephen Floyd. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Sunday, February 25 at 2:00 PM
· Olympia Family Theater
612 4th Ave E, Olympia, Washington 98501
612 4th Ave E, Olympia, Washington 98501
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
by Alec Clayton
|Laura (Jess Weaver) and Jim (Nick Fitzgerald), photo by Tim Johnson|
Tennessee Williams was a genius, and Lakewood Playhouse does more than justice to his masterpiece, The Glass Menagerie. Williams’ plays are among the best in what many consider the golden age of American drama — because he makes complex human emotions seem simple and because he writes such inventive lines as “…the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity” (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and “He s a telephone man who fell in love with long distance” (The Glass Menagerie). And for his wonderful use of metaphor, such as in the title itself — Laura’s glass menagerie or collection of tiny glass animals is a metaphor for Laura’s fragile psyche and the broken lives of all the characters.
The structure of Menagerie, with narrator Tom Wingfield (Niclas Olson) stepping in and out of the character and even signaling when lights should be turned up or down, is a masterful stroke and one of the most inventive uses of “breaking the fourth wall” I have seen. Olson and Director Micheal O’Hara can be credited with this. Williams left such innovations up to the producing companies, along with freedom to interpret lighting and sound, which Sound Designer and Playhouse Artistic Director John Munn, along with Lighting Director Aaron Mohs-Hale did in a way Munn calls cinematic. Both were dramatically effective.
|from left: Tom (Niclas Olson), Laura, and Amanda (Dayna Childs), photo by Tim Johnson|
Tom works a job he hates and longs to get away from the stifling home he shares with his domineering mother, Amanda (Dayna Childs) and his painfully withdrawn sister, Laura (Jess Weaver). Laura’s debilitating shyness is masterfully and painfully enacted by Weaver. The character was based on Williams’ sister Rose, who ended up in a mental hospital and was lobotomized.
Amanda tries to live her life as a Gone with the Wind-era Southern belle and wants nothing so much as to find a “gentleman caller” to romance Laura. That gentleman caller appears in the guise of Jim O’Connor (Nick Fitzgerald), a workmate of Tom’s who is invited for dinner. Jim is charming, and he gently draws Laura out of her self-imposed shell, but there is cruel thoughtlessness underneath his charm.
Menagerie is Williams’ most autobiographic play. Tom is clearly Williams, and Laura and Amanda are based on his mother and sister. Tom as the narrator even states as much, calling the play a “memory play.” Williams was gay, and there has been much speculation that Tom is a closeted gay man. But the only hint to this in the play is that he goes to the movies every night and does not come home until the wee hours of the morning. Amanda thinks he’s up to something else and not really going to the movies.
The pacing and the direction by Micheal O’Hara is excellent, as are James Venturini’s set design and Mohs-Hale’s lighting design. The ensemble cast is smack-on, especially Olson and Weaver. Childs’ over-the-top take on the clichéd Southern belle is hard to take, and some might think unrealistic, but I lived in the Deep South and I know that such characters existed when this play is set, and there were still a few around when I left the South in 1988.
The Glass Menagerie is a sad and depressing play. It is almost three hours long, including intermission. Yet I came away stimulated and not depressed. It is a great play, beautifully produced and acted.
The Glass Menagerie
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m., through March 11
Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood
(253) 588-0042, https://www.lakewoodplayhouse.org/
Monday, February 19, 2018
From my review of CJ Swanson's paintings at Batdorf and Bronson: I thought at the time her work was good if somewhat derivative. Since then her work has grown more complex and compositionally stronger, though subtly so.
Read the complete review in olyarts.org.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Olympia Family Theater presents a special performance of Sophie
An uplifting play based on Sophie Large’s extraordinary writings, many of which are published widely in the acclaimed book Sophie’s Log. From her earliest childhood, Sophie used to write about things and events and people that interested her, and as she became older she often wrote as well about her own thoughts and feelings. This one-act show takes place at an outdoor railway station, where a young Sophie (age 13) talks with her older self (age 19).
At age 19, the talented Sophie was due to direct and produce a play at the Edinburgh Fringe (Scotland) but died before this ambition could be realized. In the ensuing weeks her family decided to found a charity in Sophie’s name to give financial support to needy students of acting and of singing – ‘Sophie’s Silver Lining Fund’. The charity published a book of Sophie’s own writings entitled ‘Sophie’s Log – thoughts and feelings in poetry and prose’. A few years later the trustees commissioned a playwright to write a short play based on Sophie’s Log.
Written by local Olympia playwright, Bryan Willis, Sophie premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2002 and was adapted as a radio play for broadcasting on BBC Radio 4, as an Afternoon Theatre play.
“Funny, moving, true,”
–Sue Roberts, BBC Radio
“A definite must-see,”
–Zoe Green, The Scotsman
Directed by Charlotte Tiencken & Stephen Floyd
A one-act show
Runtime: 50 minutes
Recommended for ages 12+
This production premiered on Vashon Island and was recently featured at the International Theater Festival in Shenzhen, China.
ONE PERFORMANCE ONLY!
All seats: $10
ONE PERFORMANCE ONLY
Our lobby will open 1 hour before show time.
Recommended for ages 12+
All seats are $10
Available anytime online: http://olyft.org/event/sophie/
Box Office Walk-up: 1 hours before performance
Olympia Family Theater • 612 4th Ave E • Olympia, WA 98501 • (360) 570-1638