It’s time. Art fair season. Now in its fifth year, the Seattle Art Fair (SAF) occupies the humongous CenturyLink Field Event Center from August 1 to 4, its 2019 programming organized around the theme of curiosity and wonder.
“This year we have projects that center around the notion of a 21st century Wunderkammer,” said fair artistic director Nato Thompson. Wunderkammers were cabinets of curiosities from the 16th century that “consisted of the natural, mystical, colonial, aesthetic, and scientific.” Thompson told me that they’re looking at artists who tackle “the post-human, the colonial project of artificial intelligence, climate change, and mutant creatures.”
In light of this theme, a lot of the out-of-town artist programming is unsettling. I say this with the utmost respect—unsettle me, baby! There’s Bread Face (who you might recognize from Instagram) and their brand of kinda sexy, kinda violent face-in-bread smashing ASMR work. There’s also multimedia artist Stephanie Dinkins, whose artificially intelligent sculpture, “Not The Only One (N’TOO)” tells the ever-evolving, multigenerational story of a black American family. If you need me, I’ll be weeping near this thing.
I’m also most curious to see Australian artist Patricia Piccinini who will be exhibiting new eerily hyperreal sculptures made of predominantly silicone and hair. One of her pieces titled "The Bond" features a human holding her creature-child.
The back of the “child” is made to resemble the sole of a running shoe, referencing some animals’ evolutionary ability to resemble their environment. Piccinini says of her work, “In this case, the animal’s mimicry of a piece of consumer sportswear locates it totally as a product of our world. Secondly it evokes the idea of the protean amorphousness of the body as it is understood in the age of biotechnology. Bodies are never final or particularly specific.”
Overall, there will be nearly 100 galleries from around the world exhibiting over the four day long fair. But what of the “Seattle” in Seattle Art Fair? Surely, I’d love to see something from Berlin—but what are my neighbors making?
From what I can discern, Seattle galleries are not feeling hemmed in by this “cabinet of curiosities” theme. J. Rinehart Gallery is opting for “Fierce Florals," with each of the three artists they are exhibiting—Daisy Patton, Meggan Joy, and Jennifer Zwick—working with flowers in some way. In particular, I’d keep an eye out for Patton’s blown-up archival photographs on which she layers bright, colorful, snakey painted-on flowers. Her way of looking at and visually reinterpreting the past gives a second life to these pictures.
Seattle art heavyweight Greg Kucera Gallery will be in not one but two spaces at the fair this year: Greg Kucera Modern and Greg Kucera Contemporary, displaying a range of artists in their roster. Kucera uses Seattle Art Fair as an opportunity to showcase what the gallery will be exhibiting in the next six to eight months, including Seattle artist Gregory Blackstock.
Known for his meticulous drawings that taxonomically catalog animals, fruits, windmills, buildings, planes, leaves, and even words, Blackstock is an autistic and internationally renowned “outsider artist” who washed dishes for 25 years before getting art-world recognition. His attention to detail, color, eccentricity, and constraint do echo the overarching “cabinet of curiosities” theme. For the fair, Blackstock has made four banners done in his signature taxonomic style.
There’s also Seattle native John Kiley, one of three artists who will be exhibiting with Traver Gallery. Kiley works with geometric glass forms that seem impossibly uniform—smooth and eternal. In his Fractograph series, the artist used different methods (like impact and thermal shock) to shatter his glass forms and then reconstructed the brokenness back into the resulting sculpture.
In “Neodymium Stack,” which will make an appearance at the fair, nothing is shattered, but carefully balanced. The color of the glass rectangles that compose the sculpture are beautifully clear and purple. I’m interested in how light throws the hued shadow on the floor beneath it.
Linda Hodges Gallery will be presenting Water Bearer to the public, an exhibition centered around... water. “The show is inspired by the Water Bearer (sign of Aquarius), which represents emotion,” they said in a statement. “A Water Bearer carries water, giving life and spiritual food to the world. Without it we will perish.” Umm, that’s very touching and true, but I should also note that Aquarians are also pretty emotionally withholding! Among the artists they’ll be presenting is Lisa Golightly, whose paintings of suburban settings put me back into my teenage body. In a nostalgic and sentimental way. Sometimes, in order to reflect on something’s true beauty, distance is in order.
At big art shows like Seattle Art Fair, I count on falling headlong into something entrancing. Perhaps you are too. Maybe you’ll stumble into ZINC contemporary’s booth and find yourself staring headlong into a Betsy Walton painting, the purples, the blues, the other dark hues stitching together a dreamlike landscape.
But if paying money to look at art in a giant convention center isn’t really your bag, you got options. yəhaw̓ at King Street Station is in its final weekend. On Saturday, Wa Na Wari—a collectively run black arts space in the Central District—will be debuting their latest round of exhibitions which include some pretty incredible artists like Henry Jackson-Spieker, Xenobia Bailey, Marita Dingus and Nasstaja Swift.
On Capitol Hill and the Central District, the free arts festival festival:festival will be taking over 10th and Broadway, Northwest Film Forum, and Amplifier Art Lab with their interdisciplinary approach to the arts. The Seattle Times reports that there will be “community booths, DJ and music performances, and area for dancing.” Here’s to getting down.
Meanwhile in Georgetown on Saturday, they’ve got a shuttle that’ll cart you between studio e’s final weekend of Uses of History, the new Housewright Gallery’s "Northwest Influencers," the opening of Timothy White Eagle and Adrian Chesser’s August residency at Oxbow, and a joint show put on by Base and On The Boards featuring Minneapolis-based choreographer Morgan Thorson's dance ensemble installation. This weekend will be full of openings—go out and see them.Other Seattle galleries exhibiting work at the fair include Winston Wächter Fine Art, Patricia Rovzar Gallery, Phylogeny Contemporary, Shift, James Harris Gallery, Harris Harvey Gallery, Patricia Rovzar Gallery, THE SPACE from Redmond, and Hall | Spassov Gallery from Bellevue.