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Category Archives: Photography in Seattle

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Sara Vanderbeek, “The Principle of Superimposition 2,” digital C-print, 2008.


Unless my instincts are way off,  phot(o)bjects will undoubtedly be the most important photography show to hit the Northwest this summer (if not this entire year). On view at Lawrimore Project in Seattle through August 1, phot(o)bjects includes some of the most critical and forward-thinking voices in contemporary photography, including Walead Beshty, Trisha Donnelly, Roe Ethridge, Guyton/Walker, and Sara VanDerBeek, in addition to videos by Wolfgang Tillmans and Torbjørn Rødland. Organized by indie curator guru Bob Nickas for Presentation House Gallery in Vancouver, the work in the show appears to be largely sculptural, offered in response to Nickas’ query, “Beyond a carrier of an uninterrupted image, what else can a photograph be?”

I’m heading up to see the show later this week, and hope to secure a forum for a proper review of this important show. I will have a brief report of the show here in upcoming weeks, along with a few thoughts on the Gursky retrospective and Anthony Hernandez shows from earlier this month in Vancouver.

phot(o)bjects at Lawrimore Project, 831 Airport Way S.,  Seattle, through Aug 1


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Tim Lee, “Untitled (James Osterberg, 1970),” C-print, 2004


GLOOMY SKIES MAKE GREAT SOFTBOXES
NORTHWEST PHOTOGRAPHY NOW

A Presentation by Chas Bowie

PNCA • 1241 NW Johnson, Portland OR
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 • 12:30 pm

In Gloomy Skies Make Great Softboxes, Portland art critic Chas Bowie surveys the state of contemporary Northwest photography, assessing the work of regional artists who are actively cultivating new photographic idioms and avenues of exploration.

The Pacific Northwest has a longstanding and multi-faceted engagement with photography, as evidenced in part by the legacy of Portland’s Blue Sky Gallery; Seattle’s acclaimed Monsen Collection; and Vancouver BC’s concentration of noted “photoconceptualists.” These disparate traditions are not only well-documented, but markedly at odds with one another, rendering any Northwest photography “scene” more compartmentalized than unified.

As the demographic makeup of the Northwest shifts, however, so too does the application of photography in the fine arts. Gloomy Skies Make Great Softboxes demonstrates how emerging artists such as Isaac Layman (Seattle), Andrew O’Brien (Eugene), and Holly Andres (Portland) are transcending regional aesthetic trends and moving toward an increasingly progressive and critical mode of image-making.

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Doug Keyes, “Chuck Close,” 1999, dye destruction print


In recognition of the “unprecedented number of applications by photographers” to the 9th Northwest Biennial, the Tacoma Art Museum is hosting a five-hour extravaganza Saturday entitled Taking Pictures Through Multiple Lenses: Photography in The Biennial.

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Rebecca Cummins, who teaches at University of Washington and is a very interesting artist in her own right, will moderate a conversation between four Biennial photographers: Michael Kenna, Doug Keyes, Isaac Layman, and Susan Seubert. The lineup promises to be a compelling mix—the artists, all extremely good at what they do, each approach photography with very different conceptual and aesthetic attitudes.

l26Layman is incredibly bright and talented, as I’ve mentioned here before, and I was a fan of Keyes long before moving to the Northwest. (Keye’s recent monograph, Collective Memory, is fantastic, and from what I gather, the first printing is going fast.) Kenna’s work isn’t a personal favorite, but that’s about my tastes and preferences, not the merit of his photography.

maskHis relatively traditional approach to the medium, his exquisite attention to craft and technique, and his years of popular success should all nicely balance nicely the younger artists’ experimentation. Portland’s Seubert the wild card I’m curious about; some of her series, including “The Ten Most Popular Places to Dump a Body in the Columbia River Gorge” and “Chimeras” hold up really well and continue to impress me, but I wish more of her work had the same effect. (Actually, her editorial work knocks me out. If you want to see really well-done assignment work, look no further. I grew up around this kind of photography, and can’t help but stop in my tracks when I see it done so well.)

Taking Pictures Through Multiple Lenses: Photography in The Biennial
February 28, 11 am-4 pm

Submissions to The 9th Northwest Biennial saw an unprecedented number of applications by photographers. These numbers reflect the tremendous growth in this medium over the past decade. Historically, artists were bound by the limitations of film and equipment, but today many select from a myriad of technologies, processes, and tools.
Biennial artists Michael Kenna, Doug Keyes, Isaac Layman, and Susan Seubert participate in a half-day program discussing photography’s role in fine art and commercial imagery. Rebecca Cummins, Associate Professor at University of Washington School of Art, moderates a panel conversation.
Cost is $10 and includes museum admission; $5 for members and students with ID. Email Education@TacomaArtMuseum.org to reserve your seat.


Thumbnails, from top:

Isaac Layman, “Bookcase,” 2006, archival inkjet print
Michael Kenna, “Skyline, Study 3, Shanghai, China,” 2008, gelatin silver print
Susan Seubert, “Mask,” tintype

I’ll skip the groveling and self-flagellation that usually follow stretches of blog blackout to say that paying gigs and personal sanity (rightfully) took priority over all of my passion projects, including That’s a Negative, although I remain dedicated to developing this site. The past six weeks or so found life too overcrowded for everything, so blogging had to take the backseat for a late summer break. (As did blog-reading; my Google Reader overfloweth.)

Out of necessity, my original goal of reviewing each of these shows was revised to the idea of having one long essay that somehow encapsulated all of the exhibitions. Unfortunately, that ship has already sailed. For the sake of wiping the e-slate clean and unshackling myself from the burden of reviews not yet written, here is a roll-call of everything I have intended to write about during this period of inactivity. In many cases, I really regret not being able to expound on my notes and thoughts, but I’d be working on this post until the Obama victory if I took the time to do so. I’m still on deadline and desperately short on time, but circumstances are conspiring to give me a little more blogging time very soon. Here, then, are the things I would have reviewed in a more perfect world.

In Portland:



Emi Anrakuji: IPY at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art




Andy O’Brien: “Star Maps: (l-r) Spike Jones, Nicolas Cage, Don Johnson” at Newspace’s Annual Juried Exhibition (Full disclosure: I bought the Nic Cage piece)




Melody Owen: Alexandria, I’m Waiting at Elizabeth Leach Gallery



In Seattle:



Isaac Layman: Photographs from Inside a Whale at Lawrimore Project. (My favorite show of the season; I must write about Layman soon.)




Gregory Blackstock: Vernacular Photography at Garde Rail




New Photo: Richard Barnes, Martin Klimas, and Fred Muram at Howard House (Fred Muram, “One Day I Will Learn to Build Things” pictured)




Ask a Banana, Baby: Swedish Contemporary Video and Photography at Howard House (Annika von Hausswolff, “A Given Moment in the History of Coming into Being” pictured)




Smoke & Mirrors at the Seattle Art Museum (through Nov 9)
A really well curated group show from the museum collection, exploring depictions of and experiments about ephemerality in photography, featuring Muybridge, Sugimoto, Nagatani, and many others. Titled for Eileen Quinlan’s photos of smoke and mirrors—many of which I like very much. (Quinlan, “Smoke & Mirrors #10” pictured)




Mark Soo “That’s That’s Alright Alright Mama Mama,” c-prints, 3-D glasses, and angled wall at Western Bridge‘s You Complete Me



In San Francisco:



The Art of Lee Miller at SFMOMA (through Sept 14)




Double Exposure: African Americans Before and Behind the Camera at the Museum of the African Diaspora (Roy DeCarava, “Couple Dancing” pictured) (through Sept 28)




Amy Stein: Domesticated at Paul Kopeikin Gallery

Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, from the series Nocturne, 2007-8


Gentle readers,

My apologies for the leaden dearth of activity on That’s a Negative; freelance life is in overdrive at the moment, and I haven’t had the opportunity to compose anything substantial for the blog. My “to post” backlog is enormous, with half-written reviews of great shows in Portland and Seattle, previews of exhibitions in both of those cities, thoughts on several new books, and other tokens of photo-miscellany. Normal posting should return by next week; in the meantime, a few quick thoughts:

If you’re in Seattle, Isaac Layman’s show at Lawrimore Project is a must-see. There are a few aspects of the work I still harbor reservations about, but rarely do I have an ongoing mental argument with a show for this length of time. It’s as smart and bold as any gallery show I’ve seen in Seattle, and Layman is clearly an artist who has given the nature of photography a lot of consideration.

Next Tuesday, August 12, artist TJ Norris and I are co-presenting a mini-slide jam at a Pecha Kucha event, to be held at the corner of NW 8th & Couch. I’ve never been to one of these, but participants show 20 slides at 20 seconds apiece, so at eight presenters, it should be a wham-bam, visual overload of a free event. (Other participants include the project manager of Maya Lin’s Confluence Project; bike advocate Meghan Sinnott; and a former curator of the Harvard Film Archive.) TJ and I curated a jpegshow (formerly slideshow) that zigzags from Klansmen to Trekkies to hot air balloons. Hopefully we’ll figure out how to tie it all together by next week. (Event is Tues, Aug 12, 34 NW 8th, 7:30 pm [starts at 8:20], sliding scale.)

Noel Rodo-Vankeulen’s Nocturne series strike me as the antithesis of every tedious trend currently being played out in contemporary photography. I’ll defend my position soon enough, wishing all the while that I was able to check out his prints on view next week at Brooklyn’s Bond Street Gallery.

Lastly, what’s happening San Francisco? If a particular photo enthusiast were passing through in a week or two, what would said stalwart be foolish in missing? I’m planning on catching Amy Stein at Robert Koch; Double Exposure at the Museum of the African Disapora; RongRong at SF Camerawork; Lee Miller at SFMOMA; and perhaps Edwin Hale Lincoln at the deYoung. Have I missed anything fantastic?

Gregory Blackstock, “Euroslide, San Diego County Fair, 1993” at Garde Rail Gallery


Compiling this list really has me looking at the calendar for an open weekend next month. This sounds like a perfect day of looking at photographs:


The Portland Art Museum likes to boast that it has the biggest permanent photography gallery west of the Mississippi, but I can only think of one photography show they’ve done in the past six years that sounds as interesting as the Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibition. Smoke and Mirrors “presents 34 works from SAM’s photography collection that prompt a compelling dialogue about vision and illusion.” With artists that include Hiroshi Sugimoto, Ralph Gibson, and Jan Groover, S&M sounds like a great reminder of how a museum can organize a thoughtful exhibition from its own collection that has something to say besides, “look what we bought.” Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave, Tues-Sun, through Nov 9, $13


Outsider artist Gregory Blackstock is best known for his fantastic book of taxonomic drawings, Blackstock’s Collection. Garde Rail Gallery now introduces The Vernacular Photography of Gregory Blackstock, which looks like 65% Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Surfaces, 35% flea market treasure. Check the website if you don’t believe me. Garde Rail Gallery, 110 Third Avenue South, Wed-Sat, through Aug 2


Regular visitors to the Henry should already be familiar with the rotating exhibitions in the North Galleries, curated from the stunning Monsen photography collection. With motifs as simple as water, architecture, and abstraction, these small shows provide incredible opportunities to see incredibly rare and gorgeous pieces that span the history of photography. Their current selection, Somebody, highlights portraiture from the collection. Henry Art Gallery, 15 Avenue NE at NE 41st Street, Tues-Sun, through Aug 3, $10 (free for students)


Portland’s own Jim Riswold, whose photographs of plastic figurines and other kitschy objects have never made me pause for a second glance, is showing at G. Gibson Gallery. I couldn’t even be bothered to explain the many ways Riswold’s photos don’t work for me; D.K. Row’s review in the Oregonian hits a lot of the main points. G. Gibson Gallery, 300 South Washington Street, Tues-Sat, July 3-Aug 16.


One of the best photographers of the late 19th century, and the photographer of the Pacific Northwest, Darius Kinsey gets the royal treatment at Bellingham’s Whatcom Museum. Logging Days: Recent Donations of Darius Kinsey Photographs highlights 40 Kinseys, “most being exhibited for the first time.” Kinsey’s images of early loggers vamping and working in the undergrowth of mammoth firs rank among my favorite photographs of the American West. Whatcom Museum of History and Art, 121 Prospect Street, Bellingham, Tues-Sun, through Aug 16, free.


The final two shows don’t commence until July’s almost over, but they sound almost worth a trip in and of themselves. Howard House is readying two group exhibitions: Swedish Contemporary Video and Photography: Billing, Djurberg, von Hausswolff (who needs first names, anyway?), and New Photo, featuring the work of Richard Barnes, Martin Klimas, and Fred Muram. These three artists’ websites and work all remind me of how much I love photography. (Bonus: Solo show by Barnes coming up in Nov-Dec.) [Edit: The Swedish artists are Annika von Hausswolff, Johanna Billing, and Nathalie Djurberg.] Howard House, 604 Second Ave, Tues-Sat, July 24-Aug 23