Friday, June 21, 2013

The Pruzan Collection is a treasure

The Weekly Volcano, June 20, 2012

“Big Fish-Small Pond,” acrylic on paper, mounted on board, collection of Herb and Lucy Pruzan, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum

Featuring more than 100 artworks from the collection of Herb and Lucy Pruzan, Creating the New Northwest is a stunning exhibition of works by many the most famous artists in the region, including William Cumming, Gaylen Hansen, Paul Havas, William Ivey, Fay Jones, James Martin, Alden Mason, Ginny Ruffner, Preston Singletary, Akio Takamori, and more.

Just a tiny sampling of the pieces that took my breath away while perusing the show: Louis Bunce’s oil painting “Apple,” with its brilliant color and stunning simplicity; Gaylen Hansen’s acrylic “Yellow Jar and Glove,” with its surprisingly lurking power of two simple forms; Sherry Markovirz’s “Double Donk,” a painting of two donkey heads, one brown and one white, in beads and mixed media on canvas; Rudy Autio’s glazed porcelain “Beltane Bull and Yellow Horse,” a Picasso-esque take on Greek pottery.

The art is grouped by style and media: landscapes, abstractions, figures, glass, ceramic and so forth. Among the most striking figurative works is Lauren Grossman’s “Hide Body,” a ceramic sculpture enclosed in rawhide. The term “Hide” takes on double meaning. The body is hidden, and if you look closely you’ll see that it is trying to claw its way out.

Gregory Grenon’s oil and Plexiglas “Shoot to Thrill-Shoot to Kill,” a large head of a woman with evil yellow eyes painted on concave Plexiglas, is hypnotic.

Michael Spafford’s “Day and Night” is a tiny oil on paper of two contrasting upside-down figures. It is wonderful. Next to it is a small study for his famous (and controversial) mural “The Labors of Hercules.”

Michele Russo’s recent acrylic “Hop, Skip and Jump” and her untitled painting of two dapper men are delightful studies of line and pattern, and they contrast beautifully with her much earlier “Brown Nude.”

Louis Bunce’s “Nude With Seated Woman” from 1934 is a strong image in the style of Picasso’s rose period. The nude, a woman, looks a lot like the naked boy in Picasso’s “Boy Leading a Horse.” There are an inordinate number of Picasso-influenced paintings among the figurative works, but they are not merely derivative; they are each strong works.

It would take two or three more reviews to discuss the landscapes and abstract paintings. I’ll mention only two that blew me away: Paul Havas’ untitled painting of a view out a window with strangely tilted perspective, and William Ivey’s untitled painting of rectangular shapes, with its mastery of color, balance and texture.

This is a fabulous show. I look forward to seeing it again. 

 [Tacoma Art Museum, Creating the New Northwest: Selections from the Herb and Lucy Pruzan Collection, Wednesdays–Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Third Thursdays 5–8 p.m. through Oct. 6, adult $10, student/military/senior (65+) $8, family $25 (2 adults and up to 4 children under 18), 5 and younger free, Third Thursdays free from 5-8 pm., 253.272.4258,]

Photo: “Big Fish-Small Pond,” acrylic on paper, mounted on board, collection of Herb and Lucy Pruzan, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum

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