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The Many Sides of Sculpture

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Exciting gallery shows for the Fall and Winter

by Matthew Kangas

The definition of sculpture has expanded so extravagantly over the past two decades that it has become easier to determine what is not sculpture rather than what is. Paintings, prints, photographs, computer art and other two-dimensional artforms dominate in most galleries but, as this quick survey of sculpture in Seattle galleries makes clear, although three-dimensional art may be more difficult to display and store (it takes up more room), not to mention sell (it usually costs more), it has a greater tangible and tactile reality of its own and can make more of a statement in the budding or seasoned collector's home or office.

Public art, installation art, jewelry art, Native American art, ceramic and glass are not the province of this overview either; they deserve their own analysis beyond our space limits here. Small, mid- and large-size sculptures are available in a number of downtown galleries. Viewers and out-of-town visitors should feel free to ask to see works in storage if they develop a special interest in an artist. Gallery employees are eager to educate about materials, durability and reputation, but remember, they are there to sell. Better to be a silent observer the first time out; when you've developed your own taste through looking and reading the galleries' information notebooks available upon request, you will have a better reason to ask to see art by a new favorite or an old master.

Fortunately, several sculpture exhibitions are planned for Fall 2006 and Spring 2007 so that, by checking out the galleries recommended below, gallerygoers may enjoy the considerable strengths and pleasures among a wide variety of artists.

Materials, too, vary much more than they once did. Leaving glass, ceramic, fiber and jewelry aside, classical realistic bronzes of animals by Georgia Gerber, for example, draw hundreds of admirers to Gallery Mack (2003 Western Ave.) north of the Pike Place Market. Her works are on long-term loan to the City of Kirkland where they have become great hits. It's worth having a look at other bronzes at Gallery Mack, too, like those by George Kerish and Tom Russell. Each work is part of a limited edition of castings; the smaller the edition, the more expensive the piece. And don't miss Ken Patecky's Lost Child, a small concrete-mixture low-relief carving that strikes the right balance between sentimentality and modernity.

Even plastic can be a valid sculptural material. Katy Stone's February 2007 show at Greg Kucera Gallery (212 3rd Ave. S.) unveils more of her cascading waterfalls of cut-and-painted clear plastic. She had a major show at Boise Art Museum last year that garnered national coverage; the new work is bound to attract even more attention. Other important established sculptors at Kucera include Sherry Markovitz's beaded animal heads, Peter Millett's wood or steel geometric solids, and Ed Wicklander's carved wooden figures. Claudia Fitch's April 2007 show is eagerly awaited by her fans; it's the nationally respected Seattle artist's first show in five years.

Next door at Foster/White Gallery (220 3rd Ave. S.) bronzes by Gerard Tsutakawa and abstract basalt sculptures by Will Robinson may be seen upon request. Tsutakawa's works are made of welded fabricated bronze sheets rather than molten castings.

Two galleries vying with Kucera for top cutting-edge gallery status, Davidson Contemporary (310 S. Washington St.) and James Harris Gallery (309 3rd Ave. S.) both have strong commitments to innovative sculpture. Davidson director Michael Sweney is planning an exciting showcase for new sculptors in early 2007. Meanwhile, visitors can see ultra-traditional Carrara marble statues and torsos by Oregon artist M. J. Anderson who travels to Italy each year to make marble choices and oversee carving of all her works. Recent Tiffany Foundation fellow John Grade had a knockout installation at the gallery last year and has smaller mixed-media works on view all the time.

James Harris will spotlight another local making it big nationally, Roy McMakin, in November. Fresh from his Henry Art Gallery retrospective last year, McMakin makes crosses between sculpture and furniture that are sure to dominate the November art scene.

Somewhat off the beaten track in Allentown, the new South Lake Union neighborhood being developed by computer mogul Paul Allen, the city's oldest gallery, Gordon Woodside/John Braseth (1533 9th Ave.) features four artists all working in bronze. Veteran Northwest "mystic" Philip McCracken is still going strong at 78, joined by a Skagit Valley follower Jeff Day. Penny Mulligan and Ginny Ruffner put bronze to a different use. Mulligan's cut-and-fabricated bronze elements are assembled into mobiles or freestanding kinetic sculptures. Ruffner's bronze elements act as elaborate armatures for her blown-glass inclusions.

Shows for Fall 2006 and Spring 2007

Ken Patecky: Lost Child

Lost Child, Ken Patecky, carved concrete, 16"h x 12"w x 6"d inches. Artist is courtesy of Gallery Mack.

Ed Wicklander: Fortress of Solitude

Fortress of Solitude, Ed Wicklander, 2001. Carved and painted wood, metal spring, 18" x 9" x 9" inches. Photo: Lynn Hamrick. Artist is courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle.

Roy McMakin: Untitled A Chest of Drawers and a Daybed that Fit Together)

Untitled (A Chest of Drawers and a Daybed that Fit Together), Roy McMakin, 2004, eastern maple, enamel paint and upholstery, AP Edition of 3. Chest: 52" x 42" x 18". Daybed: 52" x 42" x 22". Photo Credit: Mark Wood. Image of Courtesy James Harris Gallery, Seattle and the artist.

Dan Webb: Feast

Feast, Dan Webb, carved wood, 9.5" x 25" x 15", 2006. Image is courtesy of Howard House.

 

Once you've informed yourself about the range of traditional and modern sculptures available in Seattle galleries, as well as opened yourself up to the challenging possibilities of postmodern art (like McMakin at Harris or Allan Packer at Davidson), think it all over and realize that great enjoyment and considerable thought can both be present in the best art.

Finally, Dan Webb's third solo show at Howard House Contemporary Art (604 2nd Ave.), also in November, will be another lively topic of conversation. The 41-year-old Cornish College grad is a big local favorite who's had shows in Los Angeles, Portland and Omaha. Realistic sculptures are carved from single pieces of solid Douglas fir and cedar, pushing the limits of what sculpture can do even farther. Along with the other artists to be seen in the galleries this fall and winter, the Dan Webb exhibit is another one not to be missed.

Matthew Kangas, consulting editor at Art Guide Northwest, has two new books out for the holiday season, Craft and Concept: The Rematerialization of the Art Object (Midmarch Arts) and Camille Patha: The Geography of Desire (University of Washington Press). He also reviews for Seattle Times and Art in America. Copyright Matthew Kangas, 2006.


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