Three Empathics have moved into Seattle Art Museum and are a central feature to the latest installation imagined in our African art galleries. The popular and immersive ChimaTEK: Virtual Chimeric Space by contemporary artist Saya Woolfalk was first shown in Disguise: Masks and Global African Art (2015). Now part of SAM’s permanent collection and installed in Lessons from the Institute of Empathy, the Empathics have surrounded themselves with works from our African art collection as a way to help visitors awaken their own empathy.
In Birmingham, a suite of three prints representing the artist’s brother, Toyin Ojih Odutola creates a sense of shifting perspective relative to her subject, moving around him in space to capture the familiar contours of his face and to suggest the multidimensionality of his being. The prints are based on photographs the artist took in Birmingham, Alabama, and were produced through a method known as lithography, a water- resist process by which images are drawn onto stone or metal plates in oil-based crayon, then inked and transferred to paper. The addition of gold-leaf detailing elevates the subject’s ordinary white tank top, bringing a regal dignity to the portrayal.
Somnyama Ngonyama, Zulu for Hail the Dark Lioness, is a photographic series by the South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (b. 1972). In the artist’s words, the series invites the viewer on “a discomforting self-defining journey, rethinking the culture of self-representation and self-expression.”
“The personal is political” became a rallying cry for the second-wave feminist movement in the late 1960s and ‘70s, forcefully declaring that women’s personal experiences are intrinsically related to broader social and political issues. Embracing this premise, the artists in this gallery confront sociopolitical issues facing women today through the lens of personal lives and experiences.
They employ a diverse range of stylistic means to advance their objectives. Some, like Chicago-based artist Hollis Sigler, work with an intentionally simple, graphic style to position themselves outside of male-dominated artistic traditions and aesthetics. Others, like Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, take a more painterly approach, using the gestural brushstroke to capture the spontaneity, drama, and force of the figure’s movement. Several other artists wield a wry and acerbic sense of humor to challenge stereotypes of femininity and sexuality, such as in the tongue-in-cheek ceramic sculpture of Seattle-based artist Patti Warashina. Collectively, these artists push the limits on some of the most pressing issues of their time and today.
Christopher Shaw explores the spiritual bridge between notions of design and processes of divination. Shaw presents us with minimalist works in clay and urges us to consider how objects carry the seeds of culture. Individual and assembled ceramic sculpture join vessel forms in the artist’s latest body of work.
From September 28- to November 24, 2019, Hedreen Gallery hosts, Up from the Table, an exhibition of new work by artists and cultural organizers working with Creative Justice, an arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County. The exhibition features photography, sculpture, textile and sound created by the youth artists of Creative Justice in collaboration with program mentor artists Dan Paz, Le’Ecia Farmer, Ashley Tiedeman and Olisa Enrico and program directors Aaron Counts and Nikkita Oliver. The work explores the human cost of mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline.
Much of the work is comprised of materials sourced from the local community at a mid-summer family dinner hosted at historic Washington Hall. There, attendees sat for family portraits, shared oral histories and contributed clothing items from those loved ones lost to the criminal-legal system. Up from the Table is an elegy for those people and a tribute to those left behind. It challenges us to reimagine what justice is and what it can be; to consider our current state of mass incarceration and ask not just How did we get here? But also, What toll does that take on our communities?
For four decades, choreographer Donald Byrd has created innovative and startling productions that explore the capacities of dancers’ bodies, the complexities of Africanist aesthetics, and the ways theatrical dance can open audiences to social change. Presenting selected works from across his career, the exhibition reflects Americans’ ongoing struggles to care for our complex diversity.
Group show opening October 19, 7-9 pm
Hosted by The Northwest Film Forum and LANGSTON
Sabine’s hands move quickly and precisely as she tightly braids hair in her tiny salon. The sign outside offers African, European, or American hairstyles. Sabine is a charismatic, larger than-life personality crammed into a tiny shop in the immigrant Brussels district of Matonge. Here, she and her employees style extensions and glue on lashes while watching soaps, dishing romantic advice, sharing rumors about government programs to legalize migrants, and talking about life back home in West Africa.
At the start of Chez Jolie Coiffure, director Rosine Mbakam stands outside the salon, filming. Sabine calls her in, warning her it’s unsafe out in the hallway of the cramped urban mall. Mbakam sets up in the shop—and stays, filming over the course of a year, becoming a regular fixture and presence. This cinematic “chamber piece,” which takes place entirely inside a salon not much larger than a take-out stand, makes skillful use of its many mirrors.
More than a place for women to get their hair done, Jolie Coiffure serves as a community hub for West African women—many from Cameroon, like Sabine. Fueled by endless cans of soda and cups of McDonald’s coffee, she recruits for a tontine—an investment scheme paying each member a yearly annuity, organizes accommodation for a pregnant woman who lacks immigration papers, and, in quieter, more introspective moments, tells of her own harrowing journey to Belgium after working as a domestic under terrible conditions in Lebanon.
Though she has created a home in her own space, Sabine remains an outsider in Belgium. Students and tourist groups made up only of white people walk past, pausing at the window and gawking. (At one point, Sabine urges Mbakam to turn her camera on them so they’ll go away; the director obliges.) When word has it that the immigration police are coming through, she hurriedly turns off all the lights and quickly vanishes out the door.
Chez Jolie Coiffure is a revealing documentary, capturing the day-to-day lives and concerns of immigrant West African women in a space they can call their own.
Hosted by: The Northwest African American Museum
NAAM’s new Let Us Tell It film series centers the narratives of Black women and their families, both blood and chosen, through film. October’s feature film is the 1996 classic Set It Off. This series is free and open to the public.
This group exhibition engages artists whose work addresses narratives, communities, and histories that are typically hidden or invisible in our public space (both conceptually and literally defined). The presenting artists approach the exhibition’s theme from a range of directions, varying across all media as well as aesthetic and conceptual contexts. Works encompass deliberately activist endeavors and direct documentation; the unpacking of individual histories excluded due to race, ethnicity, or class; explorations of coded language for protection, secrecy, or both; the illumination of invisible or covert systems of labor, exploitation, and capitalist control; and translation through surreal, oblique, or fantastical frameworks.
SUSAN is an intimate performance about Oluo’s mother. Oluo utilizes theatrical techniques from standup to storytelling, and the work includes a large-scale composition for an orchestra. This darkly comedic stage musical explores two intertwining narratives: Oluo’s mother’s life as the white, Midwestern wife of a Nigerian chief and, later, a single mother; and his journey to Nigeria, as an adult, to visit his late father’s village and immerse himself in his heritage for the first time. This multimedia work is an examination of love, loss, race, bodies, resilience, failure, and the limitless, sometimes contradictory, facets of one human being.
Hosted by: Seattle Art Museum
Based in Harlem, Los Angeles, and St. Louis, Aaron Fowler makes large-scale sculptural assemblages composed of a wide range of found materials. With references to American history, Black culture, real and imagined narratives, and personal experiences, each work is densely layered with meaning and materiality. From ironing boards and car parts to hair weaves and videos, Fowler’s work is imbued with multivalent narratives that seduce the viewer. Employing compositional approaches akin to 19th and 20th century paintings of Americana, Fowler references family, friends, and his own presence in works that are alternately life size or larger than life size.
Fowler’s fall 2019 solo exhibition at SAM will be curated by Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Frederick P. and Sandra P. Rose Chairman of Education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and SAM’s former Deputy Director for Education and Public Programs/Adjunct Curator in Modern and Contemporary Art.
Aaron Fowler is a recipient of the Seattle Art Museum’s Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Prize, which is awarded bi-annually to an early career Black artist.
Funding for the Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Prize and exhibition is provided by the Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence and Jacob Lawrence Endowment and generous support from the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation.
Hosted by: Seattle Art Museum
Seattle-based artist Barbara Earl Thomas draws from history, literature, folklore, and biblical stories to address what she calls the plagues of our day, from pervasive violence against black men and youth, to gun violence, to the climate crisis. Defining herself as a storyteller, the artist notes, "It is the chaos of living and the grief of our time that compels me, philosophically, emotionally, and artistically. I am a witness and a chronicler: I create stories from the apocalypse we live in now and narrate how life goes on in midst of the chaos."
In this exhibition, the artist will create an immersive environment of light and shadow—inhabited by large-scale narrative works in cut paper and glass—that addresses our preconceived ideas of innocence and guilt, sin and redemption, and the ways in which these notions are assigned and distorted along cultural and racial lines.
Hosted by: The Northwest African American Museum
In partnership with University of Washington’s School of Social Work, this community dialogue series invites and highlights voices and ideas from across the black diaspora on important topics that inform the individual and collective black experience. October’s session is entitled: Social Capital and Collective Economics. It will be a moderated conversation that includes the voices of performing artists, spiritual and body workers, writers, authors and more from across the Northwest. Free & open to the public!
Courtesy of Arts West
By: Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
Speaking truth to power SUNSET BABY begins with the story of Nina, a strong and independent woman named after the rebellious songstress, as she is visited by her estranged father and former revolutionary in the Black liberation movement, Kenyatta. She can’t tell what he’s after, a fix to their broken relationship or the only physical items of value she ties to her mother – a collection of love letters written by her infamous parents. As the lives of father and daughter begin to intertwine, old wounds are revealed, generational differences exposed, and smoldering truths laid bare. Morisseau’s SUNSET BABY is an energetic and vibrant narrative of the duality and intersectionality of family, legacy, and liberation. Run time – 90 minutes
Interdisciplinary artist Autumn Knight presents the West Coast premiere of her latest performance project, M _ _ _ ER. Her work employs visual mapping, character improvisation, social engagement, visual art, and takes on a broad range of subjects including interiority, dissonance, ritual, and humor.
Autumn Knight: M_ _ _ ER is a National Performance Network/Visual Artist Network (NPN/VAN) Creation & Development Fund Project co-commissioned by DiverseWorks, On the Boards; Seattle, and Women & Their Work; Austin. M _ _ _ ER premiered at DiverseWorks in October 2018 and will be presented at Abroms Art Center in May 2020.
Throughout her collaborative interdisciplinary practice, Carol Rashawnna Williams contends that the only way to shift race relations and understand climate change is through collective imaginings and re-imaginings of equitable relationships to the land, animals and resources. Williams’ aesthetic forms fall, swim, fly, drip and grow through various layers of reality, spirituality and data analysis. Her narrative installations reject the tidy, toxic logic of scarcity models, suggesting powerful alternatives in collective storytelling, collective ownership, collective re-valuing of biospecies and collective commitments to sustainable environmental practices over time.
Williams extends the inquiry of the Hedreen exhibition to build a second, participatory installation that engages the public and Seattle University community in dialogue around the connections between race and climate justice. Williams asks:
What experiences have you experienced with racial tension and climate justice?
What equitable solutions do you see to these challenges?
How can you shift the paradigm for the common good?
Melodrama is a point of departure for Ligia Lewis’s latest choreographic work, Water Will (in Melody). A gothic tale set in a cavernous landscape morphs into a dystopian fantasy, enacted by four performers. Creative (im)possibility becomes the engine by which a state of hopelessness, darkness, and unexamined emotions are explored. This is the last part of Lewis’s triptych, which began with Sorrow Swag in blue, succeeded by minor matter in red.
Syms’s work extracts an image from a publication and designates it for placement in conventional advertising space. As it changes location, from the storefront of a commercial art gallery, to a billboard in a redeveloping neighborhood, the graphic picks up new meaning based on what is to be consumed in its surroundings. Its original print enlarged many times over, the image loses resolution and specificity, relating in a physical way to its open-ended literal question: Want some?
Carol Rashawnna Williams is a Seattle-based, interdisciplinary artist who makes work that engages audiences in conversations about social, environmental, and racial justice. While in residence at Seattle University, Williams will create two art installations that include prints, paintings, and sculptures made of primarily recycled or reused materials. These participatory exhibitions are free and open to the public.
At Hedreen Gallery Williams presents a new exhibition that combines and contextualizes Williams' installation works from recent years with a new body of work in monoprint, painting, and sculpture. This exhibition will be accompanied by new writing from Seattle-based writer Beverly Aarons.
Group show opening reception is August 3rd, 7pm - 9pm
Koplin Del Rio is pleased to present The Majesty of Kings Long Dead from New York based artist Robert Pruitt. The exhibition, which includes a selection of large scale works on paper and one sculptural object, marks Pruitt’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery, and second in Seattle since our relocation in 2015.
This body of work reflects an ongoing focus of subject matter from recent projects by Pruitt that utilize religion and spirituality as a means of exploring an African-American conception of transcendence and mythology. The Majesty of Kings Long Dead probes similar notions while expanding the artists own system of signs and symbols. Ideas of grandeur, holiness and divinity are introduced through depictions of makeshift crowns which dually indicate ennoblement and make reference to Egyptian burial traditions, gold chains and celestial systems.
Working (Undecided Title) or W(UT) is a lyric poem that takes place inside a dance party, a series of happenings based on the themes of resistance and resilience. It asks all involved to make decisions and be in the present moment. W(UT) will create an abstract community that closes the gap between thinker and doer, giver and receiver, producer and consumer, Me and You and You and You, audience and artist, revealing how we are all performers.
With works in all media by nearly eighty artists, Black Refractions celebrates The Studio Museum in Harlem’s role as a site for the dynamic exchange of ideas about art and society. Organized by the American Federation of Arts and The Studio Museum in Harlem, this landmark exhibition proposes a plurality of narratives of black artistic production and multiple approaches to understanding the Studio Museum’s powerful collection.
In Birmingham, a suite of three prints representing the artist’s brother, Ojih Odutola creates a sense of shifting perspective relative to her subject, moving around him in space to capture the familiar contours of his face and to suggest the multidimensionality of his being. The prints are based on photographs the artist took in Birmingham, Alabama, and were produced through a method known as lithography, a water- resist process by which images are drawn onto stone or metal plates in oil-based crayon, then inked and transferred to paper. The addition of gold-leaf detailing elevates the subject’s ordinary white tank top, bringing a regal dignity to the portrayal.
In “Altar Call,” Southern Multidisciplinary Storyteller Jessica Ry'cheal explores themes of grief, mental illness, and generational trauma. Embracing the influence of her vivid Pentecostal upbringing, the artist uses self-portraiture to usher the viewer into a sanctuary of healing and self-reconciliation. For Ry'cheal, the departure from organized religion was the genesis of the artist’s journey home to self. However, the tension between traditional faith practices and the shift from holiness to wholeness creates an emotional dialogue about forgiveness and self-discovery. In this body of work, we are invited to hold the complexities of past and present influences in harmony as we experience a stained-glass mosaic of vulnerability, resilience and freedom.
Current artists on view
Pratt Fine Arts Center stands today as a beacon of Edwin Pratt’s vision of cultural access, educational excellence and a vibrant community. As Pratt knew, well-supported arts and culture facilities and programs are one of the main indicators of a thriving and healthy society.
Pratt Fine Arts Center continues to attract artists, arts educators and students whose work helps maintain the Central District as a hub of creativity and creative expression for the entire city of Seattle. The Edwin T. Pratt Scholarship program provides opportunities for underrepresented artists of color to hone their craft and advance their careers.
Edwin T. Pratt: A Living Legacy showcases the work of long-time Pratt artist Jite Agbro alongside Pratt Scholarship recipients from the last 4 years.