Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Familiar Faces & New Voices

Surveying Northwest Art at Tacoma Art Museum
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 8, 2018
Minidoka No. 5 (442nd)” acrylic on canvas by Roger Shimomura, Tacoma Art Museum, gift of George and Kim Suyama, photo by Richard Nicol
The exhibition Familiar Faces & New Voices: Surveying Northwest Art has been on display since this past spring but has not received the fanfare of blockbuster shows like Art AIDS America or Hide/Seek or 2015’s Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition. But it is a solid and historically important show highlighting works by some of the Pacific Northwest’s best artists, as well as many little-known but worthy artists with more than 55 works from the museum's collection of PNW art from the 19th century until today. Included are works by Louis Crow, Morris Graves, Kamekichi Tokita, William Ivey, Jacob Lawrence and many more.
One of the earliest works in the show is Vincent Colyer’s oil painting “Home of the Yakimas.” This moody, hazy landscape offers a precious view of a Yakima Indian village on the banks of a river in 1875. The light is veiled and mysterious — a misty scene typical of the Northwest.
In Walter Isaacs’ 1936 “In the Paddock” we get a glimpse of the artist’s Cezanne influence prior to his more abstract modernist works associated with the famous Northwest School of painting made famous by Morris Graves, Guy Anderson and Mark Tobey. “In the Paddock” is a painting of horses depicted in flat planes of color.
From these early works, the show carries viewers to bold contemporary art such as Patti Warashima’s “Amazed,” a maze of human and animal figures in porcelain and Plexiglas. Nude female figures perch on shelves in a wall-size maze. Some seem to be falling, while others appear to be ascending or descending on ropes, and there are larger-than-human rats prowling through the maze. The obvious message is that modern humans are caught in a rat race in which there are no winners and from which there is no escape.
Among the more interesting contemporary works are Joseph Park’s “Chess,” a delightful painting of rabbits playing chess, painted in an almost photorealist manner but all in tones of brown, and Roger Shimomura’s Minidoka No. 5 (442nd),” a Pop Art picture of a fierce warrior painted in a style reminiscent of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in tribute to the Japanese interred at the Minidoka relocation center in Idaho.
And fascinating to study is Sutton Beres Culler’s “Convenience Booth,” a telephone booth with everything a person could need in it, including a gum machine, first aid kit, a clock, and a condom and tampon vending machine.
"When we talk about art history we often reduce it to a few orderly lines, a few key figures, so that it's easier to get our arms around," say TAM Curator Margaret Bullock. "But in reality it's messy and changeable."
Expressing similar sentiments, Chief Curator Rock Hushka said, "Exhibitions such as this one share the multifaceted art history of the Northwest with our visitors and are key to TAM's work of studying and celebrating that artistic heritage."
 If there is any downside to this exhibition it is that it is too heavily weighted with 19th century landscapes that look alike.
Notice: some works on view will change during the run of the show.

Familiar Faces & New Voices, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, $15 adults, $13 students and seniors, free for military and children 5 and younger, free Third Thursday from 5-8 p.m., Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, 253.272.4258,

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