Friday, November 22, 2013

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,]

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