When Scott Lawrimore announced he was having a painting show, he meant it. He has only one painting up in his gallery's big, beautiful, empty front room. It is To Whom It May Concern by the Puerto Rican artist Michael Linares, and it looks like a Star Wars poster, except the angled block letters on the starry background read "Fuck Duchamp."
Standing next to the greasy Chinese dumplings on the gallery's fireplace mantel during the opening last week, Linares points out the bookending witticism, perpetrated by Lawrimore. Inches above the dumplings, hanging on the wall, is a 1959 reproduction of Duchamp's 1926 rotoreliefs. Whether Duchamp made it or someone else did, Lawrimore isn't sure, and when it comes to Duchamp, it's hard to say it matters. It was originally sold by the legendary Seattle dealer Zoe Dusanne, and now is in an unnamed private collection—it's not for sale. Instead, it sits meekly among the dumplings while "Fuck Duchamp" is under the spotlight, going for $9,000.
Lawrimore Project is the closest Seattle gets to the spirit of subversion and cliquery represented in Make Your Own Life: Artists In & Out of Cologne, the bristling traveling show that opened last week at the Henry Art Gallery. "People are not going to like this show," museum staffers told me, and I guess I know what they mean, although if people are irritated, they may be numbed out of it by the anesthetizing whiff of history.
Although some of the art is brand new, there's an archival quality to the show, the feeling that these are remains of a lost world. The myth of these artists as independent operators making their own separate peace is frustrated, plainly, by the fact that some of them have become market darlings and others are the sort of embalmed champions that make for hoary museum retrospectives.
All of that sounds bad, but it isn't. Theshow is just more honest than most, so it prompts considerations that other exhibitions avoid. I'll write a longer review, but for now, suffice it to say it's worth seeing, maybe especially for those who will be infuriated by it. The title piece is Merlin Carpenter's empty shopping bags on the floor. Carpenter took $4,000 of the University of Pennsylvania's money (the show was organized by Penn), went shopping, took his Gucci loafers and his Burberry trench coat home with him, and stuck the bags in the gallery. I love it, I hate it, I haven't stopped thinking about it.
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Remember the great shows at Bumbershoot these past years? Yoko Ott was behind them, and now that she's at Frye Art Museum, Bumbershoot isn't replacing her. Another programmer, Bob Redmond, a theater and books guy, is taking over the responsibilities. Art at Bumbershoot predates Ott and will survive her, says producer Michele Scoleri: "It's one component of a big festival." Exactly. Ott's idea-rich work at Bumbershoot always seemed like a miracle, and apparently, it was.
A new In/Visible podcast is available for download every Wednesday at www.thestranger.com/visualart.