THE KEY TO THIS SHOW IS A SMALL painting mounted on a column in the middle of the Bellevue Art Museum. Like an oversized button, this circular painting carries a slogan, painted in block letters over a backdrop of more or less anonymous abstract expressionist swirls of color. Its message is simple: "PAY SOME ATTENTION TO ME PLEASE."

Most obviously, the exhibitionistic neediness of the slogan is fitting for a show which, like its similarly titled counterpart at Center on Contemporary Art, largely serves as a showcase for young, unrepresented Seattle artists (despite the broadness of their titles, and eligibility requirements that open the juried shows to artists from Boise to Portland, both Bellevue's Pacific Northwest Annual and CoCA's Northwest Annual draw most of their artists from Seattle). While a few of the artists are affiliated with local galleries -- three with Howard House, for example -- the large majority of those included will be familiar only to audiences who've seen the Henry's recent M.F.A. show, CoCA's just-closed Annual, or who frequent Pioneer Square and downtown alternative spaces.

The piece is also relevant because of the painterly swirls undergirding the work's bold request to be noticed -- since this show is all about abstract painting. Amazingly, for a show with 92 artists represented in it, this show has a strong focus, and that focus is on abstract painting. Even the few representational paintings included in the show are barely so, like Brian Murphy's way oversized, painterly, rough and blurred close-up of his own face. In his curatorial note, juror Jon Tupper of Banff (Alberta) Centre for the Arts and the Walter Tupper Gallery dilates on his love for abstract painting. "I have always thought that painting was the coolest art form," he gushes, apparently channeling The New Yorker's Peter Schjeldahl. "It's so hip.... Right now abstraction seems to me to be totally cool; it seems to be riding on the wave of the trend towards a neo-modernism, taking the best of classical modernism but not ignoring what has taken place over the past 15 years or so."

I can't really speak to that. For one, I don't share Tupper's (or Schjeldahl's) abiding love for and optimism about painting. Two, I skipped right past the many dribbles and bold swatches of color and found my treats elsewhere in the show.

Cathy McClure's strobe-lit Zoetrope spinning wheels -- I know that's confusing, but bear with me -- have been seen at Meyerson and Nowinski and in the Betty Bowen show at the Convention Center, but her more recent work, Elroy's Folly, ups the ante on previous work. McClure uses a stylish '60s turntable as the base for a group of metal figures, with variously sized and colored "puffballs" attached to their tops, standing around the edge of the disk. As the disk spins, and the strobe flashes, the same perceptual oddity that allows us to see motion in the succession of individual frames of a film causes us to misread the motion of the turntable. The individual figures don't move, but our eyes see them spinning around, bending over, and growing little red puffballs on their tops. The puffballs, which then shrink and blacken, are a nifty allusion to blooming and dying flowers, inserting a whole life-cycle into this little carnival amusement.

Norah Flatley's John Boy, from her Walton Family Moles series, deserves note, as does Yuki Nakamura's Concrete Tube Standing on a Black Hole, and christ2000™'s Getting Married Otherwise Landfill Fremont. I'll omit long descriptions, so you'll just have to imagine all of these based on their titles.

Among the abstractionists there are several treats, including Audrey Sochor's Sea Curtain, which backlights two layers of polyester fabric to exploit the moiré effects of the two sheets' overlapping weaves. And Dean Eliasen's Whirled Whole is a brilliant take on Op Art and Frank Stella that fans of local painter Jeffrey Simmons should love.

In the end, my favorite piece was one of the most modest. Mi Wu's Untitled Snow is nothing but little circles of flour, dropped right on the carpet of the museum. By the time I saw the show, gallery goers had stepped all over this piece, probably without noticing it, leaving a motley trail of shoe treads across the little patches of flour. This small piece is evocative of everything from winter to memory to traces to walking; its reticence and modesty allow it to carry a wide range of associations. Nearby, an artist filled two rooms with rock salt and used a long, goofy note to tell us it's all about memory and the Sargasso Sea. Wu gives us so much more with a hundredth the resources, proving that a well-thought-out concept and careful execution will trump a grand, expensive statement every time. ART

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