Conkelton's three-and-a-half-year tenure at the Henry was marked by some great, ambitious contemporary art shows, including the post-minimalism survey Simple Form, and New Topographics, which looked at landscape photographers documenting the paving of America in the '60s and '70s. She also brought in big touring shows like Deep Storage and Thinking Print. All told, she originated all but three shows at the museum since its reopening in 1996.
The press release issued by the Henry gave no reasons for Conkelton's departure beyond a suggestion of overwork. Conkelton herself told me she wants to explore new ideas outside of a museum framework, like collaborations between artists and high-tech media.
This upheaval comes in the middle of the Henry's strategic planning process, the first it has undergone since reopening three years ago. This suggests parallels, at least to me, between the Henry and On the Boards, where the artistic and managing directors were fired after what board members called a six-month process of examining institutional structures. There's also the trivia item that former OTB managing director Sara Pasti, whose battles with artistic director Mark Murphy sparked On the Boards' upheaval, has since taken a position as Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Henry -- making her Conkelton and Collins' boss.
But Conkelton and Henry Deputy Director Claudia Bach pooh-pooh any of these connections. Bach said the planning process at the Henry is a regular part of any major institution's schedule every few years, while OTB's reexamination was designed specifically to "resolve that problem" -- the conflict between Murphy and Pasti. Conkelton says she was involved in the decision to create Pasti's position, which took away most of Conkelton's managerial duties.
Whatever her reasons, Conkelton's departure is a big loss for the Henry, whose identity and reputation since the expansion rests almost exclusively on her work. Her replacement -- who will be hired within the next four to six months -- had better be very, very good.
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Boo! The citizens of Philadelphia struck a great blow for artistic quality recently by viciously booing famed pianist Ivo Pogorelick as he performed what one audience member, quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, called "an aesthetic slaughter" and an "incredible distortion" of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. In standing-ovation-happy Seattle, it's hard to imagine a classical audience even knowing they were witnessing a bad performance, let alone doing something about it.
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Who knew P-I theater critic Joe Adcock knew about contemporary performance? In the middle of a pan of the Compound's production of Happy? at Consolidated Works, Adcock negatively compared their approach to Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theatre, Robert Wilson, and the Wooster Group. I suppose most Seattle fringe theater, which extends from the more mundane triumvirate of Sam Shepard, David Mamet, and Harold Pinter, doesn't give Adcock much of a chance to drop smarter references.
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