It was an experiment: See how it feels to skip the biggest annual American art event, Art Basel Miami Beach, which happened last week.
By not going to Miami, I got to be in New York the week before, attending the opening of the new New Museum of Contemporary Art (see lead story on this page), which was historic despite its disappointments.
The inaugural exhibition, Unmonumental, lived down to its name, but it included the works of two artists I'll keep looking to: Kristen Morgin, an L.A. sculptor whose ceramic forms crumble before your eyes; and Brooklyn's Nate Lowman. Lowman's entry in the show, Not Sorry, is a triple bank-teller window riddled with bullet holes (and references to Duchamp's Large Glass) and sitting upright on the floor, with a sticker in the window referencing the board game Sorry and an easily missed Post-it note tucked under the frame on the teller's side, reading "IOU."
Back in Seattle, the art pickings weren't slim, either, and for social substance (is that an oxymoron? depends on who shows up) there was a party at legendary video artist Gary Hill's loft in Belltown. He'd invited artists like Tony Weathers, Ori Ornstein, Trimpin, and George Quasha and Alison Knowles, both in from out of town (Quasha is finishing a book on Hill). The wizened man in the corner was Torben Ulrich, a former tennis pro, father of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, a musician in his own right, and evidently a visual artist, too.
And the sweet and shy young Ukrainian guy in the white shirt was a Good Samaritan who'd simply helped Hill and his wife, Magda, when they ran out of gas on Highway 99 earlier that afternoon.
Miami was on nobody's lips.
The real clincher was the art. Gallery 4Culture opened an installation of a backyard by Shawn Patrick Landis—complete with fence, grill, woodpile, motorcycle, fire pit, and folding chair—connected to a series of inflation tubes and undergoing a sort of continuous surgery that's both playful and formal. Western Bridge director Eric Fredericksen's bifurcated show (at SOIL and Punch) opened, too, full of funny, odd, and marvelous concoctions that reflect his rigorous and yet utterly likable aesthetic. And the 20-year survey of Mark Calderon's hair-raisingly serene sculpture and pyrographs at Bellevue Community College (of all places) closed last week. And Platform Gallery introduced Seattle's Adam Satushek, one of whose photographs has the beating heart of a major home-improvement chain.
I barely had time for the flooding of my basement.