Monday, May 30, 2016

NW Art Now at Tacoma Art Museum

Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 27, 2016
NW Art Now at Tacoma Art Museum is a big, colorful, and cutting-edge
“Orca Pod,” oil on canvas, by Karen Hackenberg, courtesy of the artist
exhibition of new and recent works by 24 regional artists. Included are 47 works in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, craft-based work, as well as conceptual, performance, installation, and digital projects. One of the more cutting-edge and/or conceptual aspects to the show is that a number of pieces are displayed outside the galleries, some in places where you might not even see them unless you diligently search them out. For instance, Dylan Neuwirth’s “Just Be Your Selfie,” a neon installation that hung over Pioneer Square in Seattle, now hangs high over the entrance canopy at TAM; and Lou Watson’s “Section of the I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano” is an audio and visual projection of a musical score based on the frequency and colors of cars passing by as filmed from the museum, displayed on the wall where visitors enter from the garage. 
Much of the show deals with issues of identity, social justice and the environment, and there are hard-hitting feminist and racial statements and works that explore media or combinations of media in innovative ways. The conceptual pieces are exactly what the name “conceptual” implies: art that may be more interesting to think about than to look at. And there are works that meld concept with image in beautiful and thought-provoking ways. Among these are two video projections by C. Davida Ingram, Seattle performance artist and winner of the 2014 Stranger Genius Award. Projected in alternating sequences are “The Deeps: Go Away from My Window” and “Procession” (a video installation with drone footage of four black women in hooded white gowns at the historical King Street station in Seattle). These, especially “Procession,” are among the more haunting videos I have ever seen.
"M is for Mak'Lak, W is for White" authentic NDN design, oil on linen by Ka'ila Faqrrell-Smith, courtesy of the artist.
Ka’ ila Farrell-Smith has paintings in the show that combine Native American traditions with abstract-expressionist paint application. In a statement on her website at, she writes, “I search for my visual language: violent, beautiful, and complicated marks that express my contemporary Indigenous identity.” Hard-edge precision, layering, scratching and splattering are interwoven in shallow spatial movement in her paintings “M is for Mak’Lak, W is for White” and “Noo’a Eqksil’ini.”  
Juventino Aranda’s three paintings in oil stick on wool mimic patterns of woven Native American blankets with floating bars of color reminiscent of Mark Rothko, which are homages to and, at the same time, lampoons of each. The texture and edge quality of the oil stick on wool is stunningly beautiful.
There is an impressive number of Tacoma artists in the show including Oliver Doriss, Christopher Paul Jordan, Jeremy Mangan, Asia Tail, Jamie Marie Waelchli, and John Sutton of SuttonBeresCuller, who was born in Tacoma and today lives in Seattle.
Doriss’s “Alpine Panel Study #1” is cast glass with silver botanical inclusions, a unique and richly textured forest in glass in the shape of Mt. Rainer. Mangan is represented with two hyper-realistic oil paintings of scenes that do not and probably never could exist in nature. “Even on the Most Still Days” depicts clever smoke writing over water, and “Pacific Northwest Desert Island” pictures a floating island with tall trees, a little lean-to and a campfire. The jewel-like painting of reflections in rippling water is stunningly beautiful.
I could go on and on describing the rich variety of art in this show. TAM has done many juried shows of Northwest art. Perhaps my memory of previous shows is not to be trusted, but I’m pretty sure this is the best one yet.

NW Art Now, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Sept. 4, closed Memorial Day, $12-$14, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave. Tacoma,

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