Last week's Pioneer Square art walk was jammed full of topics. Maybe it's the return to school, to the classification and study of themes. At SOIL the topic is teeth, with a horror-show-within-a-show by Nola Avienne: disembodied sculptures of cranked-open jaws and shrunken heads and extraction nightmares set on shelves in a gleaming glass cabinet. Who—what creature—would assemble this collection?
At Gallery 110, there on one wall is Trayvon Martin, afloat on a sea of protesters—one of Jasmine Iona Brown's stark icon paintings of dead children. You couldn't miss the Pussy Riot embroidery by Ries Niemi at Punch. Annie Bissett's prints at Cullom Gallery are about money. She takes a placid landscape—someone out in a canoe on a still lake by the mountains—and overlays it with a pattern of florid swirls and curlicues. Look closely and you might recognize them from the dollar bill.
At Gallery4Culture, the theme is presidential politics. There's a portrait of every president (plus Confederate leader Jefferson Davis) hung in chronological order. Each portrait is a diorama inside the shallow square box that once housed a single-serving California Pizza Kitchen pizza. They're by Lorenzo Moog and packed with information. For instance: One foot of black netting draped over the pizza box equals five thousand military dead during that presidency. See the pot leaf in the upper-right corner that persists through every president up to FDR, when it's slashed through? That tells you when pot was outlawed. President Obama's portrait is "under construction." JFK's is roped off with crime tape. There is a handout.
In the crush of topicality, it was refreshing to come across the quiet visual sophistication of Romson Regarde Bustillo's new black-and-white prints at Shift. If they refer to something outside their borders, I don't need to know what it is. It's enough that they're fields of subtly shifting ink tones delineating shapes and lines. You might make out what look like skyscrapers, or flight paths headed for crashing, or storms gathering, or rockets with cute submarine windows, or scissors in shadow, or none of that. Erase all that. Just looking at the ink will make your brain move in a way that you don't need to talk about.
Bustillo says they were inspired by a recent trip to Mexico, where he studied with Oaxacan masters, and that they reflect a desire to return to fundamentals. He usually works in vivid colors, often in paint. These are just ink on a single surface, pressed over and over. He made his prints using velvet, and you can see its soft imprints.