Joseph Park’s ‘The Prince and the Pipe’ courtesy of Rena Bransten Gallery

The Seattle art world is a nice place to be. Sharks and dickishness are at a minimum. Artists know and support each other. They visit each other's studios, go to each other's openings, have dinners, collaborate. This is a good thing.

Meanwhile, four good and likable leading Seattle artists make an art show together in the kindest and most loving of spirits, and all I can think is, it's just okay. This is not a nice thing to say.

The show in question is From Whence the Rainbow Came (a joke for grammarians, since it means "from from where"); the artists are Claude Zervas, Dan Webb, Jeffry Mitchell, and Joe Park; and the show is at Ambach & Rice Gallery.

This is a power quartet, and I can't figure out why they do not quite rock the joint (especially compared to, say, Second Peoples, an electric show of four other Seattle artists at Helm Gallery earlier this year). I certainly don't want to warn anyone off: See this show. These artists have never exhibited together before, every one of them is important to the city, and the art is fine, with some better-than-fine mixed in.

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Above the bar: Webb's patchworked yet perfectly continuous wood carving of two kneeling figures under a blanket, emphasizing the eternal tension between surface and center; Zervas's pile of burly wood scraps that is actually made of frail photographs; Park's high-modernist refraction obsession applied to thrift-store landscapes (not the paintings in direct conversation with art history, but those instead that impose Park's super-gloss skills on soft-bellied nightingales and snowy cabin idylls; Ann Lislegaard's Crystal World animation was a recent influence).

None of these artists is at his best here—Mitchell comes across as a little thin, which is a trick, since he's anything but—and somehow there is less frisson in the room than there should be. Still, it is striking to consider each of these men in the context of what arises as a common concern: the two-sided coin of breakdown and transformation, vulnerability and change. Maybe that is in some way related to what Park meant when he framed a connection between the artists in an interview about the show with artist/blogger Joey Veltkamp: "I see gay," Park said. "I see our relationship to the gay." (Only Mitchell is gay.) This is the kind of thinking that might lead to a less lifeless show. recommended