Monday, November 25, 2013

Red & Ruby’s CD Recording

We were lucky enough to be invited to Red & Ruby’s CD recording. For those who don’t know, Red & Ruby are Vince Brown and Lavon Hardison. They wanted their CD to have a live feel so they invited a bunch of friends and told us to feel free to respond naturally. They wanted to capture the applause, the occasional shout, the laughter. And there was plenty of that.

Lavon said she comes from a classical background where everything has to be perfect, and it took her a long time to get used to Vince’s more relaxed style (she said she couldn’t stand him the first three years they were together).

They had barely started the recording session before I regretted not bringing a note pad and pen, because I wanted to blog about it  but couldn’t trust my spotty memory to get the details right. What was that song she played kazoo on? Not “Sweet Georgia Brown.” That was the one where she made kazoo sounds with her mouth, but the other one where she played a real kazoo. See what I mean about wanting to take notes.

There were somewhere between 20 and 30 people there, and they were a lively crowd. Snacks were served, and sparkling water. The studio belongs to local jazz musician Greta Jane. It’s a fabulous space that doubles as her home and studio located in an old downtown building with entrance through an unmarked door in an alley. 

During two songs with lively rhythm a couple of women got up and danced. The applause at the end of each song was genuine. Nothing canned about this session.

Lavon Hardison has a fabulous voice. She can be tender and outrageous and as clear as a bell. She goes easily from scat singing to moody blues to lovely ballads with singing that recalls everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Josephine Baker. Vince Brown plays the smoothest, most rhythmical guitar you’ll ever want to hear.

The CD will be released sometime in February. There will be a CD release party, but I don’t know the date. Nor do I know the title of the album. But I’m sure I can get that information in time to publish it before the recording hits the streets.

Did'ja know about Gabi's art?

You are in for quite an enjoyable surprise when you come to our Giant Art Sale — 70 works of art by Gabi Clayton never before seen in the Pacific Northwest except by our immediate family and a few of our closest friends.

I have shown my art in galleries for years but Gabi never has. Most of our friends do not even know that she is an artist. She majored in drawing and painting for two years back in 1986 and ’87 (and made straight A’s by-the-way). I was teaching at the same college, and when I had a falling out with the art department she changed her major to film-making. The next year we moved to Olympia and she did her final year of undergraduate study focusing on film and animation at Evergreen.

She is a wonderfully talented and expressive artist, but after changing her major she put all of her artwork away and has focused since on graphic and web design and book publishing, and never again showed these works on paper publicly.

Now we have selected 70 of Gabi's works on paper to include in our big art sale. You really must see them. These works plus about 100 of my paintings will be on sale for prices well below what they go for in galleries. Even if you can’t afford to buy art, come by to browse and to visit. There will surely be a bunch of your friends here.

The sale is Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 1327 25th Court NE, Olympia - on the corner of Bethel. Yellow house with plum trim, chain link fence around the yard.

Call 628-8412 or email or if you have any questions.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Shimmering Tree at Tacoma Art Museum

The Weekly Volcano, Nov. 21, 2013

Jennifer Steinkamp, Mike Kelley, 2007-12. Digital video projection, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. 
The show is called Shimmering Tree: A Projection by Jennifer Steinkamp. The single work in the show is a digital projection called “Mike Kelly,” named after Steinkamp’s teacher. It is, indeed, a tree that shimmers — a projected image on the back wall of the largest gallery in Tacoma Art Museum. The bare limbs of the tree are white and brilliant in their intensity. They sway rhythmically side to side and possess an illusion of depth that sucks the viewer in. Sit on the single bench or stand in the open space of the gallery and watch it, and suddenly hot pink buds appear, and then the color of the leaves changes to a glowing chartreuse. Watching it can be a magical experience. You don’t just look at a Steinkamp projection, you let it wash over you and seep into your consciousness as you would with a James Turrell installation or the Rothko Chapel in Houston.

Since about 1989 she has installed (by my count of works on her website at some 25 digital projections in museums and public and private buildings all over the world. That is about one every year. Some are projected on walls, some on ceilings, some indoors and some outdoors. And they are all mystical and breathtaking even though some of them look like high-tech billboards or 1960s psychedelic light shows. Her installation at TAM is simple and beautiful.

Steinkamp says other artists who have influenced her are Turrell, Dutch painters, and Jackson Pollock. She begins planning each piece by visiting the site where it is going to be installed. She researches the context and history of the place and then creates a three-dimensional model to see how the projection will look. She describes the actual creation of the images as a combination of painting, sculpture and photography using computer paint programs and LED lights.

Her earlier works were always abstract. Beginning in 2003 she introduced images of trees and flowers and butterflies. The butterflies seem to flutter and hover in space; the flowers often cascade down walls like waterfalls. Trees shimmer and sway. Her first tree and the piece she says set her on a new course was a projection for the 8th Istanbul Biennial in 2003 in the Basilica Cistern, the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey. In the space there are two pillars with heads of Medusa on their bases. She researched Medusa and the thought “popped into my mind” that the snakes winding through her hair were like tree limbs.

Similarities between the projection in Istanbul and the one at TAM are striking. The projection will be on view until Jan. 26, 2014.

Exploring Self-Identity at TAM

The Weekly Volcano, Nov. 21, 2013

Alfredo Arreguin, Frida’s Messengers, 1992. Serigraph, 24 x 17 1/4 inches. Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Alfredo Arreguin and Susan Lytle.

This seems to be one of those in-between-shows periods at Tacoma Art Museum when they trot out stuff from their permanent collection to fill the galleries. It’s a good thing, too, because they have some outstanding art that we’d otherwise seldom or never get to see. One such show is the Optic Nerve exhibition, which I reviewed in this column last week; another is Sitting for History: Exploring Self-Identify Through Portraiture, an exhibition of more than 60 paintings, drawings and photographs by artists such as Pierre August Renoir, Chuck Close, George Luks, Mary Randlett, Gilbert Stuart and Andrew Wyeth, plus some sculpture and jewelry.

It is an intriguing show juxtaposing historical paintings and ultra-modern art.
Randlett, a Northwest treasure, is represented by a group of handsome, black-and-white portrait photographs including a great shot of Mike Spafford in his studio.

There are two paintings by the great French Impressionist, Renoir, including a portrait of two young girls that has been previously shown at TAM. Renoir is sometimes dismissed as being too sentimental, but the glowing colors and lively brushstrokes in this painting confirm that he earned his place in history.

One of the more fascinating works in the show is Raphael Soyer’s lithograph “My Studio,” which shows the model behind a screen apparently getting ready to disrobe and the artist with his back to her working on a painting. It is voyeuristic and it shows the strange connection/disconnection between artist and model. And it is a beautiful composition of dark and light contrasts.

Norman Lundin’s “Sleeping Model” is a disturbing image that makes the sleeping woman look like a dead woman in a casket.

Blythe Bohnen’s self-portraits use selective soft focusing to make intriguing mysteries of her face.

Eric Bashor’s series of portraits of Robert Fucci go from full face to extreme close-ups that become increasingly abstract with heavy layers of high-contrast paint application. The full-face, frontal image and the one-eye-only are quite powerful.

Overall this is an enjoyable show with wide ranging looks at the human face and body over time and across gender, age and ethnicities. 

[Tacoma Art Museum, Sitting for History, Wednesdays–Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Third Thursdays 5–8 p.m. through April 20, 2014, 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,]

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guerrilla art in Oly

 The Weekly Volcano, Nov. 14, 2013

Guerrilla Man "Centerpiece" under a freeway overpass somewhere in Olympia, Washington

Guerrilla Man "Dweller" in the woods somewhere near Olympia, Washington
The Guerrilla Man sneaks around in the dead of night — and sometimes brazenly in the light of day — and installs humongous metal sculptures in places they’re not supposed to be. Sometimes in such out-of-the-way places that the authorities may never find them and remove them. Even if they do find them, removing them will be quite a job.

I can’t divulge who the Guerrilla Man is, but I can say that he has a Facebook page, and from there you may be able to contact him and get him to tell you where to find his art. For a guerrilla artist, he’s not very well hidden. He contacted me recently and took me to see one of his installations, which was quite impressive.

Hidden in plain sight underneath a highway overpass approached by a little-known and little-used walking path, the installation comprises three metal figures that stand approximately twenty feet tall and in their massive verticality resonate with the concrete posts of the overpass. The three pieces are abstracted standing men made of welded steel and corrugated steel plates upon which the artist has applied acid to “paint” selected areas with rust. Stylistically they are similar to works by David Smith and Mark Di Suvero, all harsh angles and soaring verticality.

Guerrilla Man has a team of friends who help him transport and install the pieces, the making of which is labor intensive and costly. It takes great dedication and love of art to make works like this, which may be destroyed any day. He says they may remain in place a day or a year.

He says the inspiration for these installations comes from graffiti art, and that he began working on the idea after attending a lecture about the nature of graffiti art and the philosophical ramifications of making art that is illegal and which will most likely be destroyed.

Guerrilla Man lives in Seattle, and his “Clark Kent” persona is that of a theatrical technician who has worked on many shows from Seattle to Olympia. You, dear reader, may very well know him without knowing you do. His art installations, so far, are all in the Olympia area. As of this writing he has four installations, the one under the freeway and three in hidden wooded areas. The ones in wooded areas are quite different and designed with the setting in mind, with parts of trees and tangled wires that look like vines.

“All my pieces currently are unsanctioned,” he says. “While my current work is exploring guerrilla art, over-all my work has always been about creating heightened environments. Both in theater and in my installation work. And the installation work is not just sculptural; past pieces have been lighting-specific, and I feel performance/experiential art is installation as well (I experimented with a guerrilla/flash dance party this summer). It is all about creating heightened environments and experiences.”