Philip Govedare Francine Seders Gallery
6701 Greenwood Ave N, 782-0355
Through Oct 31.

Darren Waterston Greg Kucera Gallery
212 Third Ave S, 624-0770
Artist lecture Sat Oct 16, noon; through Nov 27.

Brown butcher paper covers the windows of Bandoleone restaurant and taped inside one window is a note that hints at a larger story. It reads in part, "We're unfortunately forced to move from Eastlake." Further along is yet another Starbucks in a brand-new building that I swear wasn't there when I passed by several weeks before. Driving past several other recently demolished buildings, Seattle seems a little bit more broken lately.

Some of this brokenness is in evidence in Philip Govedare's paintings. The show card for the exhibition at Francine Seders Gallery is misleading, setting up the expectation that Outside Time and Place refers to a series of nostalgic landscapes and that the artist's evocation of the Duwamish river might be ironic. Instead, Govedare (an associate professor at the UW) presents moody paintings of the armpit of Seattle's waterfront complete with industrial armatures, smokestacks, squat blockish warehouses, and ubiquitous cargo containers. The artist is intentional about including commercial development in his landscapes, rightly asserting in his statement, "Any reading of contemporary landscape painting must carry an implicit awareness of this predicament." In doing so, Govedare's Duwamish recalls the river of T. S. Eliot's The Dry Salvages: "Unhonoured, unpropitiated/By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and/waiting." Several paintings (Looking East, Gorge, and a few untitled pieces) capture the idea of the Duwamish rather than the river itself, showing sky more than landscape; atmosphere rather than the literalness of clumps of reeds along the riverbank. The series depicts the waterway at different times of the day and during different seasons--a fall twilight in Night, a harsh summer midday in Fire--and describes the many moods of a piece of land that was once home to the Duwamish Tribe and is now a Superfund toxic clean-up site.

With Thirteen Paintings, his eighth exhibition with Greg Kucera Gallery, Darren Waterston's move away from landscape and figurative toward abstract is nearly complete. Given his previous work, it's hard not to automatically read this current series as landscapes. However, few of them are weighted by fixed horizon lines or any indication that they're even earthbound. Waterston continues to build on symbols, themes, and references introduced in his work long ago, all of which suggest a parallel universe that borrows from ours, but only slightly. That world is dense with organic, aquatic, and scientific matter and, even when they don't resemble anything in the known world, they still hold the integrity of figurative work and offer recognizable details, making it a bit more accessible to those who shun abstract art on principle.

Blue Passage is anchored on either side by what looks like an intergalactic cathedral. Angular shards wing about and a halo arcs above. The serene hemisphere of blues is slightly disrupted by Waterston's placement of a singular orange daub of paint near its center. This dot and similar impasto gestures that show up in his other paintings are irresolvable and end up looking like last-minute spontaneous additions to what are otherwise completed works. This tendency to texturize isn't frequent, though. Polished panels like Soft Night, where the paint looks like skin stretched taut, invite swoons. Dark and enchanting, Soft Night is the most landscape-like with windblown trees and distant rock outcroppings providing the background for a drama between spirits. Despite limited references to the familiar, Waterston's paintings still manage to elicit an emotional response, one that is more intuitive than rational and informed by what our subconscious conjures when we're only slightly paying attention.

kurtz@thestranger.com

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